Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Saturday Morning Fever! Volume Two

I really didn't mean to wait so long for the next installment of this (faltering) series! Other topics somehow took precedent. We left off with Land of the Lost and so now we turn to the next Sid & Marty Krofft program Far Out Space Nuts (1975.)
The premise for this one was that low-rung NASA employees Bob Denver and Chuck McCann were put in charge of supplying a soon-to-depart spacecraft with all the meals for the astronauts. So they were shown in the show's opening credits loading in boxes of breakfast, lunch and dinner...
McCann was stowing the meals away and exclaimed "breakfast" followed soon after by "lunch," which Denver (distracted by a comic book) took to mean "launch!" So he pushed the button (because that's all it takes... no other requirements) and the ship took off with them and only them on board, headed for parts unknown!

Their module lands on an alien planet where they are befriended by Honk, a creature who communicates through a horn on the top of his head.

Their various misadventures include being captured or chased by a variety of alien species.

As seen in this TV Guide article, not a small amount of work (or money) went into providing the sets for this series (which only consisted of 15 episodes, about standard for the time.) The results on the screen didn't exactly belie how much trouble had been gone to.

The Laurel & Hardy-ish dynamic is in place just as it was for Denver when he was with Alan Hale on Gilligan's Island (or Denver and Forrest Tucker on Dusty's Trail or Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch of F Troop!)
Denver, of course, is a household name thanks to the enduring success of Gilligan's Island. He worked on a variety of TV shows (including The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis - more episodes of that than Gilligan!) and movies from the late-1950s on. Throat cancer claimed him in 2005 at age seventy.

McCann has enjoyed a long and varied career as well, with a specialty in voice-over acting. That's something he continues to this day at age eighty-two, having last appeared onscreen in 2011.

Honk, a male being, was actually portrayed by diminutive (under 4' tall) actress Patty Maloney. (She's seen below in the 1976 TV-movie Don't Call Us with Leland Palmer and Billy Barty and, in the inset, during a memorable Charlie's Angels episode in which she had a crush on David Doyle's Bosley.) Maloney retired not long after the millennium, but is still with us today at eighty-one.

I was never too hot on this show and part of it might be the fact that the (now fun) opening credits sequence featured this toothy, wonky-eyed alien which scared the bejesus out of me! Never mind the fact that two years later we'd all fall for Chewbacca. This thing gave my 8 year-old self the creeps.

Next, we turn to The Lost Saucer (1975), which features a wonderfully jaunty theme song (which we've featured here before.)

Saucer had a somewhat similar concept to Space Nuts in that it involved another spacecraft landing here, there and everywhere, the caveat here being that its traveling through time, not the galaxy. It starred TV veterans Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors.

The premise is highlighted in the opening credits, with the stars playing robots from the year 2369 piloting the title craft who land in 1975 suburbia and invite a little boy (Jarrod Johnson) and his babysitter (Alice Playten) to come on board. When a crowd gathers, followed by the police, the saucer takes off, but soon malfunctions and cannot land back in 1975, thus the lost foursome embarks on a series of adventures.
Lots of angst-ridden expressions were on hand as the saucer bounced through time, always landing in some oddball place with strange goings-on, usually with a socially relevant theme (exercise is good or too many numbers can lead to de-personalization.)

They are joined as well by and object called The Dorse, a horse head atop a big, fluffy dog's body. In one of my instances by Sid & Marty Krofft, a particularly diminutive actor was used to help bring a non-human character to life.

In this case, the person inside The Dorse was Larry Larsen, a former Mickey Mouse- keteer who'd also essayed one of the creature parts on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. By the mid-'80s, Larsen was out of acting and working extensively behind the scenes on children's programming.

Nabors and Buzzi quarreled comedically about this and that, occasionally suffering malfunc- tions and other obstacles as they tried to get the saucer to deliver the young humans back to where they belonged. There was a certain amount of chemistry and a comfort level between the leads, though this was the only time they ever really worked together in any significant capacity.

For his part, Nabors was basically playing "Robot Gomer," a barely discernible rendition of his famous, longstanding role on Gomer Pyle: USMC (which he'd already been doing beforehand on The Andy Griffith Show.) Nabors retired from acting in the early-1990s and just turned eighty-seven.

Buzzi played a variation on herself, though perhaps with more crankiness and constern- ation than she possesses. Her comic personages had more of a chance to vary thanks to her place on Laugh-In and multitudinous variety show appearances. (Though she did resurrect her Gladys-style character on Saucer when she and Nabors portrayed the robots' human creators.) Now eighty, she still appears on camera in various projects.

