Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discuss: Planet of the Apes -the TV series

Karen: It's pretty obvious that Doug and I love all things Planet of the Apes, but we've yet to have a post dedicated to just the Apes short-lived TV series. I watched this show avidly as a kid but it doesn't hold the fond memories for me that the original films still do. Any thoughts you'd like to share regarding the small-screen version of POTA?


david_b said...

This was a GREAT SHOW..!!!

Thanks so much Karen, was hoping I didn't have to canvass support for this idea like I did for Trek:TAS.

I remember the anticipation, my family had just moved to Orlando, I was seein' the Mego figures, enjoying the beejeesus out of the movies when they came to television. THEN to have Mr. McDowall himself star in the television series..?

Whaaaat could go wrong with this blockbuster concept, with all of America seemingly under the grip of.. talking Apes..?

I find the series my favorite Apes entry, next to the original movie, there, I said it. As a lot of shows were at that time, it was basically your standard 'chase series', your stars always on the run. Here, well, they happen to be apes. But I enjoyed the style and characterizations by the leads, especially Roddy, Jim Naughton and Mark Lenard. I believe Ron Harper (later on LOTL..) had the hardest time, being the strong-jawed straight man, trying to keep his character interesting, where Naughton had a easier portrayal as the cynical type. I've read several times that Roddy liked doing the series more than the movies.., especially with his chance to convey more emotions out of Galen than he ever had as Cornelius.

Mark Leonard as Urko was a tremendous treat, I find "The Trap" probably the BEST episode of the bunch (besides the pilot..). Having Lenard and Naughton play off each other in extended underground conflict scenes really made that episode stand above the rest.

It was a shame that with the timing of the series (when Ape movie interest was at an all-time high), the budget, along with McDowall himself that it didn't last longer; CBS was really hoping for a hit, but as they soon found out against 'Sanford and Sons' and 'Chico and the Man', it was more the kids that watched than adults.., and "kids don't buy refrigerators."

I was also pleased that DC Fontana, David Gerrold and a few other former Trek creative staff was involved. Simply a marvelous show.

Matt Celis said...

As I was unaware there was a TV series, I was flabbergasted when one fine weekend morning in the late '80s a local station was showing this. I was trying to figure out which film it was, but couldn't place the scene. Something with apes sitting by a tree talking about the Sayer of the Law, if I remember right. But I'm not a huge fan of the Apes movies so I only watched a few minutes of the TV show. It's amazing what was produced for what is really a very "high concept" intellectual property: comics, records, toys, etc.

I still have a huge crush on Linda Harrison, alias Nova.

david_b said...

Ah, I just caught my misspell of Mark Lenard's name.. RATS, thought I proofread it enough.

"More coffee please.."

Matt Celis said...

Just call him Sarek so you don't have to remember!

david_b said...

Well said, Matt. Mark Lenard was SUCH a great presence as an actor, not a 'crooner' (regarding yesterday's column), but what.. a.. VOICE.

Like James Gregory before him(from 'Beneath'..), he could summon vocal fury like no one else.

Matt Celis said...

he was's always interesting when guys like Lenard turn up on other shows or films and you're shouting, "Hey, it's Spock's dad!!!!"

Karen said...

Sheesh, I knew this might be a slow one, but really, just two commenters? Oh well. Thanks David and Matt for your efforts.

How about this to stir things up: where, if anywhere, does the show fit into the movie continuity? Humans are talking, so it can't be in the same time period as the films. In fact, the TV astronauts' ship's chronometer read 3085, which is hundreds of years prior to the first film (the Icarus had a reading of 3978). So it's definitely prior to when Taylor arrives on Earth. But -we also have a Dr. Zaius on the TV show! Must be just a coincidence. We can let that go, right? But does humanity really fall apart and become a bunch of mute idiots in just 900 years? And does the entire ape civilization forget humans once co-existed with them? And the apes make absolutely no technological progress in that time?

I know, I know, I'm over-thinking it again.

I do think it was far more interesting to have the humans be able to speak, to live as a sub-servient culture alongside the apes.That was the only way you could really sustain a TV series with non-ape actors. I'd like to have seen the mutants from "Beneath" though. I don't think they were ever shown on the TV show.

Garett said...

Hey Matt, I agree about Linda Harrison--wow! I've never seen the tv series of PoTA, but David, have you seen the 14th episode? Wikipedia says it wasn't originally aired, but is included in the dvd set.

This is cute...original ending of Planet of the Apes film!

Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry, can't contribute much to this conversation, as I only vaguely recall watching one episode, maybe two, and I remember none of the details (except some cool scenes of apes on horseback).
I guess this is because Sanford & Son and Chico (before Freddy Prinze died) were both popular shows in my family.

david_b said...

No the mutants weren't shown, but I STRONGLY suspect it would have been 2nd yr entry as they'd probably deviate slightly from the standard chase plots (AND sanitized a bit for kiddie primetime consumption).

Ms. Harrison in a loin cloth..? Yeah, she was easy on the eyes, gents.

Yes, I enjoyed watching the 'Liberator' episode on the DVD, probably one of the better ones. Until I looked at the wiki entry this morning, I wasn't aware of the network censorship angle regarding the poisonous gas and Vietnam; I just figured CBS pushed it off for Christmas specials and to introduce another show in that timeslot by January.

