They Owe Us Ten Years

Michael Gray and Jackson Bostwick in the 1974 CBS series, Shazam.
How is it that, during my childhood of the 1970's, the Japanese could keep me completely enthralled with cheap, rubber monster suits on shows like Ultraman and Space Giants, yet here in America, "the greatest country in the world"TM, Saturday Morning entertainment was like watching paint dry after a shot of Nyquil? Case in point, the 1974 - 77 Shazam series. The set-up sounds pretty exciting to a kid: Young Billy Batson and his elder companion, known simply as The Mentor (this was pre-NAMBLA, remember), traveled around in a big camper van*, getting into all sorts of dangerous predicaments that required Billy to magically transform into Captain Marvel, super hero extraordinare. Man, this oughtta be good!

Oughtta be, but ain't. Low budget effects and bad acting you can forgive. But the preaching. The eternal, Seventies brand of "after school special" preaching about tolerance, fair play and good dental hygenine (which stunk up almost every effort to entertain children back then), clogged up scripts that should have been full of super powered fistfights. Instead of clobbering radioactive dragon men, Captain Marvel stood around with his hands on his hips, lecturing kids about telling the truth. Since the "action" usually revolved around older teens, the effort seemed a thinly-veiled attempt to keep the nation's hippie youth from joining The Weathermen. After all, Captain Marvel says it's wrong for groovy guys and chicks to shoplift, much less blow up banks and office buildings to shake up The Establishment.
With all this mamby-pamby, parent-approved pabulum being forced on children starved for action and adventure, is it any wonder America was so excited about the unregulated Reagan '80s? Finally, tolerance and respect were out the window, and the Bad Guys were irreversibly evil with vaguely foreign accents again. Rambo didn't give advice to young people, he blew them up. The Thundercats had swords, the GI Joe gang had guns. GUNS! Try to find a weapon of any kind on Saturday Mornings of the 1970s. The Super Friends couldn't even snap anyone with a wet towel.
Listen, I'm the biggest liberal, anti-violence pussyboy on the planet, but everyone knows the super hero genre has one, primary theme: Beat People Up. Kick giant monsters in the face, burn mad scientists with lasers and destroy their secret laboratories.
And no talking!!
*Oddly, many kiddie programs of the '70s involved traveling around in camper vans in search of adventure. I guess in those days, it defined the American Dream.


Darlene said...

Good point about roving gangs in vans. Mystery Machine, anyone?

Do you recall a show on around the same time period called "Isis?" (I think). It was about a female "superhero" who got her powers from some ugly Egyptian beetle-shaped necklace, and would summon her powers by yelling "Oh Mighty Isis! or some shit.

The only episode I can remember is where her car gets stolen. It's a red Camaro. The theives paint it yellow to disguise it. After catching the bad guys and getting her car back, she shrugs and makes some comment about how "she likes yellow better anyway."

Kick their ass, dammit!

"You do not mess with a (wo)man's automobile. I wish I could have caught them doin' it. It would have been worth them doin' it if I could have just caught them doin' it." - Vincent Vega (paraphrased from memory....)

Excellent post.

BTW, Happy Birthday maudlin man.

ZT said...

Very nice Ash---although i'm sorry to say i only remember the refurbished DC comic book version. Must have been on around one of the times my family was short a TV....

BTW that's a very Kerouac-infused pic of you to the upper right.... :-)

Yer pal---ZT

Bandit Cat said...

Omg. Now that I can take a break, and actually breathe from crackin'-up at your rant, I must chime in and say how right on target you are. I'm now inspired anew to blow-up tons of shit, and hurt tons of stupid-ass people... in my own comics of course!

Anonymous said...

i love tolerance and fair play! and shazam! and gomer pyle! and casper! and sigmund! and underdog!and wonderbug! and benji & boomer! and nicholas from 8 is enuff! i could go on and on and on and etc!it's what's made me so tolerant and fair and so....HAPPY to this very day! and DESPISED too! but you can love all of it! little house on the prairie AND celebrity death match! different strokes AND sarah silverman show! davey & goliath AND moral oral! you don't have to choose! shit there i go again preaching but goddammit that's why me and you got the best split tape ever-full of good and evil (i guess you wanna be evil? i'm okay with that) well...enough ranting. too bad about rotten fucking teeth. i always ignored that part. i just ate the cocoa puffs and skipped brushing and rinsed with a liter of coke. (anyways i thought the SWISH they gave us at school would take care of everything-so now i walk around without a front tooth-so be it) i guess that's my point-i'm a fool. you're right. naw jus jivin. but you know i'm a sucka for robotic stooges if you wanna ink them out too! c'mon pleeeeeezzeeee!!!!

