Saturday Morning: 1974 (Part 2) -- VIDEOS
Last time on "Saturday Morning" we reviewed the busy 1974-75 schedule of CBS. In this installment we take a look at the lineups for ABC and NBC.
When looking at the respective schedules you can see a few patterns that were prevalent in Saturday morning programming of the 1970s. As mentioned last time, one of these themes was the increasing amount of live-action shows on the air. Six new live-action programs came out during this year, with three premiering on ABC and NBC combined. Another pattern was the use of prehistoric locations for shows. Each network had at least one show that took place during the time of the dinosaurs. The third pattern was the continuing decrease in quality of the Saturday morning animated fare. Nothing much could be done on that front since the networks were asking for more of this material faster than the studios could produce it and for less money than they needed.
Still and all, 1974 was a good time for Saturday morning programming as it produced a number of programs viewers remember even today. Two such programs are featured in this installment. Now, if the Way-Back Machine is ready, step on in and let's journey back 34 years in the past.
ABC: New Shows - Hong Kong Phooey, The New Adventures of Gilligan, Devlin, Korg: 70,000 B.C., These Are the Days
Returning Shows - Yogi's Gang, The Bugs Bunny Show, SuperFriends, American Bandstand
It was Hanna-Barbera who ran ABC Saturday morning in 1974. Other than The Bugs Bunny Show and Filmation's The New Adventures of Gilligan, the studio that created such characters as Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo filled the entire lineup. And, while they may not have been memorable back then, the shows that premiered this year are fondly recalled in the present.
The first new show to premiere was Hong Kong Phooey. Besides Wait Til Your Father Gets Home, Hong Kong was probably one of the most-limited animated works by Hannah-Barbera to date. Still, the show was immensely popular. Its star was an anthropomorphic dog named Penry (pronounced 'Henry"), a "mild-manner" janitor working at the police department. When called upon to right wrongs, Penry would jump into a file cabinet and come out as Hong Kong Phooey.
There were only three other regular characters on Hong Kong. Spot was Penry's faithful cat who would normally help Phooey out during all of the messes he got involved in. Sergeant Flint, known as Sarge and voiced by Joe E. Ross of Car 54, Where Are You? fame, was Penry's boss and normally the subject of his klutziness. Rosemary was the telephone operator who had a crush on Phooey (despite him being a dog who walked upright) and was responsible for giving Penry the addresses where the various crimes were taking place.
Right after Hong Kong Phooey came The New Adventures of Gilligan. Like The Brady Kids and Star Trek: TAS before it, Gilligan was an animated sequel of the 60s sitcom Gilligan's Island. It was so closely tied to the live-action series that five of the seven original voices (Dawn Wells and Tina Louise didn't participate) lent their voices to the characters. Even the show's original Executive Producer, Sherwood Schwartz joined the animated version.
While the concept for the animated Gilligan stayed the same as the live-action version, there were a few changes. One was the addition of Gilligan's pet monkey named Stubby. The other, in order to give the show an educational bent, was an end of episode conversation between the Skipper and his "little buddy" about the lessons they had learned for that particular adventure. Like its predecessor, New Adventures of Gilligan was quite popular and lasted for three seasons on the Saturday morning schedule.
Coming along after Gilligan was the animated drama Devlin. Inspired by the then-huge popularity of daredevil Evel Knievel, Devlin featured the story of a stunt motorcyclist who journeyed with a traveling circus. Ernie Devlin was the motorcycle rider while his siblings Tod and Sandy assisted with repairs and promotions. And, like other shows that came before it, the trio weren't against solving a mystery once in awhile. One of the more memorable items coming from Devlin was former Monkee Micky Dolenz voicing Tod.
The next Hanna-Barbera entry was one of the company's rare dramatic, live-action series. Korg: 70,000 B.C. was the story of a typical middle-class Neanderthal family that lived during the Ice Age. The show was narrated by Burgess Meredith and contained stories about the family finding food, dealing with other tribes, and determining the best health care plan. Only one season of the show aired with a total of 16 episodes.
The final new program to air on ABC's Saturday morning schedule was another dramatic turn for Hanna-Barbera. These Were the Days profiled the lives of the Day family in turn-of-the-century Elmsville. Similar in scope to The Waltons, each episode focused on the various family members and their interactions with friends and neighbors. Those who contributed voices to these characters were Micky Dolenz and June Lockhart.
NBC: New Shows - Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Run,Joe,Run, Land of the Lost
Returning Shows - The Addams Family, Emergency +4, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, The Pink Panther Show, Star Trek: The Animated Series, The Jetsons, Go
Just three new series premiered on the NBC Saturday morning schedule in 1974, with only one being animated. That one would be Hanna-Barbera's Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. The show focused on a red VW beetle named Wheelie, his girlfriend Rota Ree and the 4-member Chopper Bunch who were his arch-enemies. Wheelie was a mute professional racer and stunt car and it was the Chopper Bunch who attempted to derail his career whenever they could.
The two remaining shows were both live action. Run,Joe,Run was the story of a German Shepard named Joe -- a respected member of the military's K-9 Corps -- who is falsely accused of attacking his master, Sergeant William Corey. Escaping before being killed, Joe went on the run to avoid being caught by the authorities. Along the way, Joe managed to help people he met. Think of a mix of Lassie, The Fugitive and Incredible Hulk, except that Joe doesn't turn into a green monster. Run,Joe,Run was successful enough to last two seasons on the schedule.
The last show to appear on NBC was one of Sid & Marty Krofft's longest-lasting successes. Land of the Lost was similar in format to the animated Valley of the Dinosaurs, which premiered on CBS at the same time. However, where Valley was strictly based in prehistoric times, Land of the Lost leaned more towards the science-fiction genre.
The concept of the show was this: Ranger Rick Marshall and his children Will and Holly were on a routine rafting expedition when, during an earthquake, they plummeted down a waterfall. They ended up in a land not just full of dinosaurs but of a race of ape-like creatures and, of course, the lizard-like Sleestaks. Most episodes featured the Marshall family working towards finding their way home while dealing with the land that they now lived in. As the series progressed the show actually began to resemble the format of today's Lost with its underlying conspiracies and mysteries. Thanks to interesting plots and writing from science fiction biggies like Larry Niven and David Gerrold, Land of the Lost became the longest-running Sid & Marty Krofft series with three seasons worth of episodes.
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After the show ended its original run in 1977 it was rerun on both NBC and CBS in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1991, ABC gave the thumbs-up to remake the series for its own Saturday morning schedule. The newest version ran for two seasons and 26 episodes. Today, Land of the Lost is in post-production for a 2009 theatrical release which will star Will Ferrell.
And so we close Saturday morning 1974. Next time we'll take a look at the history of Filmation Studios.