The absolute worst superhero content of all time: "Legends of the Super Heroes"

If you thought the latest Flash movie was bad, you've got to see him in this 1979 catastrophe. NBC aired two specials about the DC super heroes: one was a roast (?) hosted by Ed McMahon (?!), and the other was some kind of adventure. Both featured rock-bottom budgets, sub-sitcom humor, and a grating, braying laugh track.

The entire shows apparently aren't online, but the snippets that are confirm that these were absolutely horrible.

If you're wondering how a concept this obviously awful could ever get produced, I actually provide an answer at the end of this post.

Here is the introduction of the superheroes and a scene of the villains in their lair, if you can stand it.

That's Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), and Frank Gorshin (Riddler) reprising their roles from the 1966 Batman TV Show, so at least there's that. Two mainstays of 1960s-1970s television shtick, Charlie Callas and Howie Morris played villains Sinestro and Dr. Sivana, respectively.

Here is villain Mordu singing an evil comedy version of "That's Entertainment," culminating with a pie in the face, thrown by Batman.

Here is an appearance by a new superhero who's hilarious because — get this — he's black! Imagine a black superhero! It's Ghetto Man!

If you think the Hawkman's so tough, let him walk through Harlem with them wings on. [laughter] By the time he got to Lenox Avenue, he'd be Kentucky fried. [raucous laughter]

Here is a segment from gossip columnist Rona Rooter (?), including an interview with the new romantic couple the Atom and Giantess. It gets a little risque. Because of their size difference, get it?

The best part of this debacle is that nobody actually wanted to produce this — not NBC, and not the production company, Hanna-Barbera.

It was made by mistake.

Writer and comics/cartoon historian (and former Hanna-Barbera writer) Mark Evanier heard the story of how this happened from the man who was running the Hanna-Barbera studio at the time, and confirmed by one of the show's directors.

On his great blog, News from ME, Mark tells the story of how Joe Barbera and his agent Sy Fischer "sold" the show to NBC. They went into a meeting with tons of ideas, one of which was a vague notion, from DC comic book writer/artist Shelly Moldoff, for a superhero roast.

Joe Barbera was a great salesman. In the meeting, he was dazzling and funny and hypnotic as he tossed out idea after idea, sometimes merging two into one or one into six. Finally, after an hour or so of dozens of ideas being discussed, the Vice-President in Charge of Variety for NBC said, "That's great, Joe. We'll buy two hours."

That was Sy's cue to end the meeting. First rule of selling: When they say "yes," get out. If you stick around, you give them the opportunity to change the "yes" into a "no." So Sy said something like, "Whoops! We're late for another meeting, Joe. Gotta run!" And they left. They were out in the hall when J.B. turned to Sy and said, "I know they just bought two hours…but I'm not sure which idea they agreed to." Sy said, "Neither do I…but let's close the deal and then figure it out."

The next day, someone at NBC called Sy and said, "Uh, we're going to honor the commitment of course, but… well this is kind of embarrassing but could you tell us what we bought?" Once Sy and Joe had left the meeting, the assembled NBC execs realized they weren't sure. A couple thought it might have been the idea about a superhero roast… so H-B went ahead and started on two roasts. Then they realized the roast idea was only good for one hour (if that) so they turned the other hour into more of an adventure story.

So these terrible shows were made because both groups of executives were embarrassed that they didn't know what happened in a meeting.