I was so sorry to read overnight that Joanna Cameron passed away on Friday. She retired from acting and modelling in 1980, but had been a familiar face to television viewers for the previous ten years. While best known as the superhero Isis on CBS’s Saturday morning series, viewers at the time regularly saw her in more than a hundred different TV commercials and guest star parts, including a great 1974 Columbo. Our condolences to her family and friends.
As the show wrapped up with its big climactic action scene (chuckle), our son shouted “Hey! That’s the first time they’ve ever shown Isis and Captain Marvel flying together!” And it would be the last. That’s probably a good thing; I swear all of Filmation’s special effects budget and know-how must have gone to Ark II in ’76, because I had just about enough of the crummy processing effects this season.
As I said last time, Filmation deserves a thumbs-up for being ahead of their time with the idea of a big season finale against a larger-than-usual threat. But of course, it’s 1976 and children’s TV advocates won’t let anybody do anything violent, so you’ve got the Supersleuths yelling and jumping at the bad guys but not actually threatening anybody. Rick Mason jumps in the villain’s getaway helicopter, and they… go up, and Captain Marvel pulls the copter back down. Excitement abounds!
Also, I missed it in part one of this story, but one of the baddies is played by Michael Blodgett, who had previously appeared on TV that season as King Alex in two episodes of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl a couple of weeks earlier.
But that’s that for Captain Marvel and Isis. If you’ve got a five year-old in your house, then you might enjoy watching these programs with your kid. Ours was so endlessly fascinated by Isis’s ever-changing powers – “I never saw her make twelve versions of herself before!” – that it often out-charmed the tame production. But next on the block, in a couple of days, we’ll look at a very, very different type of superhero.
It’s a million miles from a contemporary superhero show, but give the people at Filmation credit for a little ahead-of-their-day thinking. They wrapped up Isis‘s second season with a two-part team-up with Captain Marvel that not only featured actual villains with a sci-fi threat, but also with three new characters who were hoping to be spun off into their own show in the next season. The baddies have stolen a device that controls the weather. The only other time we’ve seen technology anything like this was in a season one story with a force field.
This was Daniel’s first experience with a backdoor pilot. Filmation was hoping to sell a network on The Supersleuths, three good-looking young people who travel around in a van and solve mysteries. Not at all like the Scooby Gang or the Clue Club or Josie and the Pussycats, honest. He enjoyed the episode and is looking forward to part two. As with the pair of two-parters in the first season of Shazam!, this doesn’t have a cliffhanger ending; it just stops at an appropriate part in the narrative.
The Supersleuths were played by Ranji, Craig Wasson, and Evan C. Kim. That’s how he’s listed, Ranji. IMDB doesn’t have another credit for the actor. The character sings, plays guitar, and does magic. Wasson played Feather, who’s streetwise and does impressions, and Kim played CJ, who provides the muscle. If their show had gone to series, then of course we’d watch it for the blog, just like I’m sure we’d consider watching Gary Seven, Mr. Bevis, and The Coltons in some parallel universe.
We finished watching Shazam! this evening. After 28 installments, the show was not picked up for a fourth season, because, as mentioned a few posts back, Scooby Doo and his new pal Dynomutt had almost every kid’s attention that season. So, with a second appearance by Isis, the show wrapped up with some of the most incompetent villains I’ve ever seen, even grading on the curve of a Filmation show.
You should see these two dimwits robbing a “hi-fi store.” No gloves, no masks, an unbelievably distinctive green custom van. The duo spend the episode trying to regain some super 8 film that might show them loading boxes from a couple shooting a documentary about Main Street that might have caught them. Nobody ever actually develops the film to find out. With fingerprints all over the place and a getaway shaggin’ wagon that can be seen from across town, they’d have done better to make for Mexico.
Then the dimwits manage to get themselves trapped in a cave. Andrea Thomas just happens to be in town for the documentary festival, and tags along with the cops for what turns into a rescue party. Before she bothers turning into Isis, she’s even putting her arm on the filmmaker guy’s shoulder, whom she has not actually met or exchanged a single word with before. I’m sorry, but it really looks like while she’s out of town, she’s looking for some action.
So that’s that for Shazam!. It was often even sillier than I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the guest stars, and by many of the stunts in the first fifteen half-hours. It may not have had the Monster Society of Evil, but it succeeded in entertaining our five year-old, who once again punched the air when Andrea turned into Isis. It was actually pretty cute the way he was hoping that Andrea would change into her superhero costume, as though there were any chance at all she wouldn’t. It’s really not a bad show at all, provided you’re watching it alongside the target audience.
