Filmation's Live-Action Saturday Morning Shows of the Seventies
70s Live-Action Saturday Morning Fun From Filmation
Filmation produced many cartoon series for Saturday mornings during the seventies, but their offerings weren't all in animated form. They produced seven live-action shows and all but one of them proved to be fairly popular with viewing audiences.
Let's get started with our brief examination of these shows.
- Aired on CBS from September 7, 1974 – October 16, 1976.
- The live-action series did stray from the structure of the comic book series.
- Originally part of the Shazam/Isis Hour.
- Stared Jackson Bostwick (and later John Davey) as Captain Marvel. Michael Gray as Billy Batson and Les Treymayne as Mentor.
- Billy Batson traveled the country in an RV with his companion Mentor. The two often found themselves mixed up in the lives and problems of many of the people they met in their travels. When in trouble, Billy had but to utter the word SHAZAM and he was transformed into Captain Marvel who saved the day.
- SHAZAM stood for: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury (called Immortal Elders by the show's creators). To Billy, Solomon offered his wisdom, Hercules gave him super strength, Atlas offered up stamina, Zeus gave him great power, Achilles gave him courage and Mercury gave him great speed.
- The Elders can summon Billy by a magical dome in the RV. When he needed to speak to them he spoke the words, "Oh Elders, whose fate is strong and wise, appear before my eyes."
- Bostwick was fired by the show's producers who believed he was holding out for more money when he failed to show up for a day's filming. He was actually seeking medical attention for an injury sustained on the set during a previous day's filming. He sued Filmation and won, they had to pay him for his full contract as well as residuals, but they still replaced him as Captain Marvel.
- The series is available on DVD and was one of my favorite shows to watch as a kid. Yes, to judge it by today's standards, it is a bit cheesy, but the show was entertaining and each episode offered up a good moral message which is just as important today as it was all those years ago. Sadly, many episodes on the DVD release are missing the "moral of the story" talk given by Captain Marvel at the end of each episode. This does make the show feel a bit incomplete, and if you are a purist wanting the show to be exactly as it aired all those years ago, then this release isn't for you. But, for the rest of us, it is still great to see this classic 70s live-action show again. This DVD set is a MOD (manufacture on demand).
The Secrets of Isis
- Aired on CBS from September 6, 1975 – September 3, 1977.
- Originally part of The Shazam/Isis Hour. Was popular enough to be given its own time slot.
- School teacher Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron) found an ancient amulet while on a trip to Egypt that enabled her to turn into Isis, a female superhero who was endowed with the powers of the goddess Isis. She could control the elements, fly, speak to animals, had super strength.
- To activate her super powers, Isis spoke in rhyme related to the action necessary. To fly she would say, "Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly." This was heard quite often.
- Also something of note, Isis was the first weekly series to feature a female lead superhero. The show predated popular prime time shows The Bionic Woman (January 1976) and Wonder Woman (April 1976).
- The show was never violent and always delt with issues that kids could relate to, such as the loss of a beloved pet, developing self esteem, the consequences of lying, stealing, etc.
- Cindy Lee (Joanna Pang) was Andre's teaching assistant for the first two seasons and replacing her in the final season was Renne Carroll (Ronalda Douglas. Rick Mason (Brian Cutler) was a friend and co worker of Andrea's. Pang said in an interview some years ago, that the producers of the show never gave her a reason for her replacement.
- This series is available on DVD, but can be a bit pricey.
Who was your favorite Isis or Shazam?
Isis or Shazam; Who was your favorite?
The Ghost Busters
- Aired on CBS from September 6 – December 13, 1975 with a total of 15 episodes.
- This live-action series reunited F-Troop stars Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch who played Spencer and Tracy, who along with their friend Kong, (Bob Burns in a gorilla suit) worked as supernatural detectives who fought all kinds of monsters bent on creating havoc. The trio received their assignments from Zero (who was never seen) on a tape recorded message that was usually hidden in some ordinary looking item. The tape would self-destruct after being listened too (shades of Mission: Impossible). The trio then went off to their destination and after some slapstick antics were able to dispatch the monster back to the world from which they came thanks to their Ghost De-Materializer.
- The series lasted for one season and did well enough in the ratings to be given another season, but Filmation decided to cancel it so they could spend the money and time focusing on their number one show at the time, The Shazam/Isis Hour.
- Why did the show have a gorilla as a character? Well, my best guess is that they added him for the comedic effect. I thought it was silly as a kid (and I'm an even older kid now, and my opinion hasn't changed!)
- The series is available on DVD but tends to be a bit pricey.
Uncle Croc's Block
- Aired on ABC from September 6, 1975 – February 14, 1976.
- Charles Nelson Reilly starred in this live action series that spoofed childrens shows. Dressed in a crocodile suit, he hosted a show that featured live comedy and cartoon segments and was assisted by Mr. Rabbit Ears played by Alfie Wise. Jonathan Harris played the show's producer Basil Bitterbottom.
- The show started out as a 60 minute venture (some sources state a 90 minute venture) but was eventually pared down to 30 minutes before being cancelled. To my knowledge, it has never been released on DVD in its entirety.
