Tag Archives: land of the lost

Sid and Marty Krofft Update from Comic-Con 2017

Some very neat news was quietly announced earlier today at San Diego’s Comic-Con, where Sid and Marty Krofft held their annual panel, this time with actor David Arquette and producer Bradley Zweig in tow. They showed a sizzle reel, but they don’t seem to have uploaded it to YouTube yet, so apologies for the poor quality of the photo below.

* 2015’s Electra Woman & Dyna Girl film with Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart got a bit that says “New series and film coming soon,” but they didn’t elaborate on it. The movie actually debuted as a web series, so I’m not sure whether this was an old visual just reminding the audience they’re still active and busy, or if more material with Helbig and Hart is in the works.

* The Sigmund & the Sea Monsters series for Amazon was featured with clips from last summer’s pilot. The series, as reported by Taylor Blackwell last month, will begin streaming in November. I can’t wait!

* The Kroffts have shot a pilot for a reboot of The Bugaloos. This is for Nickelodeon, as announced here. The clips from the pilot featured new versions of the classic characters Courage, Joy, IQ, Harmony, Benita Bizarre, Funky Rat, Woofer, Tweeter, and Sparky. Courage appears to be a girl in this version. Benita Bizarre is played by actress Lise Simms.

* Mutt & Stuff has wrapped production after 73 episodes.

* Further in the future: they’re working on a revamp of D.C. Follies with the title Fake News at the Trump Motel.

* And, inevitably, there’s supposed to be another attempt at Land of the Lost, this time as a one-hour show written and/or produced by Akiva Goldsman. Memo to Sid and Marty: phone David Gerrold. Now.

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Land of the Lost 3.13 – Medicine Man

As Land of the Lost limped to its end, I’d like to take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Well, first I’d like to note that I really do question the decision to end the season, and therefore the series, with a “can’t we all get along” morality tale instead of something with meat on it. Even if these thirteen were made with the expectation and hope that they’d be back for a fourth year, they darn well should have shuffled the order and run “Timestop” last and go out on a high note instead of this weak thing.

Anyway, when we watched the first episode of this season back in May, I wrote about the show’s internal problems, but there were big external issues as well. NBC’s Saturday morning lineup was a real mess in the fall of 1976. As subpar as the last year of Land was, it was, by leagues, the best thing on the network’s schedule.

I think part of the problem came from a resistance to cartoons that had worked its way into the NBC mindset. To be fair, most of what Hanna-Barbera and their peers were pitching in 1976 was truly terrible, but the kidvid censors and advocacy groups were really, really loud then, and I think NBC decided to cave. Their 1976 lineup featured a half-hour of Woody Woodpecker repeats followed by a 90-minute anthology package of godawful cartoons under the Pink Panther banner: forgettable junk like Texas Toads and Misterjaw. Then the live-action started: Land was the anchor at 11 am, preceded by McDuff the Talking Dog and Monster Squad, and followed by Robbie Rist in Big John, Little John, Don Kirshner’s oddball Monkee-lite Kids from C.A.P.E.R., and the real square peg, Muggsy, a videotape drama about a thirteen year-old girl on the mean streets of Bridgeport, with no fantasy elements at all. I have no memory of Muggsy; it is possible that WSB, which was then the NBC station, did not show it in Atlanta.

The night before the new lineup, Freddie Prinze hosted the customary Saturday morning preview show, with the Kids from C.A.P.E.R., Robbie Rist, and the Monster Squad at the Magic Mountain amusement park. You can watch it on YouTube here. Pop ahead to 21:45 to see how NBC’s publicity department has no idea whatsoever how to promote Muggsy. I love these preview shows, they’re all pretty bugnuts, but this one has the amazing aura of complete and total desperation.

We’ll come back to Monster Squad before the end of the year. Time has proven it to be pretty dire, but I absolutely adored it as a kid, and I’m keen to watch it with Daniel. ABC had the incredibly popular Scooby-Doo, teamed with the popular new characters Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, as their Saturday morning anchor, leading into the hugely successful Krofft Supershow. This may have been the only occasion that the Kroffts had two of their programs broadcast at the same time, and the Supershow just destroyed Land, along with Monster Squad and Big John, Little John. I can’t swear to my little kid memories, but I think that I probably watched Monster Squad and Land before switching over to the last half-hour of the Supershow. Not many other people did that. The Scooby-Doo/Supershow combo was huge, and would take down a couple of CBS programs that we will also discuss before the season was finished.

NBC shuffled some of their fall ’76 programs around, and dusted off some ancient Speed Buggy and Space Ghost cartoons to sub for some of the live-action bombs, but nothing worked. The whole lineup was axed in the end, but wouldn’t you know it, the exact same thing happened the following season. In the fall of 1977, NBC launched five hours of turkeys that flopped so badly that, within a few months, they were once again digging around in the archives for older shows to prop the numbers up a little bit. To save their bacon, they put on some repeats of Harlem Globetrotters, Hong Kong Phooey, and… Land of the Lost.

