Tuesday, January 12, 2016

50 years ago on television - 1966 - a trio of groundbreaking shows

We all have differing opinions on what year defined television today.  Some say it was 1951 (I Love Lucy) or 1959 (Twilight Zone).  I say 1966 was the year that redefined television in every way possible.  That year, there were not one but three distinct shows which not only defined television, but also provided a new direction in pop culture, originality as well as changing the landscape in Prime Time TV for generations to come.  In that year, color broadcasts were finally the norm as ABC and CBS were the last of the original "Big Three" networks to broadcast almost all of their shows in color.  Here's a look at the three shows in chronological appearance.

1.  Batman - - (January 12, 1966, 50 years ago today) was the first live action comic book TV series since Superman in the 1950s and aired two nights a week on ABC from January 1966 through March 1968.  The series is loosely (and I mean loosely) based on the Batman movie cliffhanger serials of the 1940s, usually with a Part 1 and Part 2 for the 2 nights each week ABC airs (7:30 PM EDT/PDT on Wednesday and Thursday nights).  Like the 1940s Batman serials that played weekly in movie theaters, each pair of episodes dealt with one or more crooked villains who catch Batman and/or Robin in an insurmountable death trap (with the famous captions "Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel") -  only to be resolved with the Dynamic Duo;s escape in Part 2.  The series took on a silly, campy tone, with jokes flying over your head, bad guys filmed in crooked 45 degree angles (to emulate their crooked ways) as well as the dialogue being off the wall.  If you are looking for a dark brooding tone like the recent Batman movies, forget it - - it's just sit back and leave your brain to rest as you enjoy the antics of The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, The Worm, Shame (a satire name of Shane, the western film.) and other goofy bad guys battling Batman and Robin.  The Batman craze was in full steam from the very first episode with the introduction of the Batusi dance move which was used by millions of people in dance clubs -  - and John Travolta did the Batusi move in the Quentin Tarantino film "Pulp Fiction".  The campy series was a short lived hit, by 1967 the Batman craze worn off towards the end of season 2 - even with the addition of Batgirl at the start of Season 3, but the sets were mostly cookie cutter cardboard.  After ABC cancelled Batman, NBC wanted to pick it up for one season, but it was too late - - all of the interior sets, including the Batcave, were demolished by the departing production crew.    Speaking of the Batcave, the exterior of the "driveway" leading to the Batcave was the exact location where the Skull Island gate was built for filming in the 1933 original King Kong.

2.  Star Trek (September 8, 1966)  -  This is the most popular sci-fi TV series of all time, as it has spawned a cartoon series in the early 1970's, four TV spinoffs (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise), and countless movies from 1979 to present,.  Star Trek has introduced Trekkie into the lexicon and rightfully so - it was a time where communicators would take shape in the form of clamshell style cell phones thirty years later.  This series aired on NBC from 1966 through 1969 but never won any of the 11 Emmy nominations during it's run.    Some of my favorite episodes are "The Trouble With Tribbles", "The City on The Edge of Forever" (as well as any time Kirk, and Spock travel back to 20th century earth).  This is the third sci-fi series (after the cartoon The Jetsons and the live action Lost In Space) while takes place in space....the final frontier.  Most of these episodes are now remastered in new 1080 HD format and look better than ever.

3.  Mission:Impossible - (September 17,  1966)  This CBS series ran from 1966 to 1973 and had two iconic things which set this series apart from the pack: the tape recorder sequence and Lalo Schfrin's theme song.  The espionage series made a lasting impression in households for what we call appointment television today - - you had to see it from the beginning to see what is going on or you would be lost.  The show is about a rogue organization,called the Impossible Missions Force, with no law enforcement ties. who set out to complete dangerous missions involving world leaders or mobsters as "targets".  The idea was to manipulate and/or deceive the target into something which would result in his/her death by his own people, placed under arrest, or the theft of  valuable item (microfilm, diamond, etc) - - often by impersonating the target or posing as almost anything they wanted to be:  Police Officers, FBI agents, taxi drivers, mobsters, customs workers, Nazi war criminals, hospital workers, you name it.  The series spawned a short lived TV reboot by ABC in the early 1980s and a more popular series of films starring Tom Cruise which have nothing to do with the TV series, except Phelps was now the bad guy in the first film.  Let's get one thing straight - - nothing can hold a candle to the original and best TV series, not the movies which I call them "cerebral garbage" - - this is my favorite TV show of all time for it' intelligence and writing and rightfully so - this TV series won 8 Emmy awards and three Golden Globes.  Fun fact:  In the second season episode "Charity", the house where the IMF goes after the couple who steals money from legitimate charities by concealing the funds in platinum bars is the same house as the Wayne Manor in the Batman TV series.  The actual address of this famous house is 380 South San Rafael Ave in Pasadena, CA/ 

Three shows which appealed to diverse audiences and original for their time.  1966 was a golden year for television as these three iconic shows set the bar for great TV viewing for generations to come.

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