Friday, July 31, 2015

Another Opening, Another Show

Back in October of 2014, I did a couple of posts that were devoted to the opening credits of television shows. One was about my own personal ten favorites (with some bonus material) and the other was a follow-up, based on the reaction the first post received, with a raft of more themes. As I continue to be pummeled with work, which prevents me from writing as much as I'd like, I'm returning to this, er, theme, for another go round. I hope you enjoy watching and listening to a few more of my picks! (Apologies in advance if any of the videos have ads appear part-way through...just x them out if you can!)

First up is a show whose theme song really took off, so to speak! The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983) starred William Katt (real life son of Perry Mason's Barbara Hale) as a teacher who inherits a special suit from aliens that endows him with quite an assortment of powers. However, he loses the instruction manual to the suit and never has a clear idea how to make anything work properly, so he's often flinging, flailing and falling in between acts of heroism. Robert Culp costarred as a helpful FBI agent, an update of his famous role on I Spy, while a pre-Hotel Connie Selleca was Katt's attorney girlfriend. The easy-going, yet gently soaring theme song, sung by Joey Scarbury, reached the  #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This publicity shot shows a surprisingly weary-looking Katt. If you look at the picture full size, his emblem is really shoddy around the edges, too! The series lasted three abbreviated seasons (only 44 episodes in all.)

