Saturday, June 28, 2014

What If... The Fantastic Four had been a TV show in the 1960s?

Karen: I just discovered this very entertaining, and incredibly detailed, website dedicated to a TV show that never existed! The creators of the site ( - NOTE: the site this link points to is no longer active)  have come up with their own 'What If' -namely, what if there had been an unaired Fantastic Four TV show in 1963-1964? The amount of effort they've put into this project, coming up with not only the names of actors but producers, writers, directors, and others, still photos, and an episode guide, is staggering. 

Of course, Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island's Professor) as Reed Richards is no stretch of the imagination (ha!) as Alex Ross has been drawing Mr. Fantastic as Johnson for years. I thought Elizabeth Montgomery as Sue Storm was a great choice. I've never heard of Tim Considine, but he looks good as the Torch. However, I think William Demarest is a very oddball selection for the Thing -Uncle Charlie? Really? There were a lot of other  much younger actors that would have worked better.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the episode descriptions (Fabian as Namor?!) and the behind the scenes stories for episodes that never existed. Just imagine if they really had made a FF series with such wonderful writers like Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner Jr., Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon -wow! An episode with the Hate-Monger directed by John Cassavettes? Yeah, it's definitely wish fulfillment. The one episode that doesn't ring true at all is the Harlan Ellison one with hippies and mind-altering drugs -in 63, people were not turning on and dropping out yet. But still, this is an inspired effort and I tip my hat to the creators of the site. Who knows, maybe in an alternate reality, the show DID exist! If only we could join the Watcher in his home on the Blue Area of the moon and scan the many other realities to see if we could find the one where this show is playing in reruns...

Take a look - what do you think?


Super-Duper ToyBox said...

Boy, would THAT have been fun! Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

If this show is supposed to be from 1963 why are they all wearing John Byrne's horrible white collars costumes from the 1980's ? I don't know any of those actors mentioned except Elizabeth Montgomery but in reality if an FF show had been made at that time it would have been dreadful or played for laughs like Batman and could have damaged early Marvel so thank goodness it never happened.

Hu said...

What an extraordinary, painstaking, thoroughly-though-out labor of love this is! (Even with several glaring timeline/continuity quibbles--)

Johnson, Montgomery and Consadine are all perfect casting choices (Tim Consadine was a prominent Disney Studios kid, and then was the later-departed oldest son on MY THREE SONS). I get the choice of William Demarest-- his curmudgeonly wise-guy personality is a good fit for Ben-- but he really was far too old and too diminutive even then. I think someone like a William Bendix may have been able to carry it off nicely.

Clearly this writer has a deeeep fondness for all of the macabre-oriented anthology shows of the late 50's/early 60's, as the writers, directors, and even a few of the guest stars were pretty much staples of those programs (particularly TWILIGHT ZONE and THRILLER). But. . . "producing" an ongoing series with an anthology series production template-? Nah-- and the writer even seems to get that, since he/they (Tom & Roger?) posit that part of the reason for the "show's" failure was its wildly inconsistent tone.

Colin, it's funny you should mention the potential for it descending into damaging camp, ala BATMAN. If you're ever able to track down one of the (nearly unwatchable) bootleg copies of Corman's FANTASTIC FOUR film from many, many years later, you'll find that it resembles nothing so much as it does an extended version of the Batman TV show--albeit rather unintentionally, I think.

Humanbelly said...

Pfft, Not "Hu", above--

Just me, verbose ol' "Humanbelly"---


Anonymous said...

Hu? Is that U? LOL

OMG I am soooo not punny!!!!

The Prowler (a priest a minister and a rabbi went fishing one day.....).

Anonymous said...

Three albums I owned when I was young were Snoopy Versus The Red Baron, Conan and Spider-Man. The Conan And Spider-Man albums had four tales, two on each side. I was unaware of radio dramas but those records really brought the stories to life.

Would Marvel had been able to use The Human Torch? I thought there were issues with copyright and all which is how we got H.E.R.B.I.E.?

I could seem the series taking it's place with those great monster movies such as Attack of the 50 foot Woman. And much like Kirby's Challengers of the Fantastic oops, I mean Unknown, I think it could have worked.

