I spent some time recalling several of my favorite old-time television shows of the 1970’s. Shows that were full of escapist fantasy, shows that took me away from the destructive reality of my home life. Shows that today, if I happen to catch them on some obscure channel high up in the 1900’s of Time Warner’s digital universe, I’ll sit through, laugh at the substandard production values and cheezee special effects, and feel young once more.
Of course, with the ten shows I list below, that ain’t gonna happen.
What you’re about to see are the introductions for what I consider are the ten goofiest, dumbest, most unbelievable high-concept television shows to ever make it past pilot stage and appear on TV. If these shows exist on DVD, it’s only because someone had the foresight to tape an episode on a primitive Betamax unit, saved the tape for 40 years, and one day when he had to clean out his storage unit and move out of his parents’ basement, he figured, hey, let’s put this on a DVD and sell a few copies.
Brace yourself. This might get painful, and a bit snarky. But it’s also fun.
Actor Ben Murphy plays Sam Casey, a person who gets bombarded with radiation – making him invisible. In order to stay visible, he wears what looks like an LCD wristwatch – by pressing a button on the watch, he can stay invisible for up to 15 minutes per day. Of course, after that 15th minute, he needs to stay visible for 24 hours to recharge the device, or he disappears forever. Of course, what does he do with this neato invisibility power? Does he go visit girls’ locker rooms? No. He fights crime with it. Bleah. This show only lasted a few episodes, and at one point it was actually borrowing scripts from another fantasy series, The Bionic Woman.
Bill Bixby dazzles the audience (and performs his own magic tricks) as magician Tony Blake, who supplements his prestigious powers of prestidigitation by – you guessed it – solving crimes. It’s got a decent opening theme, but most of the tricks you see on the show were later performed by Valentino on that “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed” program. That, or if you watched the episodes on your VCR in slow-motion and saw where Bixby put the rabbit before he pulled it out of the hat…
|THE INVISIBLE MAN
David McCallum (us old folks know him as the Soviet spy in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the young folks know him as the crusty doctor on NCIS) played Dr. Daniel Westin, who used radiation to develop an invisibility formula. Unfortunately, once someone became invisible, they stayed invisible, so the gimmick used by the TV show was to have McCallum wear flesh-colored gloves and a flesh-colored facial mask, film him taking those items off, and superimpose that into the film by using 1970’s-era green-screen technology. The show had so much fuzzy sci-fi in it, that NBC not only canceled it in mid-season, they replaced it with Gemini Man, the show listed above.
I don’t know what it is with CBS and television adaptations of motion pictures, but they went through three different sci-fi classics and essentially mangled every one of them (they had a four-episode epilogue to Westworld, and you don’t EVEN want to know what they did to the Planet of the Apes movies). This 13-episode series, based on the Oscar-winning sci-fi film of the same name, went from a story about the ethics of enforced age-based culling, and turned it into a series reminiscent of the 60’s drama The Fugitive. That, and the corny disco-based opening theme, made my head hurt. A lot.
In case you were wondering, about a decade ago, a nuclear accident on the dark side of the moon (upon which mankind has built a space station) has caused the moon to slip out of its orbit and travel millions of light-years into space. Okay. First off, assuming that a nuclear accident were to occur on the dark side (or the far side) of the moon, wouldn’t that cause the moon to come hurtling towards earth? And how powerful is this explosion in that it sends the moon faster than the speed of light – yet doesn’t damage any of the structures or buildings or inhabitants on the planet? And how did this show actually stay in production for two years? Wowie.
I would need about 10 blogs’ worth of space to even attempt to describe this show. Hopefully, this will cover everything. A spaceship carrying hundreds of thousands of Earth’s people – who, over the generations of time, have forgotten that they’re even on a spaceship – is now on a collision course with a star, and it’s up to three young explorers to find out what went wrong, and how to fix it. This show’s original plot was written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, but by the time it was re-written and re-edited and dumbed down for the little kids, he ripped his name right off the credits. Notable for being the OTHER sci-fi project to feature Keir Dullea.
What is it with robotic cops on television? This was the second attempt by ABC to produce a buddy-cop series with a robot as one of the cops (I do not even want to remember “Holmes and Yoyo,” thank you very much), but this show took the cake. That’s right, that’s Ernest Borgnine as a cop (no, he’s not the robot), along with partner John Amos (no, he’s NOT the robot either). Think about it for a second – John Amos left Good Times for THIS?!?
This is it. The turkey that almost brought down NBC. Who needs a love boat when you can have romance on what equated to an Amtrak on steroids? This train had its own discotheque. It had its own sauna and workout room. It had the ability to reach speeds that would make an Acela train jealous. What it did NOT have, however, were anything that resembled quality scripts. I don’t think this show even had enough appeal to draw in the model train hobby fans! And believe it or not, there are people clamoring to get this show released on DVD!!
If you don’t have time for a 60-minute drama, how about three 20-minute dramas, each with a hero-in-peril ending to bring you back every week? That was the plan behind Cliffhangers, in which three separate TV shows – Stop Susan Williams, The Secret Empire, and Curse of Dracula – all captured the imaginations of tens of viewers nationwide. I believe only the Curse of Dracula was ever able to complete its run and have a final episode before the whole series got tossed in the dumper, but someone told me that the Stop Susan Williams serial was actually finished and edited into a TV movie. I’ll have to schedule time to see it – maybe on a day when I’m not doing anything important. Honestly, if I want to have a cliffhanger ending to every episode of a TV series, I’d watch 24.
|SWORD OF JUSTICE
Playboy Dack Rambo is sentenced to jail on trumped-up charges of embezzlement. While behind bars, he hooks up with various criminals and learns their tricks and their skills. Upon release, he vows to get even with those who work above the law, using his skills learned behind bars to take down the bad guys. Oh, I should mention that he leaves a three of clubs as his calling card. Ain’t sure if this was a bad attempt at Zorro, a bad attempt at The Rockford Files, or a bad attempt at It Takes a Thief. Or just a bad attempt at a TV show.
Honestly, I could have posted a few more shows, but I couldn’t find the opening titles to programs like Lucan (a boy raised by wolves!) or Planet of the Apes (one of the biggest turkeys of the early 1970s). That, and NBC’s programming lineup was so desperate for a hit TV show, they would greenlight any TV series that had a pulse and a perky sidekick.
Any of these television shows bring back memories for you?