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Land of the Lost 3.12 – Scarab

If you ever want a perfect example of a middle-of-the-road “just okay” episode of Land of the Lost season three, this’ll do. It’s perfectly exciting for kids – ours was practically hopping up and down – and has lots of dinosaurs, and the central mystery of “why is Cha-Ka acting awful” is perfectly directed at five year-olds, who won’t figure it out instantly. It has the requisite spooky caves and danger, with the Sleestak Leader giving clearly understandable threats and villainy. It’s all perfectly adequate kidvid, in other words. Daniel was excited and worried, which is exactly how this should be.

From grownup eyes, there are plot problems (everything about Enik’s knowledge of ancient Egyptian magic bugs), production problems (it wasn’t just a fumble in the title sequence; the Grumpy puppet evidently didn’t survive between seasons) and direction problems (once again, somebody has the Sleestak actors try to run, which they simply cannot do in those costumes). It’s succeeding as entertainment exclusively with kids, which wasn’t how this should be.

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Land of the Lost 3.11 – Ancient Guardian

Well, here’s a pleasant surprise. This episode is markedly better than I remembered it. I’d place it in that top tier with “After-Shock,” “Cornered,” and “Timestop.” Weirdly, this is another one of the better episodes of year three that ends with Wesley Eure lip-synching one of his bubblegum songs. You’d think that sort of thing would lower the installment a notch or two, but no, it’s really not bad, and better than the average.

I love that it just dumps more information and half-explained material into the story, including a new area that they’ve never visited. Most unusually, the episode opens with the Marshalls being pursued by some unseen tree-climbing creatures that are throwing things at them. These beasts, whatever they are, are never mentioned again.

The ancient guardian of the title is a statue with a heat ray inside. It has been protecting the valley from an incredibly long-lived hairy beast called Kona for many, many years by keeping the rocks and air in the only passage from a high mountain area super-heated.

It’s clunky, and during one dopey moment where Jack concludes that some algebraic equations on the statue have to do with optics, obnoxiously so. It’s directed with absolutely no grace or style by Joe Scanlan, who has to once again lower the Sleestaks’ threat level by having them flee, awkwardly, in terror from Kona rather than fighting to the death. It’s written by Peter Germano, and 90% of his resume prior to this was westerns and not SF, but somehow it all just about works, and there’s a sense of weirdness and urgency that raises the episode above the low average for the season.

Incidentally, some money was clearly saved this week by having the Tapa costume from “Abominable Snowman” dyed and sent back for a different actor to wear. Last time, Jon Locke, who normally played the bombastic Sleestak Leader, wore the suit, but this time, Locke has to appear in some of the same scenes as the beast, so Mickey Morton plays Kona. Morton, who was a really big guy, would later play Solomon Grundy in Legends of the Superheroes and one of Chewbacca’s relatives in The Star Wars Holiday Special. He’d earlier worked for the Kroffts on two episodes of Far Out Space Nuts, and in a Wonderbug installment that was probably made within a month or so of this. The first commercial break came with the hairy monster casting a shadow on the Marshalls’ temple door, which gave Daniel a solid little fright. He really enjoyed this episode, especially since both Grumpy and Spike put in brief appearances.

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Land of the Lost 3.10 – Timestop

From the ridiculous to the (almost) sublime, “Timestop” is by leagues the best episode of Land of the Lost‘s third season, and it’s probably not coincidental that it’s the only one of the thirteen to have any writing or directing input from somebody who worked on the show’s first two years. Tom Swale had been a “production coordinator” – I’m honestly not sure what that entails – on season one and moved up to associate producer on season two, where he contributed two excellent stories.

“Timestop” is almost as good. I think it’s one draft away from being ideal. It really should have written out Enik, which, to be completely fair, isn’t the sort of thing that kids’ shows did forty years ago, but it missed a great opportunity by way of a big plot hole. The story concerns an old Altrusian “temporal regulator” that Will and Holly find. Enik wants it to return home, but they find themselves at cross-purposes. Things get worse when Torchy, the fire-breathing dimetrodon, chases Cha-Ka out onto a geyser bed and – get this – sinks to its death beneath the soft mud. I clearly remember this blowing my mind as a kid, and today, my son also gave this a solid, eyes-popped-out “whoa.”

But Cha-Ka is now stranded next to the geyser on a small patch of rock, and will also be killed when the geyser next erupts. Enik explains to Jack that anybody inside the pylon that the temporal regulator controls will be unaffected by reversing the flow of time, and they agree to a deal: Jack reverses time to save Cha-Ka, and then Enik opens a separate door to reverse his own timestream and go home, but then Enik idiotically steps outside and lets Jack get on with it, meaning he gets reversed as well, while Cha-Ka and Torchy get saved. As errors go, that was a massive one. Why in heaven would he do that?