Next is another fantasy series, this one starring one of the most handsome men who has ever lived. Voyagers! (1982-1983) only ran one season, but no little gay sapling who ever saw it could completely shake the vision of Jon-Erik Hexum as a handsome time traveler (or the sound of his resonant deep voice as he explained things to his "tween" sidekick Meeno Peluce. They'd appear at key moments in history and have to "correct" issues that were out of sync in the continuum. We always enjoyed the show, but none so much as the time Hexum was stripped down and placed in the ring as a gladiator! I think seeing him in action helped more than a few impressionable youngsters figure out which side their bread was buttered on.
Another sci-fi show we watched (we and maybe seven other people!) was Logan's Run (1977-1978), based upon the hit 1976 film of the same name. It only lasted 14 episodes, but starred young, handsome Gregory Harrison and the now-grown Heather Menzies, who played Louisa in The Sound of Music (1965.) Also on board was Randy Powell as Harrison's relentless pursuer. (None of these folks, by the way, resembled his or her movie counterparts in the least in looks or personality.) The series, filmed mostly outside and made rather on the cheap with recycled costumes and props from the parent film, had precious little to do with the original story, but was captivating to a young kid. The biggest problem was CBS' repeated pre-emptions of the show after a promising start, thus depriving it of ever gathering a regular audience.
Thanks to a deal I couldn't pass up, I not too long ago burned through season one of The Rat Patrol (1966-1968), a WWII-era adventure show set completely in the African desert. The exploits featured four men (two per Jeep) forever seeming to butt up against the same villainous Nazi.  Christopher George, Gary Raymond, Lawrence Casey and Justin Tarr were the soldiers and Hans Gudegast played their frequent adversary. (Gudegast would later change his name to Eric Braeden and enjoy a lengthy, highly-successful stay on The Young and the Restless!) Each episode started with a prologue only to be interrupted at a key moment by the bursting strains of the theme song as the Jeeps bounded up over sand dunes, making for a pretty exhilarating kick-off. (This link contains the one-minute prologue and the theme as the video quality was better than the link I had with only the theme song. For your trouble, you get a shot of pretty Casey popping some bubble gum!)
I have no idea how, but I made it all the way through my childhood and far into my adulthood before ever seeing even one frame of the long-running western adventure series Daniel Boone (1964-1970) starring Fess Parker. For whatever reason, my local syndicated channels never carried it in reruns and it was only a few years ago that I saw it on a current "over the air" channel. The series kicked off in black & white, soon turning to garish color. The theme song was a fun, campy, bouncy number with some offbeat lyrics sung in low baritone. By the end of the run, it had somehow morphed into an even zanier pop-like rendition! Incidentally, Boone never wore a "coonskin cap" in real life. That was added for the TV-series in order to draw in fans of Davy Crockett, who Parker had previously played to great acclaim, but who'd been killed in accordance with history!
Skip to the 5:50 (or not, if you wish to see the beginning of the show) to hear the 1970 version!
Speaking of westerns, most of us are familiar with Chuck Connors famous stint as The Rifleman from 1958 to 1963, but when that series ended at his own request, he eagerly shucked his Levis and boots for the legal drama Arrest and Trial (1963-1964), a precursor to the much later and more successful Law & Order (1990-2010.) Despite some degree of quality, it didn't catch on, so Connors was back the next season in another western, this one called Branded (1965-1966.) A mid-season replacement, its first 16 episodes were in black & white, but the full second season was in color. I love the way the theme song features male vocalists telling the story of what happened to Connors character prior to his roaming the west and encountering all sorts of situations.
Another western series I've come to enjoy every so often is The Virginian, which ran from 1962 to 1971 and went through quite a few cast permutations over those years. James Drury (as the title character) and Doug McClure were with the series all the way through its run while others came and went. Often, the draw (apart from boyishly adorable McClure) is the caliber of guest stars who were drawn to the show, from Myrna Loy to Joan Crawford to even Joan Collins. One reason this one didn't find an easy home in syndicated reruns is that it was always a 90-minute show, almost like a mini-movie each week. Like many western shows, the theme song is pretty rousing and sweeping to befit the wild, open land in which the story is set.
The ninth and final season saw significant changes in format as the show was subtitled "The Men from Shiloh" and usually had only one or two of the four leads featured in a story and a new "spaghetti-western" flavored theme song by none other than Ennio Morricone.
TV themes are interesting animals. They are necessarily limited in terms of time and yet have to either tell a story or grab the viewer's attention. (This can also be freeing for a composer because a great germ of a musical idea has no need to be padded out to "song" length.) Our next theme was also put together by a famous film composer, this time Maurice Jarre, famed for his scores of Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), to name but two. The series was Cimarron Strip and starred Stuart Whitman as sheriff of the troubled borderline area named in the title. Like The Virginian, it ran 90-minutes each week, but high production costs and low ratings did it in after one season. The credits play up the expansive terrain of the show.
Switching gears completely, I now bring you the theme from Angie (1979-1980), a series that starred Donna Pescow, who'd made an impression off-Broadway and in the movie Saturday Night Fever (1977.) Robert Hays played her boyfriend, the only male member of the female-heavy cast, while Doris Roberts, later to work on Remington Steele (1983-1987) and achieve considerable success (including four Emmys!) on Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005), was her mother. The first (mid)season credits are hooty, thanks to the decision to have each performer step into frame (a circle looming over a Philadelphia cityscape) as his or her name is shown (while a giddy theme song by Maureen McGovern "Different Worlds" hurtles along!)
Season two kicked off with the marriage of Pescow and Hays and offered a more conventional, yet corny and more slapsticky, set of credits, set to the same song. Ratings declined after the leads were wed on the show and so it was cancelled after its second season.
I wonder how many of you have ever even heard of this next show, though it ran four years. I certainly never saw it in its initial run being six the year it was cancelled (and am not able to record it when it plays on "over the air" stations as it sometimes does now.) The Bold Ones ran from 1968-1973 and was made up of rotating segments in the areas of medicine, law, police and politics (though there were three segments per season, some being swapped out along the way.) It had a dramatic musical, which I always like, and a stalwart cast of reliable actors. I figure this series probably contains many awesome guest stars, so I'd love to actually see more of the episodes than the fleeting bits I have so far.
I never even saw one episode of this next show (and, if the truth be told, I don't even like the theme song, though it counts among its prolific composer Mike Post's own personal favorites!), but I couldn't resist sharing it simply because of the surprising roster of people who were featured on the short-lived series. Keep your eyes peeled for an array of folks who later when on to success on the small (and sometimes big) screen. (And a few who seemed to sink into oblivion after this!) Bay City Blues (1983) was a drama centered around a minor league baseball team called the Bay City Bluebirds, created and produced by Stephen Bochco. Bochco was hot from Hill St. Blues (1981-1987) and would go on to L.A. Law (1986-1994), but this show was yanked after only four episodes had aired!
One show I enjoyed a lot as a kid and have enjoyed watching some of on DVD as an adult is Vega$ (1978-1981), starring Robert Urich. While it's similar in some ways to other private eye shows such as Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988) and Matt Houston (1982-1985), with a hunky guy driving a great car in a famous location, it came before those other two at least. Urich had quite a collection of characters in support from police detective Greg Morris to legman Bart Braverman and girl Friday Phyllis Davis to bimbo back-up Judy Landers, to name only several. Tony Curtis was also on hand as his employer.
I try always to leave you with something way out there or eye-boggling and this time out is no exception. This eye-popping opening credit sequence is from a Saturday morning serial called Danger Island (1968), that was presented in chapters on Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Directed by Richard Donner (!) and costarring Jan-Michael Vincent, it revealed the adventures of a five-person team in search of the leader's missing brother and a mythical lost city while fending off modern-day pirates and three (count 'em!) different tribes of cannibalistic natives! The "song" is darn near unbearable after a while and check out those quick-cut, zoom-heavy visuals... The show was intended to be a live-action answer to the animated hit Jonny Quest. That's it till next time, friends!  Take care.