- Believe it or not, the show really wasn't that bad. The live action segments were really quite funny, with my favorite being Steve Exhaustion, the $6.95 Man. The cartoon segments were weak, and if they had been cut from the show entirely, I never would have missed them.
- Sadly, the show was so poorly received by audiences and the network that ABC severed their business relationship with Filmation.
The live action segments included:
- Captain Klangeroo: which was a parody of the popular kids show, Captain Kangaroo with Mr. Mean Jeans who was a parody of Mr. Greenjeans.
- Sherlock Domes (Carl Ballentine): a parody of the famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes who was helped in his crime solving ventures by Dr. Watkins (Stanley Adams) a parody of Dr. Watson.
- Witchie Goo Goo (Phyllis Diller): a parody of the Witchie Poo.
- Junie the Genie (Alice Ghostley): a parody of Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie.
- Billy Bratson: which was a take on off Shazam!. Bratson said the word "Shazowy" and became Captain Marbles (Marvin Kaplan) a parody of Captain Marvel.
- Steve Exhaustion, The $6.95 Man (Robert Ridgely) was a parody of Steve Austin better known as The Six Million Dollar Man.
- Old Fogey Bear: is manic-depressive bear who was a parody of Yogi Bear
- Miss Invis: A woman believed she could make herself invisible.
The cartoon segments:
- M*U*S*H (short for Mangy Unwanted Shabby Heroes): This cartoon was a spoof of the show M*A*S*H. and it featured two sled dogs who worked and lived in the wasteland of Upper Saboonia.
- Fraidy Cat: A cat who was haunted by the ghosts of eight of his nine lives. I believe this cartoon, or at least a few episodes, were released onto VHS and then later on being released onto DVD in a series of cartoon compilation discs such as 200 Classic Cartoons: Collector's Edition and Giant 600 Cartoon Collection both from 2008 by Mill Creek Entertainment. In 2011, a few episodes ended up on the 100 Family Cartoons volume 3 DVD release through Allegro/Pop Flix. Frightfully Funny: Volume Two released by BCI also has a few episodes, too.
- Wacky and Packy: The "wacky" adventures of a prehistoric caveman and his pet woolly mammoth who had been transported to modern times.
- Aired on CBS from September 11, 1976 to December 8, 1976 with 15 episodes filmed.
- This science fiction show that was set in the year 2476. The earth had been devastated by war and pollution and had gone back to an almost Stone Age existence. A group of young scientists, Jonah (Terry Lester), Ruth (Jean Marie Hon), Samuel (Jose Flores) and their animal companion, Adam, a chimp who could talk, travel the country side in their high tech RV (Ark II) to search for the remnants of humanity so they can teach them how to rebuild their communities and life on earth itself.
- The story line, of course, is based on the story of the Noah and the Ark and the names are taken from the Bible.
- As a side note, from 1980 to 1989, Lester would play Jack Abbott (he originated the role) on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless, but left the series in 1989. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, at age 53 after suffering a series of heart attacks.
- Aired on CBS from September 10, 1977, to December 17, 1977 with 15 episodes total.
- This live-action science fiction series brought together the brightest young minds at the Space Academy, situated on an asteroid. Their assignment, to explore the mysteries of space. Lead by Commander Isaac Gampu (Jonathan Harris) a veteran space explorer who was really 300 years old but looked to be in his sixties.
- The series takes place in the "star year" 3732.
- Some critics disliked the idea of kids taking on dangerous assignments and thought it should be more adult oriented. But the title of the show is Space Academy indicting that it is a school or a place of higher learning. Even the opening narration (done by Jonathan Harris) indicated that the students (space cadets) had been gathered from all reaches of the known worlds because of their unique talents and abilities for the purpose of "being trained to cope with the mysterious, the unknown, the unpredictable dangers lurking in the vast darkness of space."
Jason of Star Command
- Aired on CBS as part of the Tarzan and the Super Seven from September 1, 1978 to September 8, 1979. Then aired on CBS as a stand alone series from September 15, 1979 to August 29, 1981.
- The first season of this series was as 15-minute segment on the Tarzan and the Super Seven series. It was done in serial format, with each episode ending in a cliff-hanger.
- Described as being reminiscent of the 1930s serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.
- Associated with Space Academy (some classify it as a spin-off) as Star Command was secret division of the Academy with Jason classified as being their best agent.
- The late John Barry coined the term "pointed-shoulders science fiction" where characters wore tunics and capes to give them that pointed shoulders look, and some say Jason of Star Command fit that description well.
- It was popular enough to be given its own stand alone 30 minute show for the second season. Jason (Craig Littler) was still fighting villain Dragos (Sid Haig) who wanted to rule the universe. Jason was helped in his struggles against Dragos by Commander Stone (John Russell) Captain Nicole Davidoff (Susan Pratt), Professor Parsafoot (Charile Dell), Samantha (Tamara Dobson) and his pocket- robot, Wiki.
- The first season had James Doohan, best known as Scotty from the classic Star Trek franchise as Commander Canarvin.
© 2018 Glory Miller