Batgirl Mini-sode, 1967

Arrow seems to be rolling out another DC character practically every week now. I don’t watch the show regularly, even though I keep hearing how much it’s improved since its cheesy debut season. I just can’t stay interested, maybe because Laurel and the sister look the same to me, or that every action sequence takes place in the dark with super-fast cuts, so I have idea what’s going on. Still, it’s hard, within the geek community, to miss the spoilers. Everybody’s talking about this show. Possibly it’s the introduction of juicy new characters that keeps the buzz alive.

This all brings up two questions for me. The first is, how the hell did Birds of Prey not succeed? The other, a broader and more agonizing question is, why are all the female comic book characters in supporting roles? Much has been written about feminism as it relates to comic culture, so I’m not going to delve into that. I am, however, going to take you back to what may have been the first attempt to spin off a female comic book character into her own TV show.

Although not technically a pilot, this “mini-sode” was made in 1967.

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Pilot titles, round 2

Script_TitlePageI did an earlier post of match-the-pilot title-to-the show, but here’s a fresh batch. Some are obvious, some are not. See if you can guess which shows’ pilots these are:

1. Give Me a Ring Sometime

2. Serenity

3. The Beginning

4. Boardwalk Empire

5. Flowers for your Grave

6. We Just Decided To

7. The Man Trap

8. Movin’ In

9. Death Has a Shadow

10. Help Wanted

Answers after the jump. Continue reading

The Andy Griffith Show

Since today the world is mourning the loss of Andy Griffith, I thought I’d take a look at his namesake show. I am coming at this largely unbiased, as I don’t really remember the show. I must have caught an episode or two as a kid and of course I remember the theme song, but that’s about it. Continue reading

The Munsters

Growing up, I’m sure I caught reruns of The Munsters now and then but they didn’t make much of an impression. I basically thought of them as the other Addams Family. The two shows actually ran during the same two seasons (1964-1966). Guess they were the Once Upon a Time and Grimm of their day.

The show was produced by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, creators of Leave it to Beaver. They seem to have drawn on their background with that show, preserving the familial love, but hightening and spoofing it.

The premise for The Munsters doesn’t need much explanation; it’s about a family of old horror movie-esqe monsters. As the pilot opens, we first meet Marilyn (Beverly Owen), a normal, pretty blonde young woman, kissing her date goodnight on the front porch. Marilyn explains that the couple she lives with are her aunt and uncle, with whom she has lived since she was a baby. She frets about introducing her date, Tom, to her family, and Tom invites all of them to a party his parents are throwing. Continue reading

Unaired Sesame Street Pilot Clip

I love discovering unaired pilots, even just clips of them. There is a story circulating the interwebs about how Sesame Street is searching for “the missing Gordon,” and they’ve posted this clip in hopes of finding him. I don’t really care if they find him. I’m just excited to see a clip from an unaired Sesame Street pilot! If you grew up in the 1970s there’s a real heartstring-tugging moment in here… you’ll see what I mean.

The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch–the show as well the members of said ‘Bunch’–have been analyzed to the point where you might want to be beaten to death with a Tiki god statue if you hear one more Brady legend.  Here is some history. And it’s been referenced to death in pop culture. (I still love that bit in Reality Bites about how things don’t go back to normal after a half hour, becuase Mr. Brady died of AIDS.) However, yesterday’s news that Sherwood Schwartz died warrants a mention of this, his most enduring creation.

The pilot episode of The Brady Bunch, “The Honeymoon,” aired on September 26, 1969. Mike and Carol get married in Carol’s parents’ backyard. Then they leave on their honeymoon, only to find that they miss the kids so much that they go back for them–and thus begins five seasons of family love-hate. If you are from this planet you have probably seen it. If not, or if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can watch it here

Two things have always bugged me about this pilot. Although the former Mrs. Brady is mentioned when Bobby struggles with whether to put away his mom’s photo, why does no one mention the former Mr. Martin (Carol’s previous husband)? But more importantly, what’s up with the cat? Tiger, the dog, at least hung around for a few episodes, but the cat, Fluffy, was never seen again after the pilot.

Bewitched

The creator of Bewitched, Sol Saks, who passed away last week, wrote only the pilot before moving on to other things. The show would go on to run eight seasons and then live on in syndication, later spawning a best-forgotten movie in 2005. Shows from Charmed to Mad Men can be said to have roots in Bewitched. So old Sol did pretty well for himself with this one script.

Bewitched is the story of married life between a witch and her mortal husband, with ongoing meddling by her mother. The pilot falls back on the crutch of having a disembodied voice narrate the back story, rather than having it unfold naturally. In this case, the latter choice might have worked better, because it almost feels as if these two characters just woke up married. We first get to know the beautiful blond Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and her nerdily handsome ad exec husband Darrin (Dick York) on their wedding night. Somehow, they’ve made it this far without him discovering that she is a witch, or apparently, meeting each other’s families or friends.

It’s not a particularly original premise. Saks admitted to taking inspiration from the play/movie “Bell Book and Candle.” Supernatural families were familiar small screen territory, with The Munsters and The Addams Family premiering the same year.

