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The Great TV Superhero / science fiction bust of 1977-1978
by Billy Ingram

1978 SUPERHERO & SCIENCE FICTION TV SHOWS

QUARK

The year started out sci-fi friendly when Quark landed on NBC Friday (!) nights in February of 1978. Rather than risk a huge investment on a hour-long serious science-fiction project (like CBS's flop Logan's Run), NBC went with a half-hour comedy set in outer space, the perfect vehicle to replace the under-performing 'Sanford Arms' that was killing their winning Friday night line-up of Chico and the Man, Rockford Files, and Quincy M.E.

Richard Benjamin starred as Adam Quark, commander of the garbage scow for the United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol space station 'Perma One'. His assistants were: Fichus (Richard Kelton), the plant organism science officer, Otto Palidrome (Conrad Janis from 'Mork and Mindy'), the ships persnickety architect, Betty I and Betty II (Trisha and Cyb Barnstable), identical gorgeous cloned twin sisters, and Andy (Bobby Porter), a malfunctioning, cowardly robot that was more trouble than he was worth.

First mate Gene/Jean (Timothy Thomerson) was a half-man half woman person that was constantly fighting with him/herself. Orders for the missions would come from a disembodied head known as 'The Head' (Alan Cailou), appearing on the ship's video screen. Well-liked but little watched program.

 

 

THE NEW AVENGERS

Based on the cult favorite from the 1960s, The New Avengers once again starred Patrick MacNee as John Steed, this time with two high kicking assistants - Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) and Purdey (Joanna Lumley). The original series producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell developed the new concept and two year's worth of episodes were shot at Pinewood Studios in England in 1976.

The first episode got off with a bang when a nest of Nazis tried to revive the body of Hitler. Attempts to get Diana Rigg to appear as Emma Peel were unsuccessful and Variety called it, "a poorly drawn and motivated comic strip" but the show had many fans. 26 episodes were filmed,

CBS picked up The New Avengers for broadcast Friday nights (again!) at 11:30 starting in 1978. This prompted the BBC to attempt another revival of the series, a pilot entitled Escapade was written by Brian Clemens for Quinn Martin Productions. It starred Granville Van Dusen and Morgan Fairchild.

 

 

ABC COMEDY SATURDAY SPECIAL: ARCHIE /
THE ARCHIE SITUATION COMEDY VARIETY SHOW 

ABC ordered a 60 minute pilot based on the popular comic book cutups from Riverdale High who had already proved massively popular on Saturday mornings and on the pop charts at the start of the decade. David Caruso was originally cast as Archie but he was replaced at the last minute by Dennis Bowen.

Now that those cartoon viewers from 1970 were a few years older, were they ready for a live action primetime Archie? ABC hate the pilot so they ordered a second TV movie with largely the same cast, this time produced by James Komack (Welcome Back Kotter). It failed to make the grade as well.

 

PROJECT UFO

If anyone could make UFOs boring it was Jack Webb (Dragnet) who based the plots on Air Force 'Project Blue Book' cases. Lasted two half seasons.

 

 

DR. STRANGE

Universal sold Dr. Strange as a telefilm to CBS in 1978, about a psychiatrist (Peter Hooten) chosen by the dying Ancient One to take on his mystical powers. Directed and written by Philip DeGuere; this time Marvel Comic's Stan Lee was brought on as a consultant and the result at least had the flavor of the comic book character. A series was not picked up.

Marvel also helped develop a five episode series bible for Lady Lightning, a Wonder Woman type program that never made it into production.

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA

CBS ordered a pilot film for possible mid-season replacement (hey, it worked for Batman in 1966).

 

LEGENDS OF THE SUPERHEROES

Hannah-Barbera produced two God-awful 1 hour comedy specials featuring three principals from the cast of ABC's Batman (Adam West, Burt Ward & Frank Gorshin back in their tights) along with a multitude of other DC characters. The first special was a Challenge between the Justice League and their colorful adversaries, the second was similar to the Dean Martin Roasts where the heroes and villains insulted one another from a dais.

 

RETURN OF CAPTAIN NEMO

Irwin Allen (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) was set to return to primetime with another undersea adventure. The dreadfully bad two-hour pilot, even by Irwin Allen standards, aired on CBS starring Jose Ferrer as the famous seafarer.

The convoluted plot involved the discovery of the Nautilus, imprisoned by President Ulysses S Grant a century earlier, with Captain Nemo inside held in suspended animation. (Historically, Grant was a very powerful President you see!)

