The Roadrunner's back and, in an unprecedented coup, the Coyote's got him, in the finale to "Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over," a half-hour animated CBS special at 8 tonight on Channel 9.
Chuck Jones, chairman of the board of Acme Enterprises -- a firm that can supply exploding tennis balls and giant fly paper on demand -- wrote, produced and directed this show. He decided to let Wile E. Coyote finally get his mitts on the flirtatious birdie after 30 years of chase-us delicit. But as you might expect, there's a twist you wouldn't expect.
Bugs, who sounds hoarser as vocal characterizer Mel Blanc gets older, hosts the special, the first third of which is a flashback to the bunny's youth, misspent being chased with a pop gun by little Elmer Fudd. "Wait till I get that wabbit," says Elmer. "I'll tear him wimb from wimb."
In the second segment, Marvin the Martian returns to kidnap Bugs yet again; the Roadrunner and Coyote buzz in for the close. The program lacks the brashness, zip and drive of the classic Warner Bros. shorts on which Jones and others worked, but it's still solid on charm, wit and felicity.
All cartoons are not created equal, however, and CBS has unwisely chosen to follow the Bugs special, which is perfect for kids, with a new animated half-hour "Carlton Your Doorman," which is not. The show, at 8:30 on Channel 9, brings to cartoon life the formerly unseen doorman character of the "Rhoda" show, who loses some of his mystique in being seen but proves less a one-joke jerk than one might think.
The film is a pilot for a potential series, and the idea of bringing animation back into weekly prime time (not since "The Flintstones") isn't all inspiring, except that "Carlton" was fairly cleverly written and produced by Lorenzo Music (who originated and still does the voice) and Barton Dean. b
Carlton as visualized suggests a cross between comedian George Carlin and Howard Hesseman of "WKRP in Cincinnati." Of course there isn't much point in doing Carlton as a cartoon rather than with live actors except for the perspective games that can be played and the way animals can be made more expressive.
The animals in "Carlton" steal the show, especially a rotten, grouchy little dog named Punkin who has a heart attack and keels over while Carlton is walking him. This is bound to upset the owner, the sexually predatory Mrs. Shaftman (who speaks with the amusingly gravelly voice of Lucille Meredith), so Carlton tries to disguise his selfish, temperamental cat Ringo and pass him off as the late Punkin.
The program is funny and wry, but the character isn't really capable of sustaining enormous interest. Curiously enough, the credits announce that it took four people to "create" him. Gee. It only took one guy to come up with the theory of relativity.