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 /
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.
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.
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. In fact, so many people have commented, after the release of the big budget motion picture, that they liked this film a lot, I may have to give it another look. 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.
CBS ordered a pilot film for possible mid-season replacement (hey, it worked for Batman in 1966). Oh boy, was this awful from start to finish! I mean, what a pathetic stinker the pilot was, just watch as that light-weight, plastic shield knocks out the bad guy.
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.
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. I'm sure that didn't go over very well with Ellison!
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.
ABC and Universal announced production on a new series called Star Worlds (wonder where they got the idea for that title?) 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.
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.
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 for 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.
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