Josie and the Pussycats Premiered 50 Years Ago Today

Josie and the Pussycats, the animated series based on Archie Comics's characters of the same name, premiered 50 years ago today, on September 12, 1970. While the character of Josie McCoy had debuted in the comics in 1962, it wasn't until 1969 that she became a pop star, backed by the Pussycats, Melody Valentine and Valerie Brown. Given the timing, it seems plausible that the Josie and the Pussycats reinvention of Josie's comic was inspired by the desire to create an animated series, since it was during the 1968-69 TV series that The Archie Show debuted on CBS. That one hailed from Filmation Studios, and after it became a hit (and spun off a hit singe in the form of "Sugar, Sugar"), Hanna-Barbera wanted in on the Archie brand.

So when, in 1969, Josie and the Pussycats debuted, making the character of Josie into a pop star, it was a pretty quick turnaround to get the TV series on the air in 1970. As a result, the cartoon is not especially tied to the comics that serve as its source material, and had to develop its own format.

That format? A typical episode centered around Josie and the Pussycats traveling to record a song or perform a concert, generally in some exotic location. They would end up entangled in an elaborate plot, usually by a mad scientist or other over-the-top badguy, to take over the world. Ultimately, the Pussycats would end up in a position to foil the plot, and then get back to their music.

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The show aired sixteen episodes during the 1970-71 television season, and then during the 1972-73 season, the show was rebranded as Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, which then aired another 16 episodes. After the end of those two seasons, the Hanna Barbera version of Josie and the Pussycats made a final appearance in a 1973 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

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The comic would continue until 1982, and then after its cancellation, the characters in the stories would be integrated into the larger Archie Universe and appear either as guest stars, or in occasional one-shots. In 2016, a new Josie and the Pussycats series hit the stands and ran for a year, from writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio and artist Audrey Mok.

Ironically, while the original comics would exist more or less independently of the animated series that made the characters famous, the animated series would serve as the inspiration for a 2001 live-action feature film, which starred Rachael Leigh Cook as Josie, Tara Reid as Melody, and Rosario Dawson as Valerie. That movie would in turn be a big influence on DeOrdio's writing. The 2001 movie was a financial disappointment, and the next time Josie would appear in live-action would be on Riverdale, played by Ashleigh Murray, who took the role to New York City in Katy Keene.