Do you recall the early 70's tv show Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, a US adventure/comedy series airing from 1970-1971, featuring supposedly talking chimpanzees as secret agents? We saw it in black and white in New Zealand (colour tv wasn't introduced here until 1973).
With considerable cap-doffing to tv show Get Smart! (1965-1970), the plot featured Lance Link and his female colleague Mata Hairi. The duo worked for APE (Agency to Prevent Evil), battling the baddies of CHUMP (Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan). APE's chief Darwin gave them their orders as part of his 'theory', a play on the Charles Darwin (after whom the character was named) scientific theory of evolution.
CHUMP's monocled chief Baron von Butcher hatched a new plan to endanger the world every week. His network of international fiends included shifty chauffeur Creto, mad scientist Dr.Strangemind, imperious Dragon Woman, drowsy Wang Fu, singing sheikh Ali Assa Seen, and the cultured Duchess.
A regular feature was chimp tv host Ed Simian (a take-off of US tv host Ed Sullivan) introducing a musical number by an all-chimp band, The Evolution Revolution. The cast included:
Mata Hairi: a la Mata Hari (the WW1 spy).
Commander Darwin: named after Charles Darwin.
Baron von Butcher: modeled on evil character "Siegfried" from KAOS in Get Smart!
Creto: his name was a play on the word "cretin" and also on "Kato", the Green Hornet's chauffeur and crimefighting sidekick.
Ali Assa Seen: sounded like "assassin".
Dr. Strangemind: modeled on Béla Lugosi, famous Dracula actor.
There was so much passion for the show within the production team that two of the three producers (who'd been writers for Get Smart!) quit their jobs as head writers on The Carol Burnett Show to work on Lancelot Link.
And what fun they had! To make the dialogue fit the chimps' lip action, the voiceovers were ad-libbed live, creating mad moments where the chimps broke into songs at the end of sentences or recited nursery rhymes so it would look... kinda...right!
An album of The Evolution Revolution's songs was released at the time, there were Lancelot Link comic books and other merchandise. In 2006 most of the episodes were re-released on DVD. 2012 saw a re-release of a 3-disc collector's edition, the first complete collection with all 17 episodes and Evolution Revolution music videos.
The chimps were much-loved on-set and well cared for. Lance's still alive and in good health, living at a retirement home at the Wildlife WayStation in Los Angeles. Proceeds from the boxed DVD set benefit the Wildlife WayStation and go towards keeping Lance well.