I always say that you have to grade Shazam! on a curve, because the reason this show is so timid is the same reason that the very first season of Super Friends – the one with Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog – is so much worse than all the rest of that show. And true, Super Friends was a pretty lousy show, ripe for all the decades of mocking that it’s received, but by 1978, you at least had the Legion of Doom actually killing all the heroes and requiring some celestial intervention to bring everybody back to life. The original Super Friends hour didn’t have any villains at all, just “misguided scientists.” Hamstrung by the likes of Peggy Charren and the Action for Children’s Television advocacy group, the Saturday morning superheroes of 1973-75, whether animated or live action, didn’t have anybody to fight.
So you get completely antiseptic situations like the one in this episode, where the criminal succeeds in pushing his way around and even forces a hostage to fly him off in a helicopter without a weapon, without even making a fist. And at the end, he apologizes for all the trouble he caused; he just needed some money and made a bad decision. It’s pretty awful.
And yet… the things that Hollingsworth Morse and Filmation got away with making their star do are just eye-popping from a modern perspective. Following up some of the surprising crane stunts in the last few stories, Jackson Bostwick genuinely hangs from a helicopter several feet off the ground in this one. A Captain Marvel program made today would probably have the Sivanas and King Kull in it, but the producers would be a little less likely to dangle their star fifteen feet in the air without some safety equipment.