After defeating a super villain played by Burgess Meredith in the pilot, the series would have followed Nemo's adventures searching for the lost city of Atlantis. The show was originally scheduled to open Wednesday nights in the fall, followed by Spiderman, but ultimately Nemo never found his way to primetime.

I ROBOT

Harlan Ellison penned a script for this proposed TV movie but after Star Wars blew up the studio pressed the writer to make the robots more like R2D2.

 

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

H. G. Well's classic was not only a video effects laden TV-movie starring Jack Palance and Carol Lynley but a weekly series was proposed as well.

 

STAR WORLDS

ABC and Universal announced production on a new series called Star Worlds but the name was changed to Galactica, then Battlestar Galactica. That name change was prompted by a plagiarism lawsuit brought by 20th Century Fox, the studio that distributed Star Wars. The suit was dropped after George Lucas got a look at the early Battlestar Galactica footage, he was mainly concerned that the characters in the TV show not be similar to his creations - and that the title not be so close to his.

 

THE HUMANOID

Richard Kiel starred in this cheezy telefilm; the score for this? film was by Ennio Morricone.

 

THE CLONE MASTER

The Clone Master was a pilot for a Universal anthology series produced and written by John D. F. Black (Star Trek) and starring Mel Ferrer as a man with 13 clones that he can inhabit at will, all spread out around the world. It was a blatant ripoff of the Wally Wood Thunder Agents character Nomad to me.


 

TIME TRAIN

Like the Time Tunnel except anyone can buy a ticket to the past. Never got past a script, if that.

---

OTHER 1978 PROJECTS:

William F. Nolan's Space For Hire was optioned as a sci-fi TV comedy.

War of the Worlds was announced as a possible series in 1978.

Universal announced a Mandrake the Magician pilot was in pre-production; it was broadcast in 1979.

 

Dr. Frankenstein was someone's idea of a good TV series.

The Reluctant Vampire about the obvious.

The Martian Chronicles was announced as a possible telefilm, it got made as a mini-series in 1980.


...and that takes us until the beginning of 1979 which gave us Flash Gordon on Saturday mornings and Battlestar Galactica on Sunday nights, among others.


Hit Shows of the Seventies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s / 1977-1978 Superhero & Science Fiction TV Shows / Patrick Duffy of Dallas Interview / Best Season of Dallas Ever? / TV Show Book Tie-Ins / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / Bill Cosby - WTF?!? / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / That Girl & TV's Single Working Women / Star Trek Animated / Dark Shadows / Dark Shadows Movies / Dark Shadows Novels / Dawn Wells / Gavin McLeod / The Music Dark Shadows / 1970 TV Shows / Mike Wallace, Virginia Graham & Jim Longworth / Dick Clark / Carson Tonight Show / 1973 TV Shows / Thriller / The Jacksons TV Show / Fall Previews of the 70s / Lance Link, Secret Chimp / Star Wars Holiday Special / Alias Smith and Jones / 1977 Year in Review / Top Ten 1970-76 / The Rockford Files / All in the Family / Sam Hall (Dark Shadows) Interview / Actor Ed Nelson / Death of Archie / Battlestar Galactica / Wonder Woman / Network Jingles / Class of '74 / Happy Days / Good Times / Mr. Bill / Dinah! / Maude / Doris Day Show / Pamelyn Ferdin Interview / The Bicentennial Minute / Jingles & Catch Phrases of the 1970s / Early Cable TV 1970s / TV commercials for Women / TV Moms / Country Music TV Shows of the 1960s & 1970s / Betty White Show / Ron Palillo / Shirley Jones Interview / Tom Bosley / Rodney Dangerfield / How Sanford & Son Ended / Sanford & Son Spin-Off Grady / Great Memoirs / Virginia Graham Show / The "N" Word on TV / 10 Classic Comedy Routines You Have To Laugh At Before You Die / Hollywood Squares / 1970's Teen Idols & The Hudson Brothers / TV Stars with 3 Hit Shows / The Rookies / Unsold Pilots / Jackie Cooper / The Good Guys / Match Game / Make Room For Granddaddy / Mannix & Gail Fisher / Bette Midler in the 1970s / Bonus 1970's Stuff: Silent Star Marion Mack / Biff Burger / 1970s Fast Food Chains / Latin Casino / Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire / 1970's Daytime Talk Shows / The Fess Parker Show / Love, Loss & What I Watched

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The Great TV Superhero /
Science Fiction Bust of 1977-1978

 

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