-caleb fraid

Anonymous said...

oops i didn't proofread
i meant MY rotten fucking teeth!

'OWZ said...

All I can say, Ash, is that you were just watching the wrong Sat. Morning TV and for the wrong reasons. I can't recall the second season of SHAZAM! 'cause I never bothered to watch it. I was too busy fighting Sleestak over on Land of the Lost, and obsessing over Jean-Marie Hon's too-tight polyester pantsuits on Ark II. (Fergit Shazam's NAMBLA-PABLUM, Jean-Marie had it goin' on in the most kick-ass RV on TV!)

L. Freenay said...

Do you know Josie Cameron, who is Isis? Can yuo call her today? Id love to meet her and the little japan girl she stays with.

Louis Freenay

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Corvetteman said...

First to you people that are going to slam the show Shazam or Isis please remember that there were a lot of us who were maybe 6 or 7 years olds at the time and had a real respect for the show and didn't grow up to be some douchebag pussy wimps. For example as to what Darlene said, yes when they stole Andrea Thomas, Isis alter ego (secret identity for those who don't know what those words mean) car on the Isis tv show it was really a firebird not a camaro and to what L.Freeney said the actress who played Isis was Joanna Cameron not Josie as you had stated. As to some of the other comments as to preaching about bad teeth or brushing your teeth there was never any Shazam or Isis episode that either preached it or had anything to do with teeth or what OWZ said about getting a hard on about some chick in polyester pants instead of watching another season of Shazam I can only speculate what you are today? Also in the totally wrong assumptions used by L.Freeney the Japenese girl was played by Joanna Pang yes she was asian but no where near Japanese she was of a Chinese American backround. My point to all of this is yes you are all entitled to an opinion right or wrong, agree or disagree but please before you all speak do a little homework first so you don't all look so STUPID! Also all of you seem to like fighting and violence and killing so much maybe its nuts like you and those beliefs is why the world is so messed up today. However you have all ended up where ever life has brought you and as kids you may have thought those stories or lessons were very stupid, wrong or crazy or even boring because you wanted to see Captain Marvel kick some ass, well if you wanted that so bad then you could have watched another half hour super hero tv show with tons of violence and the bad guys getting the crap beat out of them every show, "The Adventures of Superman" that starred George Reeves who also in real life blew his own head off. As to the crappy cheap special effects some of you mention well the show had a $70,000 per episode budget while it was a ton of money back then it still was low budget to do a show that needed such special effects and still pay actors, locations etc. and the producers were quite clever in what they did and obviously a lot more clever than you people as you not only can't spell or use correct grammar but you can't even get your facts or actors names right. Oh as to me well yea I loved the show, both shows and at 42 I still do today and am thrilled to be able to buy the show on DVD or watch episodes on you tube or veoh and again by all means did not grow up being a pussy but really tried to listen to the morals the show tried to teach a young child and even applied them to the sport I learned to play as a kid which was bowling nothing rough or violent like football or hockey which I as an adult also love to watch and root for my teams and with all the knowledge I gained and applied over the years you see in 2001 I would be on ESPN and win a professional bowlers association event and earned $27,000 for a week's worth of throwing a bowling ball. I also today own 21 bowling centers between Massachusetts and Minnesota and have some pretty nice and expensive cars as well as a couple of pretty nice houses with the smallest having 8500 sq. ft. Oh and lastly before I forget and while this is said to all of you it is mainly directed at OWZ, I also have a real tight hot nice D sized natuals of a brunette wife. While you OWZ are probably somewhere still clubbing your bishop in the corner of some bar over some girl in polyester pants. So just something to think about as I choose to learn from those morals taught on these shows and while again you are all entitled to an opinion as am I, it just makes you think that all of you choose the wrong road in life to follow and the real shame is you can never go back to those days and do it over again. So enjoy the rest of your lives as wonderful as they may be because I am sure loving mine...

jazzjames said...

I guess all those Shazam episodes turned you into a real dweeb to feel that you have to try to compete on this level.

I learned long ago that anyone who has to mention what car they drive (corvette man? lol!), how much money they made (by bowling? WTF!), and how nice their wife's tits are surely is working a bit too hard to look superior. What a tool!