Playten was a stage actress who began as a child and eventually carved out a career on Broadway with supporting roles in Oliver!, Hello, Dolly!, George M! and other shows that didn't include an exclamation point at the end of their titles! She was Tony-nominated for Henry, Sweet, Henry. She also worked extensively in voice-overs and commercials. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer claimed her in 2011 at age sixty-three.

Johnson had guest-starred on several prime-time TV series prior to this and later had regular roles on shows that flopped pretty quickly, Ned Beatty's Szysznyk (can't imagine how a catchy title like that failed to stay on the air...) and Friends (no, not that one. This was about three children, one of who was Jill Whelan.) He left the biz in 1980 and is now fifty.

By this time, The Kroffts had provided Saturday morning TV with a pretty big raft of zany, colorful series. As the middle part of the '70s gave way to the late-'70s, slightly more conventional heroes were in higher demand than the heavily-costumed characters such as those on H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville and Sigmund. When the hour-long The Krofft Supershow debuted in 1976, it's multi-story format offered fourdifferent sets of scenarios, by far the most memorable one being Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
In fact, I don't even recall ever having watched the other parts of the show (Kool and the Kongs, Wonderbug and Dr. Shrinker!)  Starring Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis, EWaDG centered on two female magazine reporters who lead double lives. In their regular guises they are intrepid investigators Lori and Judi...
...but in the blink of an eye, they become Electra Woman and Dyna Girl! See the incredible transformations that ensure you'd never guess that they two sets of ladies have anything to do with one another?  LOL

Basically a sort of distaff Batman and Robin, but with more emphasis on mechanisms than action, the ladies fought crime with the aid of inventor Frank Heflin (played by Norman Alden.) Like Batman, nearly all of their gadgets had associated names (for example, instead of things like a Batmobile, Batgas or Bat-a-rang there were the Electra-Car, Electra-Vibes and Electra-Vision.)
The gals had a small array of super-villains that needed vanquishing, including The Spider-Lady (Tiffany Bolling) with her henchmen Leggs and Spinner and Empress of Evil (Claudette Nevins) with her sidekick Lucrecia. (See below also guest actor Michael Blodgett, a fixture of late-'60s/1970s TV and movie projects.)
Hall is, of course, famous for her very long-running role as Dr. Marlena Evans on the daytime serial Days of Our Lives. Beginning there in 1976, she remained until 1987 (during production of her primetime series Our House) before returning again in 1991. She was let go in 2009 due to the show's budgetary concerns. In 2011, she returned once more and is still on the show at present (and is now sixty-nine years old.)
As a veteran child actress and a regular cast member on Room 222 for four years, Strangis was actually more experienced in the business than Hall at the time of this show. Also, despite the way the ladies were presented (with Hall as the more mature, mentor-like half of the duo), Strangis is but two years younger than Hall in real life! She segued in heavy voice-over work and retired from the screen by the mid-1990s.
In 2001, a revival of the show was attempted with a Krofft-produced prime-time pilot intended for airing on the WB network. Markie Post was cast as Electra Woman while Anne Stedman played Dyna Girl.

In the quarter-century since the original series, a lot had changed in the world. Thus, Post was portrayed as a washed-up, semi-alcoholic, sexually-charged has-been who is rescued from obscurity by a new Dyna Girl. Together, they fight crime the way Post had when she was a younger woman. The pilot was not picked up, nor was it ever aired, though brave souls may view it on youtube.

In 2015, still another rendition of this duo hit screens in a web series. This time a reboot rather than an update, it depicted the heroines taking selfies and sipping Slurpees in a blase fashion after having thwarted a convenience store hold-up.

Later, they recharge their batteries with all-new looks and begin a rededicated assault on crime (albeit with a socially-ironic touch, such as defeating one villainess with a peanut, thanks to the woman's allergy to them...) This project was also produced by Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures.

For the second season of The Krofft Supershow, EWaDG was dropped, along with Dr. Shrinker (which had starred deliciously evil 1950s actor Jay Robinson, one of many performers past their "best if sold by" date who were given welcome showcases on Krofft programs, especially welcome for Robinson since he had endured a more than year-long jail sentence which marred his career.) Among the replacement segments were Magic Mongo, which I haven't the faintest recollection of, and the patently odd Bigfoot and Wildboy.
I never for a moment saw this show either, though from the looks of things in these publicity stills, perhaps I should have!

I was probably scared out of my wits at the very notion of Bigfoot. When I was a kid, there were always hideous sightings of the legendary beast, to the point where I was afraid to go into any sort of forest, or too far beyond my own back yard, for fear of rousing him!

Wildboy, on the other hand, seems a bit more accessible in his loincloth.  LOL  Ray Young, who played Bigfoot, enjoyed a thirty year long career (even playing Li'l Abner in a TV-movie/pilot) before lung cancer claimed him at fifty-nine. Joseph Butcher, on the other hand, only worked steadily for about four years, popping up briefly and intermittently thereafter.

