Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Discuss: Short-lived Science Fiction TV Shows of the 70s

Karen: Rather than focus on simply one show this time around, I decided to lump together a bunch of shows from the 70s that failed to get very far. We already discussed the Logan's Run and Planet of the Apes TV shows , but you can bring them up if you'd like. Today I'm tossing out these obscure relics to get the conversation going:

The Fantastic Journey (Feb. -June 1977)

The Invisible Man (Sept. 1975 - January 1976)

The Gemini Man (Sept-Oct 1976)

Man From Atlantis (Sept 1977 -June 1978)

Karen: A pretty lame group! I saw episodes of all of these except the Fantastic Journey as a kid. But I don't have any fond memories of these shows - and I think it's obvious why, looking at these clips. But after Star Wars came out, we were flooded with science fiction programming -most of it bad! But I'd love to hear it if any of you were fans of these shows.


Edo Bosnar said...

Of those shown here, I've only ever watched episodes of Man From Atlantis - quite a few, in fact. I'm kind of embarrassed now at how much I used to like that show back then, because it was frankly pretty hokey.
Otherwise, I'd never even heard of Fantastic Voyage or the Invisible Man.
I have to say, though, any discussion of short-lived SF shows of the '70s would be incomplete without mentioning
the satirical Quark, which I absolutely loved, and still do love (I got a hold of bootleg copies of the entire, whopping 8 episode series).

Also, do those Saturday morning SF shows count as well? In that case, I vaguely recall watching Ark II, although I can't remember a single episode. I just remember that funny-looking RV they drove around in, and the chimp.

I have better memories of watching Space Academy and
Jason of Star Command, neither of which were very good, to be honest. And that one poor actor, Brian Tochi, went from one Space Academy in the '70s to Police Academy in the '80s. Can't decide which is worse.

Anonymous said...

I loved Fantastic Voyage especially that witch woman and her cat but she wasn't in the last couple of episodes which was explained as her staying behind somewhere and intending to catch the others up later (?!). That Man From Atlantis clip rings no bells even though I saw the whole series - when I first saw Dallas I thought oh look, the Man From Atlantis is in it ! But the king of the short-lived sci-fi shows is Planet of the Apes - I was bitterly disappointed when it ended but at least us British kids had the Marvel POTA weekly to sustain us.

Anonymous said...

Start seeing Ben Murphy!

(sorry; the only reason I know about "Gemini Man" is because of the 'movie' showcased on MST3K...)

Anonymous said...

Actually the only one of these I remember watching at all was Fantastic Voyage. But I don't remember anything about the characters or the stories. What I remember is that in the late 70s it ran on a local station after the late news on Sunday night. So, as a high school kid, not looking all that forward to going to school the next day, I would stay up and watch because

...that was all we had. :-)


Anonymous said...

I never saw Fantastic Journey, and never watched any of the others regularly.

Gemini Man was a sort of remake of the Invisible Man. In a TV Guide article at the time, the producer said that Ben Murphy was a better action hero than David McCallum. He seemed to blame the previous show's failure on McCallum being too stuffy and nerdy for a tongue-in-cheek adventure series. Apparently, that producer never heard of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Humanbelly said...

That Patrick Duffy was pretty darned ripped, wasn't he?

Initially, the only one I recalled was Man from Atlantis, although I hadn't thought of it in years. Then I watched the clips and, OMG, Fantastic Journey ("Journey". . . "Voyage" is the Asimov book/film about tiny scientists in the blood stream. But I've no doubt that "accidental" word association was an entirely intentional ploy on the producers' part...) and Invisible Man had both been hiding away in my memory banks probably since the last time I actually watched an episode forty years ago. Gemini Man? Nothing. What's kind of unfortunate is that Ben Murphy (and that outfit!) looks more like a Will Ferrel parody of himself than he actually looks like. . . Ben Murphy!

MfromA was fairly popular in our circle, but it came at a time when a lot of us were getting much busier w/ after-school activities, sports, band, plays, etc, and without realizing it, television-watching as a priority (with a few exceptions) just kind of switched off. And that show wasn't quite compelling enough to draw us back in after missing a couple of episodes.

Fant.Journey, IIRC, was a direct result of the HUGE Bermuda Triangle craze of the mid-70's, and the pilot and first few episodes really grabbed my buddies and I. I totally envied how great Carl Franklin's tucked-in t-shirt sculpted his upper body-- realized later on that it HAD to be a body-suit. (But I digress. . . ). The show looks just horrible in that clip, though. And I'm pretty sure it was a little more serialized in its format than most other programs at the time. . . and once we'd missed an episode or two, we didn't know what was going on, and let it slide away. Oh, poor Roddy McDowell. . . such a great guy, who would do any blamed thing that came down the pike, no matter how awful. . .

Invisible Man didn't have a chance 'cause David McCallum is, frankly, one of the least charismatic actors to grace the screen. Watched maybe two episodes, and lost interest immediately. "Invisible" stunts and tricks were hokey to youngsters even back then. You could either see (or infer) the wires or levers, or easily discern how the blue-screen process operates even if you didn't know what it was, exactly. I cannot believe Gemini Man tried to somehow cash in on the genre at almost exactly the same time. Brother.

Other quickie observations:

The theme music is uniformly banal and generic across the board. Really, no sense of genre or tone or even a particular tuneful hook. Just dreadful. It's like they just pulled these pieces out of the vault and stuck them onto the opening credits. One of my few negative quibbles with Quantum Leap many years later was that the theme music seemed like a throwback to THESE kinds of shows.

Also-- three of these had the same casting structure! It made me laugh out loud, because they were all so hilariously identical in the openings! Central male hero-guy; lovely female assistant/sidekick; paternal mentor/authority figure. It's the Flash Gordon (or is it Buck Rogers?) template-!

david_b said...

