OK, this made my head hurt. It’s a question of great importance. Was it true? Was it a myth? Was Top Cat ever called Boss Cat?
Over on i09 in May, in a discussion of the planned Supernatural-Scooby Doo crossover, somebody fell into the Thelma-Velma trap. Who’s Thelma, quipped somebody. She’s Boss Cat’s owner I quipped back.
And that’s something which comes with its own kettle of worms. It is almost forgotten, some regard it as an urban myth. I always thought it was just a weird Seventies thing, but no, it is bigger than that.
Bottom line, Boss Cat is Top Cat. At least he was for a time in the UK. Not just a few years but decades. And I have a weird detour here.
This is a listing from Radio Times, now recorded on the BBC Genome.
A new film cartoon series about the gang of Alley Cats captained by the ever-resourceful and formidable Top Cat.
The gang goes into action to preserve Benny’s mother’s illusion that he is Mayor of New York.
Top Cat made it’s UK debut in 1962 on my birthday. An episode called A Visit from Mother. Fairly sure I didn’t see it then because I would have been about 40 minutes old at the time. Ouch! But note, the show is called Top Cat.
Now it should be noted, the BBC does not carry advertising and there were stringent rules about product placement. Early ITV shows had featured product placement scenes, where a character would discuss the shampoo they used or tea they drank - only this upset audiences and lead to a ban on product placement. Subliminal advertising was also banned in 1958.
Against this background, a brand of cat food called Top Cat snuck on to supermarket shelves in the UK. Not wanting to show favouritism or be accused of promoting this product, Auntie Beeb indulged in some re-branding of their own. So the Hanna-Barbera cartoon was renamed The Boss Cat.
17.10:THE BOSS CAT
A second chance to see the film cartoon series about the gang of alley cats captained by the ever-resourceful and formidable Boss Cat
The Golden Fleecing
Benny the Ball comes into some insurance money and gets rid of it before even T.C. can touch it.
The show returned for a rerun on January 1st, 1964 (the same week Doctor Who met The Survivors, wonder who they were?) with a new title card in the credits, no re-dubbing, no altering the song or the little card that hangs out of his trash can.
If you look at the Radio Times listing, you will see that Boss Cat is still referred to as “T.C.” in the programme description.
As I mentioned, I thought it was just a few years in the Seventies where this had been done. Just to confuse things further, I’m pretty sure any comic strip that appeared in Huckleberry Hound Weekly, Yogi’s Own or TV Comic was called Top Cat.
But Hanna-Barbera’s Fun Time clearly did go the Boss Cat route in 1972. It was a re-tooling of Williams Publishing’s Yogi and his Toy which was a whole other story in itself. (Or not so much, but it was weird).
And again, this Marvel comic from 1983 shows Top Cat back in use. Perhaps ITV had Top Cat during the early Eighties?
But by 1989, the Boss Cat brand is back in use on a Beeb magazine show, But First This ... (which in it’s way could be seeding CBBC as a separate channel).
But First This ...
The sizzling summer magazine from Children’s BBC with sensational Simon Parkin, amazing Andi Peters, sparkling Stephanie Lowe and some of your favourite programmes.
Starting with - Boss Cat: Dibble Breaks a Record
The whole gang arrive to keep Dibble on his feet when he appears to be about to win a long service record. (R)
These days, Top Cat the food isn’t on the shelves and between Cartoon Network and the BBC, TC gets to hang on to his name.