Chapter 3: Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos
Total Episodes: 5
Episode Length: 30 Minutes
First Air Date: September 15th, 1986
Final Air Date: September 19th, 1986
Day(s) Aired: Monday – Friday
Reboot/Spin-Off Data: None
Based On: N/A
Creator: Chuck Norris
Producer: Larry Huber
Director: Charles A. Nichols & John Kimball
Voice Director: Michael Hack
Music: Udi Harpaz
Production Companies: Ruby-Spears Enterprises
Component or Standalone: Standalone
What Came First?:
* Toys: 1986
* Cartoon: 1986
* Comic Books: 1987
Episode List: (Click HERE for Episode Guide)
Episode 1: Deadly Dolphin
Episode 2: Target: Chuck Norris
Episode 3: Terror Train
Episode 4: Menace from Space
Episode 5: Island of the Walking Dead
Chuck Norris: Chuck Norris
Pepper: Kathy Garver
Reed: Sam Fontana
Kimo: Alan Oppenheimer
Tabe: Robert Ito
Too Much: Mona Marshall
Claw: Bill Martin
Super-Ninja: Keone Young
“The Director”, Dr. Sanford, Mr. Yoshi and Tank Sherman
The Leader, The Imposter, Croc, Tanaka and the Shaman
Angelfish: Linda Gary
Karate Kommandos is a series that centers around Chuck Norris and his team of fighters. This team includes, Tabe, a Sumo Wrestler, Kimo, a Samurai Warrior, Pepper, the technology expert, Reed, Chuck’s Protege and Too Much, the child of the group. Chuck is portrayed as a covert agent, much like James Bond, but who reports directly to the President (sometimes through the ‘Director’).
Typically Norris and his team find themselves battling the likes of Claw who is the head of an evil organization known as COBRA, I mean VENOM, wait no, in this show it is known as VULTURE. Typically Claw stays behind the scenes and has his right hand man, Super Ninja lead his forces. He also has a revolving door of mercenaries who attempt to due his bidding for the right price. Each episode features at least one if not multiple mercenaries. They are pictured above. In episode one we get Angel Fish, in two we get both the Leader and the Imposter, in three we get Tanaka, four, Croc and five, the Shaman.
Instead of relying on guns or other weapons, the Karate Kommandos, not surprisingly most of the time rely on hand to hand combat. The plots typically begin with VULTURE obtaining an object of importance or capturing a civilian or a member(s) of the Kommandos which results in Norris having to come to the rescue. In episode one they battle for the control of Sealab, in episode two it’s a battle for a NATO memory core, in three we find them battling over a Laser Robot, four centers on control of a shuttle and in the final episode they struggle for control over a military satellite.
Each episode begins with a live action sequence in which Chuck Norris stops mid-workout to set up the story for us as well as the moral lesson we should walk away with. Then at the end of the episode, Chuck returns, to make sure we didn’t forget that lesson. Typically these lessons are tied directly to the episode in which they are featured, but by the final episode they seem to be getting further and further away from the actual plot.
Karate Kommandos commonly is compared to the likes of Mister T or Rambo: The Force of Freedom. These are all series that center around a fictional or real life celebrity. They are also all Ruby-Spears productions. I can’t deny that these comparisons make perfect sense.
However, allow me to make a slightly different comparison. Perhaps it is simply the fact that this project has caused me to watch these two series one after the other but I can’t help but notice the number of commonalities you can find between this series and Sectaurs. To start with, like those mentioned above, Sectaurs is a Ruby-Spears production. Digging a little further you find that both Sectaurs and Karate Kommandos were devolped by the same individual, Dan DiStefano.
If you start looking at the plot structure (and I use that term loosely), you start noticing a lot of parallels. Both series employ the following elements in a very repetitive nature. A character or object is stolen or captured. The good guys chase after that which is being held captive. Through their chase or at the behest of the villains, a monster or mercenary is thrown into the mix. Battles or fight sequences are also littered throughout.
What sets Kommandos aside from Sectaurs and more in line with Mister T, is the fact that at the beginning and the end of every episode we get a live-action look at the real Chuck Norris as he delivers advise and moral lessons. These lessons even relate to the episode, which they bookend occasionaly.
These live-action looks at Chuck Norris are just one of the ways in which this series tries to capitalize on Norris’ involvement. You could play a drinking game during each episodes intro sequence in which you take a drink every time the name Chuck Norris is uttered and you would find youself a dozen shots deep before the show even begins! Norris also provides all of the voice-overs for his character. If you thought he was a bad live-action actor…wait until you hear his voice ‘acting’. Luckily the rest of the cast are made up of professional voice artists which masks how bad Norris is, in this medium.
The highlights of the cast are easily Bill Martin and Keone Young as Claw and Super Ninja. Super Ninja finds a way to shout out “NORRRRR-IISSS!!!” at least once an episode and uses a mixture of an Asian accent and Chris Latta which I found hilarious every single time.
The series makes no attempt whatsoever on developing any of the Karate Kommandos. Occasionally, you will get some isolated time with Tabe or Too Much but the rest of the cast might as well have not even had names or personalities as they do little but blend in to the background.
The fight sequences are laughable. This is in part because of how slow the animation is. If you don’t believe me, do a quick YouTube search for a video in which they speed up the animation and you will see how much better it flows. To make it worse, the moves incorporated are often ridiculous and involve physical feats that would be impossible even for the most skilled ninja. The Kommandos show no fear of bullets or any other form of weapon, as they often barge into a room or run down a hallway, taking on heavy fire with no consequence until they are close enough to punch, kick or throw their enemies aside.
Although this series could provide a lot in the form of drinking games, or Mystery Science Theater type viewings, it’s painfully obvious why they never made it passed the first 5 episodes.
Overall Show Score: 1/5
Toyline: Kenner released a toy line alongside the cartoon that consisted of 10 action figures and 1 vehicle. 3 of the figures were different versions of Chuck Norris.
Comics: Star Comics (an Imprint of Marvel Comics) released 4 issues of Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos between January and July of 1987.