Edo, I so LOVE Quark. I kept wishing it made better plots, and of course had to slip over to Youtube to watch "All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms", just to enjoy Ross Martin doing Ming and Joan Van Ark as Princess Libido (?) who falls in love/lust with half-plant Ficus, who delivers this gem..:

"Where I come from, we don't kiss. We pollinate."


I loved that, POTA (better than most of the movies..) and of course Galactica, all one-seasoner's. There's aspects of these shows I really loved, yet some fell prey to lowest-common denominator stuff. You can hear networks saying, "Nah the public ain't going to understand sci-fi, you have to dumb it down for them", hence how some were reduced to your basic 'chase-shows' like Logan and POTA.

Like UFO, I learned about Fantastic Journey through Starlog, never saw an episode.

J.A. Morris said...

'Quark' was a favorite of mine as well. But I haven't attempted to watch it in 35 years, I imagine it hasn't aged well.

Humanbelly said...

I like Quark well enough, but it was the kind of thing that would stale out pretty quickly, I think. I'm not sure a long run would have had us remembering it so fondly.

If we include one-season wonders in the discussion, does that mean Kolchak: The Night Stalker enters the fray? We've touched on that show on occasion here before. And of course it's really a horror program. And. . . it was GREAT, not lame. Was that show solid enough to warrant its own post someday, maybe?

Hey, the Flash program from a few years later didn't last long, IIRC, but I did like it when I was able to catch it (heh). It seems like there was an ugly "outing" of the main actor's sexual orientation (or rumors, rather, of course) around the time that its popularity was climbing, and that really scuttled the Network's support.

Stupid Hollywood. . .


david_b said...

HB, from the research I did on 'The Flash', it never really climbed in popularity, ratings-wise.

It was roundly defeated by the Cosby Show each week.

I liked it quite alot, but I never felt the female lead who played Tina had much chemistry with John Wesley Shipp. I was in Germany deployed at the time and my parents would tape it on VHS and send it over each month...

Humanbelly said...

Good heavens, it was pitted against the Cosby juggernaut? Man, that's throwin' in the towel right from the get-go. I'm sure the FLASH creators saw the writing on the wall once the schedule was announced. John Wesley Shipp-- that's right. I really liked him, too. So, ugly tabloid nonsense, time-slot of doom. . . it's almost like the early Fox Network had a hand the rudder, eh?

Good job on the fact-check, Dave B-- thanks!


Anonymous said...

I don't know if it was me in particular or a by product of growing up where I did, but I don't remember many of these shows. Evenings were, what I thought at the time, whatever was on the "Three major networks plus PBS" and Saturdays were cartoons, a monster movie and then a kung fu movie.

The Prowler (got cable in the late 70s).

Karen said...

I vaguely remember Quark...

We did discuss Carl Kolchak (The Night Stalker) just last year (,but feel free to go back in to that one.

The original Battlestar Galactica got coverage two years ago (

Ark II got a little bit of love last fall (

Wow, we really have covered almost everything!

Martinex1 said...

I only vaguely remember the Invisible Man and Gemini Man. At that age I thought it would be fun to be invisible. But the show of that era that I always was fascinated by was Project U.F.O. It was probably a result of Close Encounters rather than Star Wars - it was one of Jack Webb's shows and was like Dragnet with U.F.Os and particular 70's acting.

Anonymous said...

Of this lot the only two I remember watching were the Man from Atlantis and the Invisible Man.

I actually have fond (if short lived) memories of M from A - I thought Patrick Duffy did a good job considering his character didn't have much of an emotional range. The thing that stood out the most for me was his swimming style. It was the first time I ever saw someone swim literally like a fish. Nowadays, you see Olympic swimmers do this stroke as soon as they hit the water in their races.

I saw some episodes of the Invisible Man in reruns some years ago and it was ho-hum; looks like I didn't miss much. The Flash series with John Wesley Shipp had potential in my opinion but due to external factors didn't get a chance to continue. I hope the new Flash series does well.

- Mike 'turns invisible when the tax man shows up' from Trinidad & Tobago.

William Preston said...

I saw some eps of everything that's been mentioned, but I always felt let down. Victor Buono's goofy Batman-style villain took down MfA, which felt, from Duffy's performance, like it wanted to be taken seriously. FV didn't make much sense. IM was dull. Planet of the Apes was cool. And I had a crush on Logan's Run's Heather Menzies . . . so that one I kept watching. SF TV always let me down . . .

fantastic four fan forever said...

Planet of the Apes was my favorite. Roddy McDowell even starred as Galen, not Corneilus of the movies. It was written much like Star Trek where there was a morality play each week. Ironically the President of CBS had the opportunity to put on Star Trek that year. However with the ratings on the Planet of the Apes movies played on TV.. Planet of the Apes won the chance to be a series. I thought it died too soon because it was well written. General Urko or Ursis was portrayed by Mr. Spock's father, Mark Leonard. I've seen all the others, being a sci fi fan. Apes stood out to me because it had interesting plots and elements and characters from the actual movies.

So if I had to vote on the short lived programs Planet of the Apes would get my 1st place vote. Logan's Run I could take or leave because it was too watered down and quite a let down after the movie played on Network TV. The series was a pale imitation and didn't deal with the city of domes in a way I thought was believable.

Captain Blog said...

I loved MFA as a child and also dug the boy-raised-by-wolves show, Lucan from I think 1978. That wolf theme was popular at the time as I recall the Bionic Man, a saturday morning variety show, a Hulk episode and perhaps a Wonder Woman with that theme.
The Cap'n

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