10 comments:

Gingerguy said...

I think I want to play the theme to "Danger Island" at my next party, that is too crazy. I love this post. There was one period in the heyday of "soft rock" ('77, 78?) that television theme songs were big hits on the radio, at least on AM stations in my area. I remember even hearing "Laverne and Shirley" So lame! This took me back down memory lane. I had an obsession with the Landers Sisters-Judy and Audrey. I remember watching their Mom on Regis Philbin showing family photos. She fudged their ages to make them younger in the telling. Regis questioned it a couple of times before finally giving up, declaring they must have developed very early, like 8. Stacks and Afton Cooper, a showbiz dynasty.

roberta steve said...

What a wonderful throwback post to start the weekend. I was in high school when Believe It Or Not from The Greatest American Hero was a big hit on the radio. I still have the 45 single somewhere!

Angie was a fav show in our house in my teen years as my younger sister's name is Angela. I think she had the single for its theme song, as I remembered it as soon as I heard it.

Going a little further back to when I was still in grade school, I loved the Daniel Boone show and still know the lyrics to the song by heart. "What a dream-come-truer" indeed!

But my favorite in this post was the link to the theme for The Bold Ones. That forgotten anthology show was really good. I still remember to this day an episode of the doctor show where David Hartman was trying to help a blind woman played by Tisha Sterling see using some new fangled device. Hartman was an OK actor, but my main reason for watching the doctor show was John Saxon, one of my earliest TV crushed (right up there with Gary Collins from The Wackiest Ship in the Army.

The other reason I enjoyed The Bold Ones was young James Farentino. He was so handsome and talented it is a shame his career never got bigger. I seem to remember that he was married at different times to Elizabeth Ashley, Michelle Lee, and a soap actress Deborah Mullowney. He also had a tempestuous romance with Nancy Sinatra too. He gave a truly great performance as St. Peter in Zeferelli's Jesus of Nazareth. Reàlly stole the whole miniseries from a distinguished cast. I think he was nominated for the Emmy and claimed it was his favorite role.

But I digress. The absolute kicker in The Bold Ones opening credits is the brief clip of EG Marshall running! Yeah, he was the action star alright! LOL!

Armando Kotch said...

I rarely watched The Greatest American Hero, but its theme song is one of my favorite songs of all time.
I never missed Daniel Boone as a kid, and the song has stuck in my head all these years.
I became a fan of Maureen McGovern's since The Morning After; Different Worlds may not be a great song, but I like the way she sings it.
Thanks for the memories.

joel65913 said...

You've focus on several of my old favorites!

Living near Philly at the time it was almost a duty to watch Angie, it was a cute show, and watching those credits takes me back. When I saw Robert Hays in Airplane! with a group of friends we all said at the same time "Look it's Angie's husband!"

While I never had a coonskin hat I was a faithful viewer of Daniel Boone when I was a kid. They recently started to show them again on one of the stations devoted to classic TV and I've caught a few, I had remembered a particular episode about the courtship of Abraham Lincoln's parents that I made it a point to watch, of course they are much more obviously shot on sets then I remember but what guest stars! In one week Julie Harris, Kurt Russell, Fabian, Walter Pidgeon Pat Hingle, Connie Gilchrist and dozens of actors who became famous afterwards plus a young Veronica Cartwright was a regular in the beginning. Not great TV but a fun trip down memory lane.

I love The Virginian even though they are more of a commitment of time to watch due to their extended length. I think that might have been why they were able to attract the bigger guest star since their characters were more fleshed out. I liked all the iterations of the show with the frequently changing leads but I've always had a particular fondness for Lee J. Cobb so I tend to prefer his episodes the most. The through line that the dreamy James Drury provided though is what kept the show focused enough to sustain all the other changes and the fact that in almost every episode they did manage to have a guest star of some renown.

So glad you mentioned The Bold Ones!! LOVED that show and its rotating settings although obviously the ones set in the hospital a bit more since personal fave John Saxon was featured in them. Also the opening credits with the bold colors and brass heavy instrumental is a perfect set up for the shows.

