Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Television (Live Action) Action Figure Series

Date Published: 2017-05-03
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Lost action figure

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Last week I looked at movie based lines - this week, it's television ones. If you thought it was tough coming up with great movie lines, try television. There's a couple reasons for that: first, prior to the 90's, if it wasn't a television cartoon, it wasn't an action figure line. There were a few exceptions, like the Galoob A-Team or Mego Happy Days. but they were few and far between. And to be honest, quality was even less of a priority. Even after 1990 or so, companies were far less likely to take on television licenses, feeling they represented a much bigger risk than movies.

By the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm leaving out anything animated. I already did my favorite animated lines, and if they were included here, they'd swamp the live action stuff. Just about every cartoon has had a toy line, and I consciously left those out of the running.

As always, I did what I could to avoid repeating myself too much, but you're going to see at least one line here whose virtues you've had to listen to me extol in the past. 

Enough already - let's go!

10 - Game of Thrones, ThreeZero, 2014
I was a little iffy on this one. Not because ThreeZero isn't doing a great job, but it is a very new line, and has only shipped four figures so far - Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Jaime Lannister, and Ned Stark. Funko took more than one shot at the license with smaller scale figures, and Dark Horse has covered a lot of the characters with their series of Nerd Hummels, but the ThreeZero sixth scale figures have been my favorite so far. It's a fantastic show and deserves this sort of high end treatment. With the Hound coming soon and Daenerys not far behind (fingers crossed), I'm hoping we see a new announcement soon.

ThreeZero Game of Thrones action figures

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9 - 1966 Batman, Figures Toy, 2004
This one is a little tricky too, since I generally want lines that are TV shows 'first'. The problem is, Batman is everywhere. He's not the sort of license that's really connected to any one medium - he has been a major part of every communications format, from comics to radio to tv to movies to haiku. Add in the fact that the 1966 version is tremendously unique, and it was a license that was difficult for anyone to secure for many years, and you can see where I think of it as an independent beast.

It took decades before anyone could get the rights, but once they did the floodgates opened...momentarily. While lots of folks have done various things with the license (and Tweeterhead's statues are my favorite overall collectibles so far), it's only been Figures Toy that have gone deep and wide with their series.  You'll have to love the nostalgic, retro, Mego style, but if you do, you'll be in heaven.

Check out the company website where you can order many of the figures, and where I grabbed the below photo of Alfred, King Tut, Mr. Freeze, and Bookworm.

1966 Batman Television action figures

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8 - A-Team, Galoob, 1984
As I mentioned in the intro, while there wasn't a TON of live action television action figure lines in the 70's and 80's, there were a few. Mego did several, but Galoob really stepped things up with their early 80's A-Team series.

The popular scale of the day was 1/18th of course, and most of the figures, vehicles, and accessories were in the 4" scale. But Galoob also did a 1/12 series, along with a Command Center and a couple vehicles. The depth was good, the quality was great, and the 1/18th scale van remains a classic vehicle.

I grabbed the photo below off the net, but I don't know who to properly give credit. Let me know if it's yours!

Galoob A-TEam action figures

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7 - Buffy/Angel, Sideshow, 2001
I bet this one causes a little controversy. The Buffy/Angel television shows, which I always count as one when thinking about the toys and the license, was done by several companies over the years. In my top ten underappreciated list, I counted the Diamond Select Toys series as one of the unloved that deserved better.

But I decided to go with the sixth scale series from Sideshow for this outing.  They produced a pretty broad range for the scale - most 12" lines last a few figures at best, but we got our share of B-listers here. And while the quality is not up to 2017 standards, it was well above average for the early aughts.

Sideshow Buffy/Angel action figuresSideshow Buffy/Angel action figures

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6 - Twilight Zone, Bif Bang Pow, 2014
Classic science fiction and horror from the 50's and 60's has never gotten the best treatment in toy form, and I continue to hope that one of the many new smaller sixth scale companies out there will go after some of these licenses. But that doesn't mean we don't have some decent options out there right now.

Bif Bang Pow has been producing a terrific set of little (4") figures based on the old Twilight Zone episodes for several years now. They've given us everything from creepy dangerous aliens to milquetoasts in suits, and the quality has been reasonably good. The price point is right too, if you're looking to build a big set, and they also did both color and black and white versions for the purists.