Switching gears now away from the Kroffts for a glimpse at Shazam!, the 1974 Saturday morning superhero program by Filmation. The 1939 superhero Captain Marvel had been in dry dock for many years thanks to a lawsuit by DC Comics over infringement on their own Superman character. Eventually, though, DC bought the rights to Captain Marvel and established him in 1973 with his own comic (but because Marvel Comics had, in the meantime, launched their own un-associated Captain Marvel, the comic was called "Shazam!")
"Shazam!" was the word that young Billy Batson used when he wanted to transform himself from his teenage self into the far stronger and more powerful hero. Batson (played by cute, but rather pouty, Michael Gray) traveled the world in a large motor home with his mentor (played by Les Tremayne, seen below), stopping here and there only long enough to solve the problems of various people, often teens.
The letters in "Shazam!" stood for the names of elders who guided and instructed Gray with sage advice.  Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury were the men in question (represented by an animated tableau in which only their lips moved.) They offered up bits of morality, which would then ("coincidentally!") come into play during the episode.

The first man to play Captain Marvel on this show was Jackson Bostwick, a capable if lean representation of the typically muscle-bound character. Near the start of the second season, Bostwick was swiftly replaced for reasons that are still in dispute. He said he was injured in a stunt and advised by doctors to remain at home to recover while producers claimed he was merely holding out for more money. In any event, he won a suit, entitling him to his pay for the entire season including rerun residuals. He also continued to act in mostly minor roles up till about 2008. Today he's seventy-three!
So out of nowhere came an all-new Captain Marvel, this time played by John Davey. Though many regard Bostwick as the better actor of the two, I must say I thought Davey embodied the character physically a lot more, thanks to his beefier physique.

The series continued with Davey in the role for a third season. Though he was a more experienced actor than Bostwick at the time he took over the role, his career petered out in the mid-1980s. Tremayne, who seemed ancient to me in 1974 (!), worked through the 1990s and lived to be ninety, passing away of heart failure in 2003.

Gray, who'd been working on TV since 1969, retired after this to enjoy a quiet, self-employed life in California with his wife. (No one was getting rich off this series, by the way. Gray later revealed that his salary per episode was $750.00! Not exactly a fortune even in 1974...) He is sixty-five today.
It was Davey as Marvel who helped to introduce an all-new super heroine, one who would have a series all her own, the mighty Isis! (Don't neglect to check out Davey's costume here. Both he and Bostwick had the occasional eye-goggling sequence - or publicity photo - that educated the viewers in ways not intended!)
Almost nothing could prevent my step-sister and me from being in front of the TV when Isis was on. An original character who soon turned up in the comics (and who in more recent years has been reintroduced and, like everything else, re-imagined), she was a beautiful, kind heroine who is notable as the first female superhero to have her own live-action weekly series (narrowly beating The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman to the punch.)
When a pretty young science teacher (which didn't exist in any of my schools!) discovers an ancient Egyptian amulet, she finds that she is able to employ a variety of powers whenever she exposes it to the sun and invokes the goddess' name by saying, "Oh Mighty Isis!"
The teacher was played by the very sexy Joanna Cameron (who, despite some teasing elements in publicity shots, portrayed the role with steadfast decency and with a demure tone.) Cameron had been seen in a few saucy comedies such as B.S. I Love You and Pretty Maids All in a Row prior to this, so it is almost a surprise that she landed this morally upright role.

She had, of course, her own version of Steve Trevor (from Wonder Woman) in the form of fellow teacher Rick Mason (played by Brian Cutler.) Of course, neither he nor favorite student Cindy Lee (played by Joanna Pang) could ever realize that their teacher pal and mighty Isis were one and the same.
Isis possessed a wide array of powers from super-strength to flight to controlling the weather. She could even pass through walls, stop time or make living (or un-living) things disappear! The hilarity is that, with all these stunning abilities, she was usually called upon to save some dreary kid from crashing his car or falling off the side of a building...

What was fun is when she'd want to fly, she'd chant something like, "O zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly." Then we'd see her whirl around into the air, then wafting to and fro on "invisible" wires against a sky backdrop.

The last Mego figure that I ever had was the one of Isis. I think I was about ten or eleven and my mother had a fit because I was buying a female "doll." (She'd have shit her pants if she knew I tried to wash and blow-dry the tightly-curled hair into a straighter 'do to match the TV heroine!)
Cameron retired from acting in 1980 and began working in marketing along with an occasional behind the scenes position in film-making. She is sixty-five now. (Cutler's career petered out in the mid-'80s though he appeared as a guest on many popular TV series before that, including the famed "Angels in Chains" episode of Charlie's Angels. Pang worked very little after this.) That concludes this installment of our look into Saturday morning live-action, but we'll be back with more again later!


