Isis 1.1 – The Lights of Mystery Mountain

Shazam! had been such a hit in its first season that CBS didn’t only order a second season of it – although, in the typical cheap way that networks handled kid shows, they just ordered seven new episodes and added them to the ones they kept repeating – they also ordered a companion series. The block would be called The Shazam!/Isis Hour and the new show, starring Joanna Cameron, became the first live-action superhero show to star a woman on American TV.

(Incidentally, the show was produced and transmitted simply as Isis in its two season run of 1975-77. When CBS reran it in 1979, it was listed on the schedule as The Secrets of Isis, the name by which it’s better known today, and how it’s been sold for DVD and streaming.)

While Shazam! mostly confined itself to moral lessons, Isis was a little more willing to engage in the typical Saturday morning adventure fare of the day, with villains concocting Scooby Doo plots about fake space aliens and stuff. This would occasionally be too exciting for viewers, I guess, because this show also has its share of hitchhikers and people cheating on tests for its superheroine to handle.

Cameron was joined in the first season by Brian Cutler, who played the clueless science teacher Rick Mason, and by Joanna Pang as Cindy, a student who often led them into trouble. Albert Reed appeared in several episodes as the school principal, Dr. Barnes. With production duties shared between shows, many of the same writers and directors worked on these fifteen as were working on the seven new episodes of Shazam!. This first episode, for example, is directed by Hollingsworth Morse, who had shot several installments of Shazam! already.

The principal guest stars in the first episode are Kelly Thordsen and Hank Brandt, who were regularly cast as cops or bartenders in seventies TV. I don’t know about you, but looking at that screencap above, I can kind of see the crew from one of those innumerable cheap seventies monster movies waiting for the shot to finish so they could haggle with Morse for some leftover 16mm film for the picture they were trying to make on the other hill, and maybe ask whether Brandt and his costume could possibly come join them for a day’s work.

There’s nothing much here that other shows like it weren’t already doing, and Isis herself is so untouchably powerful – she can pretty much do anything, provided she can compose a couplet about it first – that even if Saturday morning superheroes could engage in fisticuffs in the seventies, the crooked developers and jewel thieves that she confronts in this show wouldn’t last very long. But it has its own simple charms, and Joanna Cameron has a nice twinkle in her eye and seemed to enjoy making the show, and the weird, phony UFOs that are used to frighten the locals in this episode also succeeded in alarming Daniel just a little bit. He thinks this is pretty cool and is looking forward to more.

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