The Five Spot: Marty Krofft
Kids of a distant era grew up on wildly imagined shows from Sid and Marty Krofft including H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. These days, the brothers Krofft continue to hold a trippy grip on the imaginations of children. Sid and Marty, 86 and 78, respectively, created Mutt & Stuff, which premiered last summer on Nickelodeon, and in April they will start shooting the pilot of a Sigmund remake for Amazon. Taking full advantage of this streaming age, the Kroffts are teaming with Legendary Television on a revival of their vintage series Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, to air on the digital network Fullscreen.
Marty Krofft got his start in show business when he joined Sid’s comedy act. The duo warmed up crowds for the likes of Judy Garland and Liberace, well before they dreamed up Land of the Lost or The Bugaloos. Marty spoke with B&C deputy editor Michael Malone about how television has changed since Pufnstuf saved young Jimmy from Witchiepoo. An edited transcript follows.
What has changed about children’s programming since your first TV show landed in 1969?
I think the kids are always the same; the only thing that changes is the technology. They have all these games they can play, but if you have great characters and a great story, you’re gonna get the kids to stay with you. You’ve got to get them in the first minute, minute and a half. If you have an opening with a great song and colorful characters, you grab them. With Mutt & Stuff, we grab them immediately—it’s a bus going to the dog school, and all the dogs are on the bus. Stuff is driving the bus, and the song is great. You get them in the beginning, and you’ve got to keep them [interested], because they’ve got a lot of choices. A lot of choices.
What was the creative process like for you and your brother? Was there a magic tea you would sip before coming up with Pufnstuf or Sigmund?
We didn’t start with a script. We always started with creating the characters and the artwork. We had a book, and that was how we would pitch the show to the network. Those books were our pilots; a picture is worth a thousand words. If you give them a script, they’re always going to pick it apart. But it’s harder to pick apart characters. All the kids’ shows started with the characters. All our shows had what I call the Krofft look—they were identifiable by all of our colors. It’s characters and colors, and of course you have to have a story eventually—you have to have a theme that can survive more than six episodes.
What do you think of kids shows today?
I relate to live action—that’s all we’re really interested in. The animated shows to me, they’re not a blur, but they all look the same. I like [Nickelodeon’s] Yo Gabba Gabba! I like those Aquabats [on the former Hub channel].
What else are you watching on TV?
Right now I’m a news junkie—I’m watching all this [election] stuff. It’s like a sitcom. I’m wondering what happened to the intelligence of the American public. It’s frightening.
How much longer will you continue to work?
Let’s see…I’m 111…another two years [laughs]. Let me tell you why I’m still working. I still get the goose bumps and [still have] the passion. And if you retire and stay home and watch daytime television, in one month you could be dead. You gotta stay in the action.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.