Saturday, September 20, 2014

1964: An Amazing Year for Television!

In our last post, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the premiere of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, on September 14, 1964 – HERE.

But, to paraphrase that famous pig… That’s NOT all, folks!

A truly amazing number of great and memorable shows debuted in 1964, and let’s give some Blog-space to them as well: 




Sorry to put you behind those cartoon shows, Endora... but your title sequence WAS designed by Hanna-Barbera, after all!



And Hanna-Barbera’s literal INVENTION of the half-hour animated adventure series: JONNY QUEST.

Also, because our friend and contributor “Top Cat James” was good enough to add-on to my list in the comment thread of THIS POST from YOWP:





Feel free to mention any other beloved series 1964 debut not cited by TCJ or myself.    

What a year!  And 1965 and 1966 only get better, folks!   You can bet, when the time comes, I’ll be posting on those years as well.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fifty Year Voyage! Happy 50th Anniversary to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

In 1964, whether “little me” knew it or not, I officially became a “FAN”.  A status that I would, to one degree or another, carry with me to the present day.    

Earlier in the year, it started with THIS COMIC BOOK, and, on September 14, 1964, it occurred once again with VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA! 

You all know the feeling.  You find something that you like – A LOT!  And decide that you are going absorb everything about it, and never miss it ever again, no matter the lengths you may go to ensure that. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have friends to share those fannish interests.  In 1964, and throughout my youth, I did not.   At least not until discovering Fanzines in the ‘80s, and the friends that would come from that – and, of course, Blogging. 

If you asked me, I would have to say that VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA is still my favorite TV series of all time – even though it’s had some worthy competition over five ensuing decades. 

I hope to have more, but for now – and in order to make the official anniversary of the first episode – here’s something I wrote in 2003, which will serve as a 50th Anniversary tribute:

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA was the brainchild of motion picture and television producer Irwin Allen, who was clearly influenced by Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.  

Originally released as a feature film, starring Walter Pidgeon, in 1961, the story of the futuristic Submarine Seaview and its crew saving the Earth from a great “fire in the sky”, was one of the more successful films of that year.  That success spurred Allen to enter the arena of television. 

Voyage feature film, with Walter Pidgeon (second from right).
Assembling a crew headed by Richard Basehart as Admiral Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Crane, Allen’s TV version of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA premiered on ABC, September 14, 1964. 

Rounding out the regular crew were Bob Dowdell as Executive Officer Chip Morton, Henry Kulky as CPO “Curly” Jones (1964-1965), Terry Becker as CPO Francis Sharkey (1965-on), Arch Whiting as radioman “Sparks”, Del Monroe and Paul Trinka as regular crewmen Kowalski and Patterson, and Richard Bull as “Doc”. 

Allen’s fantastic Submarine Seaview sailed across the seas – and through the airwaves of ABC TV – for 110 episodes, until its final broadcast on September 15, 1968.   

An underappreciated – yet landmark – series in every respect, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA was television’s first science-fiction based prime-time series to feature a cast of continuing characters, as opposed to the “anthology format” of the previously popular TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS. 

Its accessibility, and the confident manner of its stars, Basehart and Hedison, were instrumental in gaining an “acceptance” for the science-fiction genre among mainstream TV viewers of 1960’s America.    

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA had a longer run than both LOST IN SPACE and the “original” STAR TREK, though it has since been eclipsed in popularity and public consciousness by both series. 

Indeed, many of the “genre staples” that fans tend to attribute to STAR TREK, originated with VOYAGE:  The ongoing adventures of a “quasi-military” vessel, command structure, regular bridge/ control room crew, omnipresent faceless and nameless “background crew”, “Flying Sub” vs. “Shuttlecraft” – and especially the concept of “expendable crewmembers”!  

The word “Redshirt” has actually entered the language as a synonym for “cannon fodder”, or an expendable or inevitably doomed individual – whose demise you can almost sense from the moment he walks into the frame!   

Though it is commonly associated with STAR TREK, VOYAGE did it first (…and probably MORE OFTEN, too boot!), only they wore BLUE as well as RED! 

[ End of 2003 Material ] 

Now that we're back in 2014, I will add that VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA had four very distinctive seasons: 
Season 1 (1964-1965):  Black and white stories of political intrigue and espionage, in keeping with the Bond / spy craze that swept America, and a handful of science fiction based episodes.  

Season 2 (1965-1966): Full color with lots of new special effects footage, including the introduction of the Flying Sub, as well as a major redesign for the Seaview.  Week in and week out, the best special effects television had to offer.  The season starts out spy-based and shifts entirely over to science fiction.  This is the best season overall.  

Season 3 (1966-1967):  A full season of science fiction ,with an eventual movement toward "Monster of the Week" episodes. 

Season 4 (1967-1968):  A pullback, of sorts, from the "Monster of the Week" episodes, and toward what I can best describe as "Weird Fantasy".  

Certain episodes, past the mid-point of the season actually take on a darker tone, while still retaining the outlandishness and "Monster of the Week" qualities of the previous season.   

Ends with a satisfying series finale.  

Mr. Pem finds there is "No Way Back". 

All in all, it made for fascinating viewing -- and still does, FIFTY years later!