…title of the third album by Walking Neds
The Doclopedia #845
Fandom Across The Multiverse: Fans Of “Gary’s Pet Shop”
Even by the low standards of network television in the 1970s, “Gary’s Pet Shop” was less than great. Actually, it was full of corny humor, racial stereoypes, lame storylines and low budget production values. The ratings were just barely good enough to get it through two seasons, a total of 68 episodes. All told, it should have become just a footnote in TV history. It should never have ended up as a cult favorite with millions of fans around the world, conventions and a 1990s revival film.
But it did, and you can blame it all on the fact that the animals in “Gary’s Pet Shop” talked to each other and the audience. The writing for the animals was a good bit better that the rest of the writing and they often made references to old movies, other television shows, popular fiction and celebrities. These talkative critters also had love affairs, feuds and usually pulled Gary’s fat out of the fire before the episode ended. During the run of the show, a group of loyal fans started a fanzine wherein the discussed and carefully dissected every episode. When the network announced that the series would not get a third season, the fans tried to get a write in campaign going to save it, but nothing came of it.
Now fast forward six years, when “Gary’s Pet Shop” has been in syndication for three years and built up a large following among college students and teenagers. There are viewing parties and half a dozen fanzines and…a convention. Yes, that first year saw 450 people gather in Portland, Oregon (setting for the show) to talk about Fritz the Guinea Pig, Jack the Bunny, Patty the Cat and all the other animals on the series. The star of the show, Hank Leonard, was not there, having gone on to a big career in movies. In fact, the only human cast member who was in attendance was Loyal Parkins, who played Mr. Wimms, the always confused canary breeder. Still, the con made a small profit and got some local news coverage, so it became an annual thing.
Each year, the con grew and the news coverage got better. At “ShopCon 5”, the whole original cast showed up and attendance hit 5,000. That same year, a comic book came out, as did a line of toys, both of which sold well. A rumor of a series revival started, but it never happened. The next year, more products connected to the series hit the market and more conventions popped up, several in other countries.
Finally, in 1996, a movie based on the series came out. About half of the original cast were in it and all of the animals were CGI. It grossed 210,000,000 dollars, but spawned no sequels. No revival of the series is planned, but the fans hold out hope.