Again one of the stations devoted to older shows had programmed these recently, they stopped now sadly before I could rewatch them all, and I was struck by how progressive many of the plotlines were for the late 60's/early 70's. There were episodes about homosexuality, with guest stars Jane Wyman and Ron Howard-that includes a visit to a gay bar, and lesbianism, guest starring Donna Mills, and while their approaches are dated they were at least attempting to explore something no other show would touch at the time. There were also stories about euthanasia, civil rights and many other hot topics. And the guest stars!! Ellen Burstyn in between The Last Picture Show and The Exorcist-the last TV she did for about ten years in a powerful story about unexplained suicide, Burgess Meredith, Edmond O'Brien, Gale Sondergaard, Carol Lawrence and on and on.

I don't recall his show very well but that's a very nice picture of Jon-Erik Hexum.

A wonderful post full of memories! Thanks so much Poseidon.

Scooter said...

Vegas, Logan's Run and Voyagers - now that takes me back. Also wouldn't mind seeing an episode or two of Danger Island. Thanks for the post - lots of fun!

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, I actually had an aversion to the Landers Sisters when I was a kid, perhaps due to one too many heaving, camel-toe ridden photos in The National Enquirer! LOLOL Judy still freaks me out a little bit, but Audrey looked amazing on that recent "Dallas" redux.

Roberta, it's such a shame that many shows like "The Bold Ones" are buried in neverland (though it is great that - briefly anyway - they were unearthed on a little-seen channel.) "Police Story" comes to mind as another one that was really, really good and yet no one can see it (although I think at least one season might be on DVD?) Hilarious about E.G. running!

Armando, I have no idea why I never saw "Daniel Boone" until about four or five years ago!! Crazy. Back in the cassette days, I bought one with Maureen McGovern's "Greatest Hits" and "Different Worlds" was on it along with several other numbers. Her rendition of "He's a Rebel" comes to mind as being amusing and who can forget "Can You Read My Mind?" from "Superman." She is a heroine here in The Underworld, of course, for not only "The Morning After" but also "We May Never Love Like This Again" from "The Towering Inferno," a song I adore.

Joel, it's amazing that "Angie" couldn't take hold of the ratings better considering how many people recall watching it! I saw that "Boone" episode about Nancy Hanks and Mr. Lincoln! They often dragged in other real-life names that Daniel may or may not have ever met (most likely not! LOL) Glad to see that you too enjoyed "The Bold Ones." Very neat to read what some of the plotlines and guest stars were. Thank you! That series needs a DVD release.

Scooter, always great to see you. We clearly enjoyed a lot of the same things as youngins! I don't know what has happened to frequent commetor NotFelix Unger, but I thought of him last night while watching an episode of "Vega$" that had Randy Powell (of "Logan's Run") on it -- married to "The Love Boat's" Lauren Tewes! When worlds collide.

EricSwede said...

I loved the theme from "Branded" when the show was first on. I still record an episode occasionally to hear it again. I will sometimes hum it to myself when one of my friends exhibits some form of cowardice. It's on the retro Me Too channel. Cozi Tv has shown "The Bold Ones" in the past. One episode had Donna Mills as a woman coming to terms with her lesbianism. When forced to choose between her boyfriend or girlfriend she took off to sort things out. Cowards.
Love your site!

Poseidon3 said...

Eric, I love that you do that (hum the theme from "Branded" to yourself)! It's funny the way we absorb certain things from pop culture and make them our little secrets from the world at large! :-) It reminds me of how I used to (and occasionally still do!) mimic the different stances and actions of the cast of "Dynasty" as they appear in the opening credits, whenever a situation warranted it. My Linda Evans sudden-stop on the staircase has irritated a person or two behind me! HA HA!

BTW all. I see that two of the segments of "The Bold Ones" (The Senator and The Protectors) have indeed been released to DVD! Check Amazon. Thing is, those are probably the two I have the least overall interest in... But maybe the rest are forthcoming.

Basil said...

Great memories. I saw every episode of Voyagers, Logan's Run and Angie (which was a great show). And of course Greatest American Hero. That song was HUGE on the radio at the time, though it rather annoyed me. Logan's Run was a fantastic movie (which they are remaking apparently) but the show was not that good looking back now. Of course, if I had known the body Gregory Harrison was hiding under that suit (see For Ladies Only) I might have paid more attention. It was pretty hard NOT to pay attention to John Erik Hexum, and Voyagers certainly made sure to show his assets off in every episode.

Hilly Blue said...

I may not be as involved as I used to be with my blog, but I still read yours religiously...I just had to comment real quick on this post. I know the Andy Sidaris movies are a heteroman's fantasy, but there is always something there for the gay males too.
I bring this up because Darby Hinton, who played Fess Parker's son in Daniel Boone, starred in Malibu Express (1985). If you haven't seen what he looks like in that film, just Google the images. If you like the Matt Houston/Magnum P.I. looks that were all the rage in the mid-80's, you'll be glad you did.