Twilight Zone Kanamit action figure

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5 - Six Million Dollar Man, Kenner, 1975
The Six Million Dollar Man was a hit show in the 70's, spawning the Bionic Woman show as well. The mix of man and machine would be revisited many times (and the show was actually based on a novel called Cyborg), and certainly the most 'adult' version has been Robocop. As you'd expect from the 70's, the government agency behind the creation of the Bionic Man was a lot less nefarious than their later counterparts, and the themes less violent.

Kenner picked up the license and produced several great 12" figures, including several versions of Steve Austin, his boss Oscar Goldman, and of course, Bigfoot, as played by the wonderful Andre the Giant. They also did the Bionic Woman and Fembot (yes, that's where Austin Powers got it from), and what's more impressive (considering the scale) is that they did a ton of vehicles and play sets. As a teenager, I was a little too old - and not yet old enough - to actually buy any of them, but I still appreciated how damn cool they were.

The photo below came from Pinterest - if you know the original photographer, let me know.

Six Million Dollar Man action figure

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4 - Walking Dead, McFarlane Toys, 2009
Here's a series that started out rough - really rough. But after a couple waves, things started to click, and the overall quality of the sculpting and paint greatly improved. Unfortunately, just when things were clicking along quite nicely, McFarlane decided to revamp their entire portfolio back to a 7" scale and bring it all together under the 'color tops' brand. *sigh*

But before it all ended (sort of - we've seen a couple exclusives still in the 5" scale and style), we got most of the critical characters (and a few on the fence), as well as some kick ass zombies. While the ThreeZero sixth scale series is certainly great quality, I doubt anyone will rival McFarlane for the character selection any time soon.

Walking Dead Abraham action figure

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3 - Dr. Who, Character Options, 2005
As you'd expect with a television show that covers 4 decades, a fair number of people have taken a shot at Dr. Who action figures.  Perhaps the most recent - and certainly most expensive - is the line from Big Chief, which have pleased the fans that can afford them.

But the series that has gone deep, wide, and long is from Character Options. Multiple waves, play sets, vehicles, exclusives - it's been a terrific series across the board. We don't get to see a lot of it in America, but the UK fans are treated to a plethora of goodies, and the overall quality has been solid.

I got the photo below from a terrific article on the history of Dr. Who toys at Den of Geek.

Character Options Dr. Who action figures

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2 - Star Trek, Art Asylum/Diamond Select, 2005
I love Star Trek - I know you do too. Here's another show that's been on tv in one version or another for decades, and has built up a massive fan following. No doubt a series of action figures belong on this list...but which one? Playmates holds the title for longest run with deepest character selection, but the quality was standard 90's fair. Mezco and Qmx are killing it on the quality side with their One:12 Collective figures and sixth scale figures, respectfully, but they just don't have the depth yet.

For me, the best work overall was with the Art Asylum waves, later taken over by Diamond Select Toys. The character selection was god, and key characters like the Gorn fit in perfectly with the design and style. They included some great accessories as well, and while I'm hopeful that both Qmx and Mezco can eventually surpass them, they remain my current favorite Star Trek series overall.

Star Trek action figures

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1 - The Muppets, Palisades, 2002
Last week, I did the best movie based action figure lines, and surprise, surprise, Kenner's Star Wars took the top stop. This week's number one really shouldn't be any more of a surprise. The Muppets isn't animated, so it doesn't get booted because of my rules. And while there were movies, the characters were first and foremost a television creation. And yes, the Muppets series by Palisades is one of the best ever created, no matter the theme, period.

A few months ago, I did my own Top Ten of the figures in this line.

Muppets action figures

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I bet you have a few favorites I didn't name, because even with a smaller field to choose from, there's still a few omissions I was on the fence about. I almost gave Mezco's Breaking Bad series a slot just for pissing off the Florida Mom - "Oh my God, it's a bald middle aged man in a Member's Only jacket - save the children!"

If you're enjoying this top ten concept of Captain Toy Picks or have a suggestion for a future list, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:

Captain Toy Picks...The Top Movie Based Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Underrated Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Play Sets!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Smart Purchases!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten McFarlane Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Bad Action Figure Ideas!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Toy Fair 2017 Reveals!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Unproduced Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The People's Picks for Best of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Best/Worst of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Poppies Winners of the Past Ten Years!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten DC Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Christmas Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Joker Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Superman Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Animated Action Figure Series!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Toy Things I'm Thankful For!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Premium Format Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Over $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Under $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Palisades Muppets!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Wanted Licenses in Sixth Scale!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman Black and White Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Female Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Prop Replicas!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Simpsons World of Springfield action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Grails!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Figures!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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