Category Archives: shazam!

Shazam! 3.1 – The Contest

So now we’re in 1976, and Shazam! has started its third season, this time with six new episodes and no cast upheavals in the middle of production. CBS continued promoting this and its companion show as The Shazam! / Isis Hour, a standard Saturday morning trick to fool the kids into sticking around on the channel they were on just a little bit longer. This season, though, it honestly made sense as the stars would be crossing over into each other’s episodes more often. Filmation kind of threw a little thanks toward their stars for coming back for such abbreviated runs by giving their lead actors guest star parts on the other shows twice each.

Speaking of stars, the notable guest this time out is Walker Edmiston, whom we all know as Enik from Land of the Lost, playing the owner of a motorcycle shop. It’s a rule of the blog that whenever we spot Edmiston, we include a screencap, so here he is.

Daniel enjoyed the episode, although – and I didn’t tell him anything about any forthcoming crossovers that we’ll see in the next few weeks – he was curious where Isis was. At the end of the story, the villain, who was played by David Crosby lookalike Dennis Olivieri, tries escaping with a stolen gyroscope macguffin on a speedboat. Since a few days ago, we saw Isis and Captain Marvel teaming up for a water-based rescue, he just figured they’d get together again this time. Very close, but not quite!

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Isis 1.12 – Funny Gal

“I didn’t know Captain Marvel spoke bird,” said Daniel, who was, again, thrilled to see the two superheroes crossing over.

This time out, Isis sends her pet raven, Tut, to find Marvel because she’s not able to stop a big storm over the ocean while also getting a stranded ship to shore. One of the students, an eccentric girl named Carrie, has taken out Rick’s fishing boat as a very odd publicity stunt for her class election campaign. So Isis works her magic while Marvel tows the boat home, and maybe later the two superheroes got a cat out of a tree or helped an old lady across the street.

But seriously, the lesson of the week is that you should always care for yourself and not put yourself down. Carrie compensates for thinking herself fat and ugly by dressing outlandishly, acting melodramatically, and driving a rusted, junkheap 1950s car around while lamenting that pretty girls get all the luck. Then, in the way of television, the producers cast a perfectly attractive young actress named Sandra Vacey, who was certainly neither fat nor ugly.

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Shazam! 2.7 – The Odd Couple

At last, Captain Marvel and Isis have their first teamup. In retrospect, the oddest thing about “The Odd Couple” is that it took them so long to establish that the shows take place in the same world and can cross over at all, waiting until the end of Shazam!‘s second season. The heroes join forces to battle the raging stock footage of a forest fire. Yes, it’s easy to mock, but director Hollingsworth Morse had a real challenge with this one, and stock footage was really the only practical solution.

Daniel loved it. He’s used to all the cartoon team-ups, of course, but seeing this in a live-action show was a complete surprise, and had him grinning one of the biggest smiles ever when Les Tremayne showed up in Andrea Thomas’s always-conveniently-empty classroom to ask for Isis’s help. At the beginning of this year, we saw the Green Hornet and Batman team up, but that didn’t really mean anything to him since he didn’t know who the Hornet and Kato were. Heh. Some years down the road when he’s ready for the Arrowverse, his mind’s gonna be blown.

The content of the team-up is pretty mild by itself, but I actually enjoyed the in-universe implications. Indulge me, or call this entry a day, the rest of this is going to get silly. We’ve always taken it for granted that the Elders – unlike the funnybooks, there is no “Wizard Shazam” at the Rock of Eternity – somehow gave Billy the dual identity of Captain Marvel and set him up with Mentor and the RV, but they typically stay at a distance beyond giving Billy little homilies about trust or friendship to get the message-of-the-week going.

This time, though, they flat out tell Billy that Captain Marvel is going to need help before the day is through, and Billy can’t imagine who that could be. Later, when he scouts the forest fire and realizes it’s more than his power set can tackle, it’s Mentor who contacts the Elders with Billy’s code-phrase, and they tell him how to get in contact with Isis. (I’m assuming they also teleport him to her school, because the forest fire is apparently very deep in the wilderness and far from civilization, yet the episode shows Mentor visiting Andrea Thomas like the school’s around the next bend in the road!)

So how does that work, I wonder? All we know of how Andrea got the Isis medallion is that which is revealed in her show’s title sequence, but did the Elders have something to do with that? Or do they just keep tabs on anybody on Earth-Filmation who manages to obtain super powers?

Speaking of Filmation, we’ll return to Shazam! in a few weeks, syncing the third season of the show with Isis‘s second, and look at something else from that studio in the meantime. Stay tuned!

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Shazam! 2.6 – Speak No Evil

The police dispatcher in whatever small town this is really enjoys her job. This time out, the teen vandals who had earlier caused a small fire in the school have climbed the fence at the power plant and started some special effect business with cartoon lightning bolts. The dispatcher radios the sheriff and, proving definitively that you can steal a scene without being in it, ends her transmission by emoting “two kids are trapped… and Sheriff, they are in trouble!”

The vandal who wants to do the right thing is played by Danny Bonaduce, in what appears to be his first job after The Partridge Family ended its four-year run. I wonder how this would have been promoted to the Tiger Beat audience of teen girls in 1975. The episode seems to have originally aired on October 11 that year, but I wonder whether all of Bonaduce’s fans – and they were legion at the time – would have got the word to tune in that morning specifically.

