Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Because It’s Tradition: “Blast Off Into Fall!”

Welcome to Fall, 2008. Of course, the actual date Autumn begins is September 22 but, for each of us, Fall begins at different times and in different ways. Labor Day, start of school, NFL Kickoff, Jerry Lewis Telethon, take your pick.

For me – and probably ONLY ME – it was an annual airing of the 1966 LOST IN SPACE episode “Blast Off into Space! No, wait… Lemme explain…

Each year in the East Meadow (NY) School District, the day following Labor Day was our “last day of freedom”. That day would be a Tuesday, and school would begin on Wednesday. Also, during the years of 1969-1974, LOST IN SPACE would air every weekday afternoon – from September thru June on what was then WNEW TV Metromedia 5 (…or “MM5” as their logo put it) and what is now FOX 5 New York.

Above left: Strother Martin, Billy Mumy, and Jonathan Harris in “Blast Off Into Space”.

Labor Day on Channel 5 was, of course, always reserved for the abovementioned Jerry Lewis Telethon, and then – on each “Day-After-Labor-Day-Tuesday”, starting in 1970 – Channel 5 would bring back LOST IN SPACE, beginning the rotation with the first color episode and the second season premiere “Blast Off Into Space”.

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Guy Williams and Mark Goddard in “Blast Off Into Space”.

Naturally, being deprived of the Robinsons, Doctor Smith, and everyone’s favorite nameless Robot for an entire summer, it would be an annual date for this reunion, each “Tuesday, September-whatever”. There was the feel of a “special occasion” because it was one of the very last things I’d enjoy before another dreaded year of school. It wasn’t a “ritual” as much as “something that just happened” each year.

Long after LOST IN SPACE gave its afternoon slot over to seventies sit-coms, eighties sit-coms, trashy talk shows, a brief glimmer of quality animated blocks in the nineties that gave us DUCKTALES, BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES, and ANIMANIACS among others, and early newscasts that would increasingly encroach upon what was once an “afternoon preserve” of entertainment programming, I would continue to associate LOST IN SPACE with weekday afternoons… more so than with its original run in prime time.

…And, more specifically, I would continue to associate “Blast Off Into Space” with the end of summer and the beginning of fall!

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June Lockhart in “Blast Off Into Space”.


If I recall correctly, the last such year “Blast Off Into Space” would kick off my Personal Fall Season was 1974… and the tradition would go dark for three decades. By 2004, the new age of TV-Shows-on-DVD would be in full swing, and LOST IN SPACE was one of the very first classic series to be collected in this medium.

Alas, LOST IN SPACE Season Two, Volume One – the DVD volume containing “Blast Off Into Space” – would be released on September 14, 2004, a week or so late for “Day-After-Labor-Day-Tuesday”. But, since 2005, and thanks to DVD, that tradition has been revived and what has become a common, ordinary workday once again has a glimmer of “Something Special” to it.

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Jonathan Harris in “Blast Off Into Space”.


Needless to say, the tradition was maintained again this day. And, hey… it’s not as wacky as SEINFELD’S “Festivus”!

7 comments:

Chris Barat said...

Ah, the long-lost Golden Age of Syndication... where the predictability of what you knew you were going to see was often half the fun! :-)

BTW, did channel 5 ever run the first b&w season of LIS? I can see viewers who hadn't seen season one in its original run being confused by the fact that the series "started" with the Robinsons ALREADY marooned. If channel 5 DIDN'T run season one, it wouldn't surprise me, as this was the era in which ASTRO BOY, among other series, was dropped from syndication for no offense but that of two-tonedness.

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris wrote:

"BTW, did channel 5 ever run the first b&w season of LIS?"

They always did, except by the very end in 1977, when they no longer wanted any B&W shows.

They (wisely, in my opinion) began each season's run with the first color episode -- which just happened to showcase the best pre-CGI special effects sequence ever made for television – the climactic planet destruction/liftoff scene.

From there, it would go: Second Season, Third, then First -- and repeat this way until June.

joecab said...

Oh yeah, I only ever saw that first episode once on TV one of those more recent times Channel 5 reran the series. I remember how surprised I was that Dr. Smith was a serious little traitor back then and not the comical coward I only knew from later in the color episodes.

Joe Torcivia said...

By about 1976, if Channel 5 was still running LOST IN SPACE at all, they were rarely, if ever, running the B&Ws. By ’77, the B&Ws were gone from Ch. 5 completely.

Then it moved to local cable channels and local UHF channels (Both eastern LI and CT), TBS, USA Network, the original Sci-Fi Channel (when it was GREAT! These last two stops creating an ‘80s / ‘90s resurgence!), and then finally back to smaller cable channels.

As of Summer 2012, it is presently on “ME-TV” every Saturday night at 8 PM. Between BATMAN at 7PM and STAR TREK at 9PM! I still look in on it now and again, even with all the eps on DVD. There’s something about watching LOST IN SPACE in PRIME TIME at appeals to me!

I’m not a big proponent of "colorization”, but the first seasons of LIS and VOYAGE should be colorized, to give both series greater exposure.

…And isn’t it great how all the comments for this post seem to come in Early September, regardless of the year!

Comicbookrehab said...

Um...FXMovieChannel aired the movie with Gary Oldman and Heather Grahmn? I don't think that's close, but hey, Heather Grahmn!

I know PIX 11 in NYC shows marathons of "The Honeymooners" every New Years Day. Before that, they showed marathons of "the Twilight Zone"(4th of July - ?), "The Addams Family"(Halloween)and on one 4th of July, "Star Trek". Since it became the WB/Cw, they've stopped doing this as much. One time, Channel 5 in NYC offered a marathon of sows they had in their library, "Ann Southern", "Private Secretary", "Gomer Pyle", stuff they don;t get around to showing. The Hallmark channel used to show marathons of Perry Mason, then switched to the Mason tv movies this year.

Elaine said...

Here's what I do every year on the day after Labor Day (which is when school started in my childhood)... I read four back-to-school (or, attempted-escape-from-back-to-school) stories by Barks: the three truancy stories from WDC 72, 133, and 169, plus the JW story "Storm Dancers." I wouldn't be surprised to find out that you do the same, Joe, on the day after you watch LIS!

Joe Torcivia said...

That’s a great one, Elaine!

And, I might add, a far sight more logical than associating “back to school” with LOST IN SPACE.

The first one of those I ever saw was reprinted in WDC&S # 350 (Cover Date: November, 1969) and was the one where Donald was not the truant officer – but where, run as they might, HD&L cannot escape schools, teachers, truant officers and the like.

My subscription issue of that one would have arrived about the third week of September, 1969 – and that would have made it slightly late for the actual “back to school” day. But, I sure enjoyed it nonetheless!

Indeed, 1969–1970 was a GREAT time for Barks 10-pager reprints. It was one after another from his best period of late ‘40s thru mid ‘50s. …And, one day every month, there would be one waiting for me, when I got home from school! …Those were the days!