We would have whole generations of nerds knowing if it was Sub-Mah-reen-ur, Sub-Mare-I-nur or Namor!?!

The Prowler (10 20 30 40 50 or more, the Bloody Red Baron ran up the score....).

Anonymous said...

My guess is that it would have followed the same course as most science fiction and/or action-adventure shows of that time.

If it had started in 1963-64 (or '65), it probably would have been played fairly straight, with some subtle comedy relief. The style might have been influenced by the early James Bond movies.

If it had lasted into 1966-67, then the Batman/camp fad would have become a big influence, and the series would have gotten sillier, more and more juvenile, and would have become a self-parody.

If it had lasted into the 1967-68 season, when the camp fad was passing, they would have tried to rein it in and tone it down, but by then, it would probably be too late. Fans who liked campy weirdness would be bored by an attempted return to straight action-drama, and fans who wanted straight action-drama would have already quit watching by then anyway.

By the very late 1960's-early 1970's, the trend was away from larger-than-life adventure, and toward relatively realistic dramas: Marcus Welby, The Bold Ones, Dragnet, Medical Center. So a Fantastic Four show (like most science fiction or superhero series) would have been cancelled by 1969 at the latest.

The pattern described above is pretty much what happened, to one degree or another, with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Wild Wild West, and The (British) Avengers.

Murray said...

When I think of how threadbare the special effects on TV were back then (Adventures of Superman, Lost in Space, Batman, etc, etc, I cannot help but wince at what a Fantastic Four show might looked like. When I think of the TV attempts years later with Spider-Man and Captain America, I wince and shudder.

The casting choices are spot on. As "Hu" observed, William "Uncle Charley" Demarest's personality is Ben Grimm down to his toes. Pity about the age being out of synch for the project. The wonderful Elizabeth Montgomery would give us a Sue Storm way ahead of her time. She brings way too much spunk and sass to be the "blond hostage of the week" as she was in early FF comics.

It would be definitely one of those shows where kids that watched it at the time would be vehemently defending its value to subsequent, scoffing, generations. But strictly amongst themselves, that original gang of viewers would mock it mercilessly.

Dr. Oyola said...

I designate this Earth-212. Where the Fantastic Four was a 60s TV show. :)

Nice little project. Thanks for sharing.

Comicsfan said...

You've gotta love those "brainstorming session[s] for potential scriptwriters that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby supervised." :)

Edo Bosnar said...

What a fun(ny) idea! Thanks for sharing a link to the post. The casting choices for Reed and Sue are perfect. And Burgess Meredith as Mole Man - perfect!
I agree, however, that the "hippie" episode would have been highly unlikely in 1963 - at that point, I think establishment types were still having conniptions over beatniks...

HB, I have indeed seen Corman's FF movie. "Nearly unwatchable" is a good description, and that has nothing to do with the quality of the film reproduction.
And on a related note, to answer Colin's question about the FF costumes: the guys who put together the site used publicity photos and/or stills from Corman's movie for their images of the FF.

david_b said...

I saw this a few days ago as well. Pretty extraordinary lengths to paint this fictitous project.

The casting is yes, spot on, all the way around. Bill Demarest would have been a perfect Thing. Love Russell Johnson (still love the autographed pic and email I received from him a few years back..).

Effects would have cleverly been kept in the background, as surmised by a few here. You don't have to show much for the imagination, just think Hitchcock.

Focusing more on personality than effects which would never deliver 40yrs before CGI.

Awesome premise, it's what our dreams are made of.

Martinex1 said...

Truly awesome. Inspiring that the creators would make such an effort to create this. Elizabeth Montgomery would make the perfect Sue. Love the astronaut costumes. I can barely edit a photo...cannot imagine how much work this would take. Liked the Yancy Street Gang storyline. Could imagine watching the reruns on WGN.

Edo Bosnar said...

Just saw another thing on the site I found absolutely hilarious in the "Unfilmed Episodes" section: the possibility of Paul Lynde as the Impossible Man (perfect!), and also this bit in the text about how the make-up test came about: "He came over to our table and began flirting shamelessly with Liz but his attention soon shifted to Tim." Oh, yeah...

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