In a perfect world, this should have been the season finale, writing out Walker Edmiston’s character, and giving the Marshalls a heroic finale, sacrificing their opportunity to leave to save both Cha-Ka and Enik. Since the series was not going to get renewed – more on that in a couple of weeks, although, since all thirteen episodes were probably taped before the first one aired, they couldn’t have known that – it would have served as the best possible series conclusion from the shows available.

So on the one hand, I can’t help but grumble about the missed opportunity, but “Timestop” is nevertheless a really good half hour. It brings back that sense of exploration and discovery that has been badly lacking this year – to its credit, the next episode also has a bit of it, though nowhere as good – and plays with science fiction elements with more success than any other installment this year. The sense of danger is massively ramped up, and the split-second error where Jack accidentally moves time forward, almost killing Cha-Ka with the geyser’s eruption, gave Daniel a sudden and genuine scare. When the episode concludes with another dead end – the resurrected Torchy blasts the pylon with enough heat to fuse its key in place, keeping anybody from entering it to use the temporal regulator – it’s downright heartbreaking.

But honestly, what’s really heartbreaking is knowing that Land of the Lost was once this good every week.

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Land of the Lost 3.9 – Abominable Snowman

I still have my View-Master reels of this episode, which I believe my mom bought for 89 cents at K-Mart. By an astonishing coincidence, 89 cents is also about how much they spent on the abominable snowman costume in this story.

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Land of the Lost 3.8 – Hot-Air Artist

So I was mentioning David Healy the other day, and here’s the story. I’m not blogging about it because we’re not watching it with Daniel, but Marie and I are slowly making our way through the terrific Jason King, an ITC adventure series from 1973.

Part of the fun, for me, is spotting all the recognizable actors in the guest cast, people who also showed up on Doctor Who and The Avengers like Nicholas Courtney, Kate O’Mara, and Ronald Lacey. I try not to cheat, and wait until the episode’s over before checking out imdb.com, but when David Healy showed up as an undercover CIA agent, it drove me nuts because I knew that I remembered him from somewhere. I was pleasantly surprised to realize he had been among the voice cast of Captain Scarlet, which we’d just finished watching with Daniel, so I’d heard his voice on about twenty occasions over the previous six months. Then I read a little further over Healy’s long list of credits and realized we’d be seeing him in this episode.

So there’s your connection between Sid and Marty Krofft and Gerry Anderson. I was going to say that this may not be all that interesting, but it’s more interesting than this episode, but then Daniel got absolutely horrified by the climax, in which Healy’s character, a self-promoting aviator and adventurer from 1920 named Roscoe Post, attempts to abduct Cha-Ka. He drew up on the couch, eyes wide and hand over his mouth in shock, and was incredibly relieved when Cha-Ka escaped from the balloon’s gondola.

As is usual in season three, you sort of have to accept that however all these guest stars are getting into the Land of the Lost, they’re able to retrace their steps precisely, and rather than the manipulated time doorways of the previous seasons and the specific rules for them, there are just random cracks in time that people can access back and forth, because none of this makes any sense otherwise.

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Land of the Lost 3.7 – Flying Dutchman

My wife suggested that it was kind of inevitable that they’d do a Flying Dutchman episode. This or the Marie Celeste, I said. And it’s a little frustrating, because there’s the germ of a really, really good story here, but it never quite gels. Or perhaps it’s just a standard borderline-okay season three episode that’s really elevated by Rex Holman’s performance as Captain Ruben Van der Meer. He’s believably haunted, really fascinating in a quiet, compellingly understated way.

He’s especially effective when compared with Richard Kiel, back for a second appearance as Malak, all bluster and yelling. Malak helps sink what should have been a much more interesting episode. Perhaps Kiel was under contract for two stories and they had to find something for him to do? So there are two plots intertwined in a program with only twenty-three minutes to spare them. Neither is well developed, and the whole show seems very oddly rushed, damaging what seemed like a promising, weird story that would have benefited from more time.

Daniel said that this installment was “pretty cool,” though he was much less vocal and wild about it than the previous six episodes. He most enjoyed the too-brief animation of the galleon lifting off and vanishing into the mists, and a bit where they fire a mini-cannon to scare off the Sleestak.

Rex Holman, incidentally, never did find the star vehicle that he deserved. He had dozens of small parts in TV shows, mainly in the sixties and mainly in westerns, and these petered out instead of building into a regular part somewhere. Looking over IMDB, I can’t honestly swear that I’ve seen any but a few, but one of his great roles was as that odd version of Morgan Earp in my favorite Star Trek episode, “Spectre of the Gun.” Nobody believes me when I say that unloved, weird, no-budget hour is my favorite episode of that show, but it’s true.

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