When my daughter was younger and enthralled by non-threatening teen boys like Drake Bell, she would know about every guest appearance such idols would make in any program, because the channels like Nick or Disney would promote these stars’ appearances relentlessly for a couple of weeks. I don’t remember any kind of ads like those on Saturday mornings in the seventies, and think that the Teen Dream mags of the day would just have a blurb about “a forthcoming episode of so-and-so, Saturday mornings on your local CBS station,” because they probably didn’t know what day it would air before they went to press. What’s the point of casting a celebrity if you can’t target his fan base? Things were different then.

Speculation about such matters is far more interesting than this very preachy, very talky episode. Captain Marvel even cautions the audience – I mean, the trapped kids – about messing around with electricity and not to copy what we just saw him do. Captain Marvel is indestructible. You are not. Remember this, and do not try to imitate him.

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Shazam! 2.5 – Goodbye, Packy

Two things to note about this very silly episode. First, the parents rescued a wolf cub and, rather than turn it over to a zoo, they let their daughter bond with the animal for months before realizing that wolves are not easily domesticated. Anybody who does such a thing needs a punch in the nose.

Second, the girl and her wolf run away and end up in a typewriter-cussin’ hot air balloon, for pity’s sake. The rescue is realized by cutting between the gondola, held a few feet off the ground by a crane, and stock footage of a balloon that’s thousands of feet higher in the sky.

Daniel was not interested in this episode, but he did want to ask me about every conceivable animal that shouldn’t be raised as pets. I’m not in favor of keeping pets, generally, so this was a pretty tedious half hour.

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Shazam! 2.4 – Double Trouble

In the previous episode of Shazam!, Filmation landed the very familiar face of Dabbs Greer, and in this one they find a small role for Bill Quinn, who also racked up more than two hundred appearances, and was very well-known to anybody who watched ’70s cop and detective shows. He popped in to darn near every one of them. A couple of years later, he’d play Mr. Van Ranseleer in more than eighty episodes of All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place. Here, he has a brief scene as a rich landowner who wants the sheriff’s son to quit coming onto his property and riding one of his horses around.

But the sheriff has a bigger problem: a crook, wearing a Captain Marvel costume, has robbed a gas station. Captain Marvel turns himself in, and hangs out in jail for several hours, making this the first episode where Marvel gets more screen time – considerably more – than Billy.

My son appreciated the change of tone in this installment. Sure, there’s the inescapable moral message – respect the law – but it was nice to see some actual criminals with an actual plan that involved the hero, which this show had not done previously.

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Shazam! 2.3 – Fool’s Gold

“I wonder who Captain Marvel will rescue in this story,” Daniel asked as we sat down. I’m really pleased by how much he enjoys watching old shows with me.

This one’s really unusual, and I liked it more than most. It’s Jackson Bostwick’s final episode, and his big scene is tunneling into a collapsed mine to rescue an old hobo – slash – prospector who goes by the name Seldom Seen Slim. He’s played by the veteran actor Dabbs Greer, who had a really long career going back to 1950, many of those early roles (312[!!] listed at IMDB) uncredited. You probably know him best as Old Paul in The Green Mile, but he was also Reverend Alden in Little House on the Prairie.

This is subtle, but the usual structure of a Shazam! episode sees Billy and Mentor meeting some characters at the point of a crisis and effecting a reconciliation in some way. This isn’t quite like that; it’s more like a Fugitive or Route 66 where the situation is going to be resolved regardless of our traveling heroes; Richard Kimble or Tod and Buzz (or Linc) just need to stay out of the way, keep their heads down and not get killed as the character drama comes to its conclusion and hope that it’s not too grim.

Obviously, something that is going out to kids on Saturday mornings isn’t going to end badly – certainly not in 1975 – but this doesn’t have the easy and pat moral reminders that a typical Shazam! has, like “don’t tell lies,” “trust the police,” and “don’t hang out with kids who steal cars for joyrides.” The closest thing here would be, what, “don’t be a little ass to old hobos in the desert?” No, the heroes are very much on the periphery of these characters as their story comes to a conclusion, and don’t impact anybody’s understanding or resolve the matter; the hobo and the kids do that on their own.

I wondered whether the writer had actually contributed to more adult dramas in the 1960s to come up with such a structure. It is credited to Olga Palsson Simms, who does not have a listing at IMDB. Google only pulls up this credit and a notation that a woman by that name died in California in 1997. I wonder who she was.

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Shazam! 2.2 – Debbie

I must have been too young for it to really register that there was a different actor playing Captain Marvel at the time, but I think that kids who were older than I was must have been surprised to see a new guy in the role, especially when Jackson Bostwick was back the following week. But that wasn’t to last; Bostwick was let go after filming two episodes, which were aired first and third this season.

For what it’s worth, Filmation immediately put the word out that Bostwick had been holding out for more money, and that John Davey was rushed onto location the same afternoon in July 1975 that he accepted the part. Bostwick countered that he had obtained a mild injury doing a stunt and was actually seeing a doctor when he was expected on location. The Screen Actors Guild later agreed with Bostwick, and Filmation had to pay him for the five episodes (of seven) that they didn’t use him.

The biggest name among the guest stars in this episode is Wallace Earl Laven, who is in two scenes as a mother who, sensibly, doesn’t want her teenage daughter hanging out with some punk who ends up arrested at the end. She had been acting since the 1940s and continued to appear in small TV roles for the next decade. Of principal interest to me, however, is the appearance of an original “mission”-style Taco Bell building, with tacos, tostadas, and bellburgers on the menu. If you don’t blink, you can also spot a big Kentucky Fried Chicken “bucket” sign on the stretch of businesses where they filmed this.

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