Karen, I always enjoy trying to thread different franchise offerings together for continuity, but I'd suspect this was a branch off the 1st film going in another direction.. (unless it all occurs before 'Beneath'..). Zaius does mention in the TV pilot that other humans came from the sky before (where those explosives came from..), hence his paranoia.

I do like that they injected a small amount of humor at times, especially with Roddy and Naughton. Lenard was funny in the Burke brainwashing episode..:


Doug said...

I was holding back because, although I am positive I watched every episode when they were first aired, that is the only time that I've seen them -- the ol' memory is not serving me well today!

But as Karen mentioned, I did like that Roddy McDowell and the use of the Dr. Zaius character seemed to bring some continuity from the films to the TV show; but also as she's stated, just what that continuity was is open for much debate.

And then there's the new prequels... Which by the way I really enjoyed as a "believable" premise. Of course, it doesn't in any way have to negate the events of Conquest, since that was the result of a divergent timeline.

Beware -- geeks in the area!!


Fred W. Hill said...

I remember my family was living in West Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City, when the POTA tv series was on and we usually watched it when it came on as my brother Terry and I were big on the Apes movies at the time. But I only saw the episodes that one season they were aired and I can't remember anything about them, aside from the obvious details. I do recall seeing a documentary about the making of the movies & tv episodes, mainly focusing on the ape costumes.
BTW, when the Tim Burton re-make came out a few years (a decade?) ago, I found out the entire franchise was inspired by a French novel that was actually a satire.

Matt Celis said...

Could it all be reconciled just by saying the TV astronauts had a faulty chronometer and Zaius is a popular or family name?

Matt Celis said...

Linda Harrison is right up there in my imagination with Lynda Carter, Farrah Fawcett, Barbara Bach, Catherine Bach, Victoria Principal, and Cheryl Ladd. I imagine it's clear around what era I grew up.

david_b said...

Nice explanations, Matt.

Frankly, these types of network sci-fi shows are why I loved the later 'Space:1999' so much..

Time and time again, it was always set where the really cool space stuff was in the pilot episode, then after that (due to series budgets..), it was primarily just standard chase or urban stuff on the planet.

Few examples include "Land of the Giants", "Six Million Dollar Man", then this show.

I enjoyed 1999 because, like Trek, it spent the entire time in space, no shortcuts.

Matt Celis said...

Still never seen Space '99!

david_b said...

Here you go, Matt, the opening episode, "Breakaway", have at it..:

Graham said...

In my hometown, in the deep south, a TV show scheduled on a Friday night in the fall is an unwatched show, because EVERYONE in my town attended the high school football games. Since my Dad coached football, guess where I was??!!

After a few weeks, one of the local TV channels started showing it on Saturday nights at 10:30, so I did get to watch a few episodes before it went off. It was fun, but I agree, it didn't have the spark of the movies. I didn't you guys, I bought and watched all things "Apes". :)

J.A. Morris said...

It's been years since I've seen this show, or the animated POTA series. I liked the one with the hang glider, that's the only episode I can recall!

Matt Celis said...

Wait, there was a cartoon?!

david_b said...

Oh Matt, please tell us you're kidding...?

Doug said...

I think Matt must have grown up under the biggest rock in America.

C'mon, Matt!!



Matt Celis said...

I really never heard of an Apes cartoon until today on this blog. Never. I would not have imagined it! I do have an Apes record (which I've never played) but no other memorabilia. like I said, though, i was never a big fan of the films.

fantastic four fan forever said...

I loved this 13 episode show and have it on DVD. I was impressed that Roddy McDowall reprised his role as the Cornelius-like Galen, if that’s what the character was called. Also Mark Leonard portrayed General Urko in this 1973 series. It has tales similar to Star Trek, in that it was a morality play of the week. I love the episode where one of the astronauts gets stuck in an under ground subway tunnel with General Urko. Both of them must fight to survive to get to the surface. In the tunnels there was proof positive that man ruled civilization before apes.

CBS, the network who aired these classic episodes, had the choice of purchasing the rights to Star Trek from Gene Roddenberry at the time. Yes, the network was considering reviving Star Trek on CBS in the year 1973. The suits decided that the Apes were more popular with kids and went with them instead.

I wish Planet of the Apes the TV series had a chance to flourish. It would have been good to see for at least a season or two. The networks at the time were not too sci fi friendly. A few years later Logan’s Run would premiere in the mid-seventies on CBS, only to last 14 episodes. I know , because I watched the show from beginning to end.
It’s ridiculous that there was no budget or time given to launch what could have been another great TV franchise. With the Tim Burton reboot and the most recent one, I hope they get the next movie right.

fantastic four fan forever said...

I remember the cartoon show on NBC. It was one of those cartoons where there was a lot of still choppy animation that was actually comic like illustrations with limited movement. They were closer to the novel in that the apes were from a modern society instead of the primitive one in the movies and TV show. Last time I looked it was $12 for the Apes cartoon show on if any of our readers want to buy it. The same is true with the live action show that we are discussing today. The live action show, all 13 episodes, runs about $14 or so.

jim kosmicki said...

As Graham says, the big mistake CBS made was putting this on Friday evenings. Friday evenings in the fall is high school football around here. Just as football season wrapped up and we were about to get to start watching the show, it was gone.

Related Posts with Thumbnails