Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills or TTAFFBH for short (because good lord I am not typing that whole name out every time I need to mention it) premiered a month after Super Human Samurai on the USA Network and was yet another low budget attempt at emulating Power Rangers success. I’ll let Nimbar, the alien brain, explain the story.
Meleculah. home planet to the diabolically evil Emperor Gorganus. Gorganus has vowed to use his army of alien monsters to conquer Earth, the focal point of a system of Power Portals he needs to rule the universe. I am Nimbar, head protector of the Power Portals. To carry out my mission to stop Gorganus I have chosen four teenagers from Beverly Hills. I summon them by flashing their tattoos, then they transform into Galactic Sentinels! The fate of the Earth depends, on these Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills!
Those four teenagers include Swinton, socially awkward and resident genius, Gordon, rich and snobbish, Laurie, popular and sensible, and Drew, non-conformist and tough.
Surprisingly? The show had a lot of really solid stories. The show explored each of the characters; we get to know their insecurities and a lot about their home lives. Swinton in particular feels like a failure around his father, not being the popular kid he wishes he were. This is beautifully illustrated when Gordan is brown nosing with him and Swinton feels like he’s being replaced. This is just one of the many character moments that occur throughout the show.
So I’m sure you remember Zordon from Power Rangers right? How he wasn’t always…the greatest mentor, shall we say? Well Nimbar takes that about ten steps further. He’s a complete dick to his team, caring little that they may have switched bodies or are having an interpersonal conflict. His goal is to defeat Gorganus and that’s it.
In “Universal Hitchhiker” we meet a Galactic Sentinel from another galaxy (played by Kevin Castro a.k.a. Tanker from Super Human Samurai) who relates that Nimbar just hops from world to world, using its teenagers to fight his war and when he loses? He just moves on and leaves that world in ruin. That is incredibly horrific and cements Nimbar as the biggest dick mentor in Ameri-Toku history, easily beating out Zordon and slacker Gosei.
Unlike Super Human Samurai, the show manages a ton of incredible world building, giving us a clear picture of the galaxy, even with the same problem of limited sets. The aforementioned “Universal Hitchhiker” accomplishes much of this but in other episodes we hear about different planets, various references to the Straken Toil Mines, and more. It was a universe ripe to exploit for story potential.
What Didn’t Work
It never really exploited that universe. TTAFFBH mostly just told wacky Saved By The Bell style stories with a fight tacked on. Sure, occasionally they’d do something fun with the concept of being Galactic Sentinels but more often than not it was ground Power Rangers had already covered. The show did little to stand out from the Ameri-Toku crowd, not that it really had the resources to.
While Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog was Saban’s first Ameri-Toku without using Japanese footage, TTAFFBH beat them to the punch. The Sentinel and monster outfits, along with the sets were 100% original creations, even if they looked cheap. According to various reports the show blew a lot of its budget on the monster suits so everything else, including our main heroes outfits, had to be done on the cheap. This is why Nitron, the combined form of our heroes? He looks like something you’d find at the Halloween stores that pop up at the mall every October.
Super Human Samurai was confined to four sets along with the footage, TTAFFBH had a bit more with Drew’s backyard, the café, a school hallway, Nimbar’s lair, Gorganus’s lair, and the two battle locations. Being confined to your own sets and never venturing outside may have worked for series such as Babylon 5, but they at least had the extra budget to make it look like they were on other planets. Everything on TTAFFBH was a cost saving measure; they even reused the same batch of monster suits over and over again. Some of this can be forgiven, it was the first of its kind, not leaning on the footage of a Japanese program, but that doesn’t always make it watchable.
Why It Didn’t Catch On
Not having toys certainly didn’t help. Reports say Galoob had prototypes made but were never released to the public. Let’s be real though, the show suffered from having one of the worst names ever. One of the show’s promos was solely built around saying, “Yeah, we know our show has way too long a name for you to possibly remember so here, we’re going to spend twenty seconds desperately trying to make you remember it. OH DEAR GOD PLEASE WATCH OUR SHOW!” Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? It’s like someone in a board meeting was having a conversation with an intern afraid of losing his job,
“Okay guys, Power Rangers is making millions. Let’s make our own cheap knock off and score some extra cash for hookers and blow! Ideas?”
“Well, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still vaguely popular right?”
“Hell yes! They’re aliens right?”
“Well. Michael Bay will certainly think so in about twenty years.”
“Good enough! So they’re teenaged aliens. What do teenagers do now? What’s hip?”
“Tattoos. Everybody loves tattoos!”
“Sir, I’m fairly certain parents hate their kids getting tattoos.”
“Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters though. That’s hip! Radical even, that’s what the kids are saying these days right?”
“Okay sure sir. I guess we can make that work…”
“It needs something else.”
“Oh dear god no…”
“These kids have gotta be from somewhere. What’s hip?!”
“Well that Beverly Hills, 90210 show is making a ton of bank over at Fox…”
“So they’re from Beverly Hills!”
“Okay, I’ll tell the writers to put it in the Bible.”
“No! Put it in the name!”
“…Sir, are you sure you need to do another line right now?”
“I can stop any time I want! Put it in the name!”
“So let me get this straight. You want a show named, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills.”
“We’ll make millions!”
“Didn’t you say that about that Dynaman dub a few years back?”
“GET ME MORE BLOW!”
“Sir, I was almost mugged the last time.”
“We’ll pay your hospital bill with all the money we’ll be making!”
You know why you never heard from that intern again? Because the show only lasted for one season of forty episodes and was barely spoken of ever again. It’s sad when the most pop culture recognition the show has ever received was a joke in Dragonball Z Abridged, where it was the butt of that joke. That’s the legacy.
Is It Worth Watching?
As much as it has the worst name of any Ameri-Toku, I’d recommend it over Super Human Samurai and even Beetleborgs any day. It has an odd charm to it that makes it damn watchable if you can accept the low budget and the fact it’s so blatantly trying to cash in on Power Rangers. It’s such a great slice of ’90s culture (or at least what the media THOUGHT it was) and unlike Super Human Samurai it tends to work in the show’s favor. Maybe it’s that it was going for a Saved By The Bell vibe.
What’s hilarious? Several of the Ameri-Toku cannot be found legally anywhere in the world but you can pick up a copy of TTAFFBH at your local Wal Mart for $5. Some would call that sad. I would call it beautiful.
Seriously, when Beetleborgs, a show that was actually beating Power Rangers in the ratings, can barely get a complete DVD release but the bottom of the Ameri-Toku barrel, TTAFFBH can? That deserves a slow clap. I never thought this show would see the light of day and now that I can own it as a set that doesn’t even bother with trays or sleeves and just has all the DVD’s on a spindle? I can die a happy man.
– Little is known about the series except what Rugg Williams, who portrayed Swinton, has shown on his facebook page. One piece of intriguing promo art shows animated renditions of the characters. While this was probably just for some kind of marketing package it still begs the question, was a TTAFFBH animated series in development at some point? Probably not, but one can dream.
– One of the only pieces of merchandise released for the series was a lunchbox that included a thermos. I know this because I own it. Oh yeah, I’m that kind of fan. The day I saw that pop up on eBay? I had to have it.