Scooter said...

This post was lots of fun - a brief walk down the memory lane of my childhood. I have to admit, when I saw the first photo of the actress playing Isis I thought, "OMG, how could I have never realized that Isis was played by Catherine Zeta Jones. LOL! Thanks again.

Poseidon3 said...

There was a time (along about Entrapment and Zorro) that I truly felt that CZJ was the one person who could really make a hit out of Wonder Woman on the big screen. I felt she could have killed it, but nothing ever materialized and so the moment passed. (I've yet to see the new one, which is a big smash, but I'm headed there this evening!)

BloggerJoe said...

Great post! My brother and I never missed Shazam or Isis, but for different reasons. I remember Wild Boy, too. I still see episodes on Youtube once in a while. Can't wait till you do the Banana Splits!

Gingerguy said...

Loved this Poseidon/ I thought Chuck McCann was a chubbier Jim Nabors in the pics, but Jim was on the next one, "Lost Saucer", which looks saucy. Don't remember it at all.
Boy that Dorse looks cheap.
I totally remember the Jill Whelan "Friends" which was before her stint on "Love Boat" I think. That title gets recycled about every 8 years, the last time being those terrible Adam Sandler movies.
Deirdre Hall was on a kids show? too glamorous, and hilarious to see Michael Blodgett from "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" on this squeaky clean show.
I mostly remember "Shazam" it brings me back to a time when I hated to go outside and just watched these programs out of boredom.
I can't ever hear about the horrible terrorist group Isis without thinking Saturday morning television, too bizarre. LOL on your hair salon. That is exactly what I would have done, a total riot. I hope you liked "Wonder Woman" I swore off all superhero movies but got free movie tickets with an Hiv test, and chose WW (How gay is that?) I was totally surprised at how much I liked it. Funny and she is a real movie star, I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

Poseidon3 said...

Oh, Blogger Joe... sadly I know close to NOTHING about The Banana Splits. I think they were on just prior to my knowing what TV was. I only, only know them from a ride at a local amusement park in which the attraction ended with stuffed versions of them playing around. That's the extent of my experience with them! (And before too long, they tore them out and redid the whole thing with, gasp, Smurfs...!)

Gingerguy, I'm really surprised you didn't know about Dee and Electra Woman. I thought it was pretty iconic, but maybe only to me. She was very distinctive looking with her flipped hair and austere expressions and demeanor (which, of course, served her well on DAYS.) I need to find and watch the one with Blodgett. I couldn't agree more! I didn't mention in the post two things: One is that the music from "Shazam!" and "Isis" is like brainwashing material! If you watch any of the shows now, that music floods back into the brain and I'm convinced could put you under a spell and make you do anything. The other was that I got into some (mildly) hot water at for insinuating that Les Tremayne and Michael Gray seemed a bit suspect traveling around together in their motor home; Tremayne being very handsy! Ha ha! LOL about the free ticket to the movie. Good for you!

Poseidon3 said...

It was almost the last acting gig Blodgett ever had... Check it out!! The theme song is SO up your alley, Gingerguy. Unforgettable! The episode... well, a little goes a long way, but what about Glitter Rock's costume! LOLOL

William Mercado said...

Here's a post on Jay Robinson writer Mark Evanier

Very interesting reading

"It" was an arrest in December of '59 for possession and sale of heroin. He served jail time but when he got out, he discovered his career was over. Studios wouldn't touch him. He drifted into other work in mostly menial jobs, got into all kinds of trouble and wound up behind bars again. Finally, in 1968 when he got out, he cleaned up his thoughts and mind — and finding Jesus, he said, was the big thing — and made an all-out attempt to rebuild his acting career. While he never attained his pre-arrest stature, he did manage to find steady work, mostly in small roles. Once typed as Caligula, he found himself now typed for over-the-top roles of a fantastic nature. He did a lot of horror and science-fiction films and finally got himself cast in a Saturday morning series, the Krofft SuperShow, in which he played the villainous Dr. Shrinker.

Poseidon3 said...

William, thanks for the link to more info on Robinson. He was actually sent to jail TWICE. The first time was very damaging, and sounded a death knell on his movie career, though he was able to overturn the guilty verdict on appeal. The irony is that later, when he'd sorted himself out, he was arrested AGAIN on a warrant that had been issued years before that he didn't even know about! That sentence was for 15 months and is the one I was referring to. He was helped back into legitimate work by Bette Davis, who had acted with him years prior in "The Virgin Queen." Then he proceeded to gain parts here and there again. There are youtube interviews with him that expound upon all this.