Awfully Good: Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos
There have been a lot of TV shows that I've been tempted to include in this column, like the exponentially ridiculous "Secret Life of the American Teenager" or the last few seasons of "Family Matters" (where Urkel became a pirate, a robot, Bruce Lee and then shrank himself). But none has ever demanded Awfully Good status like…
Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos (1986)
Stars: Chuck Norris, Beard, Fists
Is there a plot?
Chuck Norris and his ragtag team of ethnic martial arts warriors battle the Claw and the ruthless Super Ninja.
It's exactly as amazing as it sounds.
What's the damage?
KARATE KOMMANDOS firmly belongs in the "I can't believe this is something that is real" category. Each of its five episodes plays like an SNL "TV Funhouse" spoof in response to the Chuck Norris craze of the last few years…except it predates that by about 25 years. It's like a team of 13 year olds got together and tried to top each other on badass things the martial arts star could do. "Chuck Norris would use a giant anaconda as a climbing rope!" "Oh yeah, I bet he could wrestle an alligator that broke in to NASA!" "Screw you, Chuck Norris could fight a guy on a tightrope between a moving car and a speeding train!" (All of these things happen in the show, by the way.)
Little Pepito thought Chuck was signaling "Good job!" but in reality Norris was just making a target with his fingers.
God bless Chuck Norris, but the man was not cut out for voiceover work like this. His monotone delivery makes his cartoon likeness seem like a beardpunching dullard. But the best/saddest part is that Norris really thinks he's helping kids with this show. Each episode is bookended with a live action segment featuring Chuck working out and imparting important life lessons that are in no way related to the episode to which they're attached. At the end of an episode, you'll hear "So next time you don't do well on a test, or you're getting picked on by a bully, don't give up and work together as a team!" Meanwhile the episode was about fighting zombies or riding super smart dolphins.
"Oh, hi there. Sex."
Thankfully, Norris is not alone on his animated quests. His international team of colorful characters include:
-Pepper: A female tech expert who exists only to drive cars, push buttons and occasionally make a blatant feminist remark that Norris can immediately dismiss.
-Too Much: An illiterate foreign child who can only say, "Too much!" even when it has no relevance on what's going on. It's also never explained why Norris hangs out with a little boy and constantly brings him in to dangerous situations where he gets kidnapped.
-Kemo the Samurai Warrior: A Japanese guy who only speaks in wise sayings (ala The Sphinx from MYSTERY MEN), like "It takes more than a pack or rats to take down a tiger" or "Sometimes to get rid of the cat, the bird must invite him inside the cage."
-Tabe the Sumo Champion: A fat guy who eats constantly and is the Asian equivalent of Jar Jar Binks (in terms of racism).
-Reed: Chuck's flamboyantly gay teenage apprentice who is always sashaying unnecessarily before speaking.
"That's genius, Reed! Nobody will want to fight us as long as we're wearing these costumes!"
The villains don't fare much better. The Claw is an evil mastermind with a mechanical arm that is a clear ripoff of the "Inspector Gadget" villain. Claw is obsessed with destroying Tokyo, which our All-American Hero Norris strangely wants to protect. And then there's Super Ninja, The Claw's worthless henchman who always yells his lines like he's in the middle of taking a strenuous dump. Each episode ends with him getting his ass kicked and saying, "You won this round, Norris! Next week I'll kill you!"
Sadly, only five episodes of KARATE KOMMANDOS were produced, but each is equally amazing and well worth checking out:
The Flipper-Walker Texas Ranger crossover was a thing of genius.
#1 - Deadly Dolphins
While training hyper intelligent dolphins, Chuck Norris' marine biologist friend Dr. Sanford is kidnapped by The Claw so he can help them build a machine that creates tidal waves. The Kommandos must then infiltrate The Claw's base, which involves Norris stripping down and riding a dolphin so he can remain undetected. In the end, he just pulls the plug to stop on the machine which stops the tsunami mid-wave.
After countless days defeating formidable opponents, every now and then Chuck Norris just needs to beat up on an elderly person.
#2 - Target: Chuck Norris
Our hero manages to foil Claw from stealing a NATO defense chip, so they put a bounty on his head to capture him once and for all. Instead they capture his young ward Too Much because it's easier. This upsets Norris. Much kickpunching ensues.
With a special appearance by guest star Greg Louganis.
#3 - Terror Train
The gang is transporting a Japanese laser robot when The Claw announces the train they're on has been rigged with a bomb that will explode if they slow down. (Who knew SPEED was a remake of this?) The Kommandos admit defeat and give up the robot, but manage to escape after Norris beats up a giant sea serpent and uses it as a rope to climb out of jail. Then there's a car chase on a ski slope and an amazing tight rope fight between a car and a train that makes the MATRIX RELOADED look like a physics textbook. At one point during the chase, Chuck steals some poor guy's bike and says, "It's okay, guys. I'm Chuck Norris!"
Oh, and The Claw tortures his albino henchman by shining a bright light in to his sensitive eyes.
How Chuck Norris honors the anniversary of Steve Irwin's death.
#4 - Menace from Space
The Claw manages to steal a space shuttle that for some reason is carrying a fusion cannon on board. How did they accomplish this? By parachuting crocodiles in to NASA to distract Chuck Norris. The Kommandos then have to fly an antique spaceship from a museum to catch them. Further highlights include Norris propelling himself through space with a fire extinguisher and then breaking in to the shuttle and having a zero gravity fight with the bad guys. (I almost cried happy tears at this point.)
Also, Chuck Norris stands next to a space shuttle as it launches and is unharmed.
Is that a cross dressing Aunt Jemima zombie on the left?
#5 - Island of the Walking Dead
Norris and Co. must go to Voodoo Island to recover a US spy satellite that can control the entire military. Just then a voodoo master uses his magic feather to resurrect zombies that do his bidding. He also has a magic snake that tracks the Kommandos. Super Ninja shows up and uses a voodoo doll to paralyze Norris—for about 5 seconds before he manages to throw a ninja star through sheer will and beard.
A collection of ridiculous remarks and voiceover work, mainly from Super Ninja's angry, constipated delivery.
1) The show's amazing title sequence and live action intro by Chuck Norris. A must watch.
2) A compilation of Chuck's greatest hits that includes crocodile wrestling, hardcore action sequences, snake domination, dolphin riding and other displays of bearded badassery.
Behold Cartoon Chuck Norris' bare chest!
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Chuck Norris does something unrealistically ridiculous
- Too Much says "too much"
- Too Much gets kidnapped
- Tabe eats or talks about food
- Super Ninja says "Norris!" (or some variation thereof) menacingly
- Reed acts effeminately
Double shot if:
- Chuck Norris fights an animal of some kind
For more Chuck Norris Awfully Goodness, check out LONE WOLF MCQUADE.
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.