As Samantha primps in the bedroom of the honeymoon suite, we first see her use her powers to levitate a hair brush. It’s not a bad special effect for 1964. Samantha’s mother appears out of thin air to reprimand her for getting married and attempt to take her away. The mother, Endora (Agnes Morehead), establishes herself as a strong female character, but what else would you expect from a witch? The stereotype of the ugly old hag in a pointy black hat is acknowledged and tossed out with humor. Samantha demostrates equal strength by standing up to Endora, insisting on staying with her new hubby. These are real witches, the show seems to say. (But no recitation of the Wiccan rede.)

Any flicker of feminism is soon extinguished, however. Once Darrin adjusts–with the help of no more than a couple of drinks and the dismissal of his skeptical friends–to Samantha’s witchhood, he basically tells her it’s all good, so long as she learns to cook and keep house. Toward the end, Samantha hints that she will not be without the aid of magic in completing her domestic chores, so there’s the hook to keep the audience coming back. She apparently plans to keep her magic use under her non-pointy hat while her husband remains oblivious. Nice, healthy marriage. We know to expect lots of intereference from Endora, too.

The rest of the pilot plot revolves around a jealous bitch of an ex-girlfriend who invites the newlyweds over for dinner. Man, she’s a bitch. The irony of the non-witch being the evil one here isn’t subtle. Samantha takes her revenge, however, to Darrin’s disapproval. We can see Darrin isn’t going to approve of much. That’s okay, he’ll eventually be recast in one of TV history’s most well-known shark jumps.

Here are ten fun facts about Bewitched.

Pilots that Never Flew

There are more pilots that never get picked up than most people ever stop to think about. It can be funny or horrifying, or in the case below, a bit sad, to imagine a show that the world was robbed of seeing. 

A couple of days ago, Bleeding Cool posted a clip from a 1969 clip of a Jim Henson-created Wizard of Id series, based on the comic strip by Johnny Hart. It looks like the plan for the show was simply to recreate individual comic strips with Muppets, rather than to create half-hour plotlines. Still, you can see the creativity at work here from Henson’s mind. And see if the Wizard’s voice doesn’t tug at your heart strings.

Here’s a list of seven other pilots that never got picked up, from OMG Lists. (It’s a couple years old, but there are some gems.)

Lost in Space

With a show set in a future that is now the past, it would be easy to simply pick apart the inaccuracies and laugh at the technology (and ask the age-old question, “Where is my jetpack?”) But I won’t do that. I’m going to examine the pilot of Lost in Space for what it is—a first episode designed to introduce the premise for a series.

Okay, I lied. First I have to make fun of one thing.

It’s 1997 as the Robinson family is being loaded aboard the Gemini 12 for a 100-year voyage to Alpha Centauri where they hope to colonize a sort of overflow zone for the bustling Earth. By setting this technologically advanced endeavor in 1997, the creators showed great faith and ambition in the abilities of mankind. Not so much for womankind. This is “the first time in history that anyone but an adult male has passed the International Space Administration’s grueling physical and emotional screening.” They could foresee space colonization but not female astronauts? Crikie. 

Dr. John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife Dr. Maureen Robinson (June Lockhart), their three children, Judith, Will, and Penny, and their assistant Donald are put into suspended animation and launched into space. An 11-minute introduction explains all of the circumstances, narrated by a news anchor. The mood is ominous as the world watches a historic moment. The set is a busy space station, filled with tense-looking individuals and complicated-looking machinery. The mood as the ship lifts off is more somber than celebratory. Shortly after launch, the ship encounters an asteroid field, it’s passengers are jostled around in their slumber, and the Gemini 12 is reported lost in space.

The tone then shifts as we jump ahead to 2001 and find the Robinsons surviving on a distant planet. The set up for this section is also narrated, as Dr. Robinson reads from a journal. At last, 12 minutes in, we hear the characters speak on screen and finally start to get a sense of their personalities.

Spooky music continues the air of foreboding introduced in the opening, but there are moments of levity. The children bicker and goof off, like any siblings. The whole family falls instantly into societal patterns recognized by the show’s 1960s audience. Mother and older sister prepare dinner and do laundry, the younger kids play with toys and pets, and the menfolk work outside the home.

What we know about the planet is that it has extremes in temperature, a variety of flora and fauna, and at least one sea. And as in nearly all science fiction shows, the air pressure, oxygen level and gravity are exactly comparable to Earth. We can assume it’s not Alpha Centauri, since our heroes have journeyed for just three years to get there (and because Alpha Centauri is a star system, not a planet, but there I go nitpicking). Nevertheless, the Robinsons seem to have brought all the right equipment.

The homestead is complete with appliances and alien pets. Things are powered with solar batteries. (Why couldn’t Gilligan’s castaways have thought of that?) The show has fun demonstrating the fantastical advances of the future. The washing machine, for example, washes, dries, and packages clothes in plastic wrapping all in seconds.

Naturally there is a hook-up in the works between 19-year-old daughter Judith and the hot young Ph.D. How could her parents not have seen that coming? Shark jumping is inevitable with a cast of six.

By the end of the episode, the travelers have stumbled upon some kind of tomb that suggests other human-like beings live here, or did. So, it looks like they will have plenty left to discover, enough to last a few seasons. The action is intense and some of the special effects aren’t terrible. The episode leaves us in suspense, always a strong move for a pilot. This is actually an unaired pilot, so there is a character not introduced until the actual pilot. Either way, it stokes the imagination—even today—and sets the stage for high adventure. And unlike its contemporary Star Trek, it introduces characters for each member of the family to relate to. So if you can suspend your disbelief in accept it as fantasy, it’s pretty fun.