I’m not calling this episode predictable, but if you watch an episode of anything made in the 1970s that introduces a character who owns a restaurant, you can be reasonably assured that the cast will be eating there in the final scene. This restaurant is owned by a character played by the veteran Chinese-American actor Victor Sen Yung in one of his final roles toward the end of a very long career. He was best known for playing Hop Sing in Bonanza.
Something happened today that was far more interesting than anything in this half-hour. Daniel volunteered that Isis is his favorite superhero, “because she can tell the earth to do anything and she can tell the sky to do anything.”
Daniel knew where this episode was headed early on. They’re really heavy-handed about cheating in these shows, aren’t they? This time out, a cheerleader pilfers the questions for the chemistry test and is really obnoxiously brazen about it, but our son knew that she shouldn’t be doing that.
The cheerleader was played by Laurette Spang, who’d later play Cassiopeia in the original Battlestar Galactica. I kind of felt like the episode’s director, Hollingsworth Morse, asked her to play it exactly like Maureen McCormick would have played an episode of The Brady Bunch where Marcia decides to cheat. The head of the cheerleading squad was played by Danil Thorppe, who would later have a recurring role as a detective in the very ’80s cop show Hunter.
This is, by leagues, the best episode of either show so far this season. It’s the first of the year’s team-ups, and it’s got sharks, actual bad guys, and a dune buggy. That’s a whole lot more of interest than any other half-hour of the year.
Daniel really liked watching it. It sets up Isis’s arrival very early on, since it turns out that her raven, Tut, also hangs out with another teacher, a Sister Mary Katherine, and some of her students stumble on some stolen money buried on the beach after a bank robbery. So he got to grin about Tut and hope, hope, hope that Isis would also be coming by later on. He probably had his fingers crossed for about fifteen minutes and Isis didn’t let him down.
The climax is in the running for the weirdest special effect of the show. The robbers run into a convenient natural tunnel in the mountain, and Captain Marvel jackhammers the ground with a thick tree branch. Then he drags the long stretch of broken ground out of the cave, just tugging at a big length of fabric with dirt and rocks all over it, with the two bank robbers lying prone at the superheroes’ feet. Anything to avoid actual physical interaction and get the censors and the kidvid safety advocates all hot and bothered, I suppose.
A special note for anybody really concerned about the continuity in these shows: here, Isis already knows Billy Batson, although in the previous two team-ups, the superheroes only met with Billy already as Marvel. I’d like to think that in between seasons, Billy, Mentor, and Andrea had a nice dinner somewhere and discussed all this superhero stuff, whether they wanted to attend the Justice League’s Thanksgiving dinner, and how nice it is that they never have to punch anybody’s lights out like Steve Austin, the Gemini Man, and the robot from Future Cop always had to do.
Continuing the tedium, this time out we have a practical joker on campus. He nearly kills Rennie in a lab accident that spills chemicals all over the floor, and then he sabotages the school bus that takes everybody on a field trip. It’s called “The Class Clown,” but “The Sociopath” might have been a more honest title.
As inevitably as the rise of the sun, one of these shows did a “don’t hitchhike” episode. But I think they got this one backward, honestly. The first time the naughty hitchhiker, played by Jewel Blanch, gets into a stranger’s car, he drives it off a cliff. The second time, reasoning that he’s not a stranger any longer, the car’s electrical system shorts out, leaving them stranded on train tracks with the power locks down. So the lesson probably shouldn’t be “don’t get into strangers’ cars,” but “don’t let Jewel Blanch into your car; she’s bad luck.”
Striving for the moral high ground, we reminded Daniel not to get into a car with strangers. “I know that,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
Isis began its second season with the most boring half hour of television ever produced. It’s notable only for introducing Ronalda Douglas, on the right above, as Rennie Carol. She took over from Joanna Pang, as we can assume that her character of Cindy Lee graduated between seasons. The episode also stars Gregory Elliot in his first credited Hollywood part, per IMDB. He’d later have a recurring role on Tales of the Gold Monkey.
Huh. You get so used to Isis using magic that it was actually a little surprise to have her stop a runaway truck by just climbing in the cab and hitting the brakes.
Anyway, this was the last episode of the show’s first season, and the last one for Joanna Pang, who didn’t return when the show went back into production for the 1976 season. The guest villain – another misguided kid – was played by Paul Hinckley. Two seasons later, he would star opposite Lennie Weinrib in 1977’s Magic Mongo for Sid and Marty Krofft. These are his only credits on IMDB.