Over the past year, I have been reminiscing a lot about the simplicity of my childhood. For years I have wanted the superheroes from my childhood to be taken seriously, with great special effects and wonderfully choreographed fight sequences. And my wish for that has come true. But. But, there is a certain simplicity to the shows I grew up on. These shows had a magic all their own, even though they were corny, with terrible special effects and laughable plotlines, they still helped mold me into the person I am today (I am definitely Corny). Watching them now brings back the awe I felt as a child and reminds me of the innocence I once had.
Below are my top 5 live action television shows that began airing before 1980.
- The Krofft Supershow (Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Wonderbug, Bigfoot and Wildboy)
The show was a compilation of shows airing from 1976 to 1978, the show was hosted by Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, a manufactured band that introduced the segments and performed songs and skits. Segments included, Dr. Shrinker, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Wonderbug, Magic Mongo and Bigfoot and Wildboy. My favorites were Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and Bigfoot and Wildboy.
Electra Woman was like the old Batman TV series. The crime fighting duo worked out of the Electrabase, a cave under their house using a super computer named Crimescope created by the scientist Frank Heflin. Their main weapon were the Electracomps, large box like bracelets they wore that could be programed with different abilities. A pilot for a sitcom like reboot was created in 2001, but was never aired and did not get picked up by the network. A 2016 comedy webseries aired staring Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.
Bigfoot and Wildboy saw the infamous Bigfoot rescue a young boy who got lost in the Sierra mountain range and raise him. Eight years later the duo fight injustice and aliens that threaten their forest homes. When ever either of the two were in distress and needed help, they would call “Bi-Yah-bah!” and the other would respond letting them know that they were on their way to help. The show started on the Krofft Supershow in 1977, but was given their own show for one season in 1979
- Wonder Woman
Before Gal Gadot, there was Linda Carter. The show aired in 1975 on ABC for one season and then moved to CBS for two additional seasons. The iconic Linda Carter played Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner played Steve Trevor (Sr. and Jr.) The first season took place during World War II paying homage to Wonder Woman’s comic book beginnings. When the series moved to CBS, they updated it to Modern Times. The show certainly had its wonderful campy moments, but for the most part took the character seriously. The series suffered from the lack of worthy adversaries, a problem many superhero shows suffer from.
- The Six Million Dollar Man / The Bionic Woman
I list these two shows together, The Bionic Woman is a spinoff of the Six Million Dollar Man, and the two would, at times, join forces. Steve Austin, the bionic man, is a former astronaut who is injured in a NASA test flight accident. Austin (Lee Majors) is saved by having bionic implants replacing both legs and his right arm and left eye which gives him super strength, speed, and sight. He works for the OSI (The Office of Scientific Intelligence). While on missions he used his abilities to fight injustice and espionage.
Steve Austin’s love interest, Jaime Summers (Lindsay Wagner) was injured in a skydiving accident. Steve begs his boss Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) to save Jaime the same way he was saved. He finally relents and Jaime becomes the “Bionic Woman”. Working part time for the OSI and full time as a schoolteacher. She initially does not remember her love for Steve, but in the Made for TV Movies that followed years later, they are reunited and eventually marry.
I usually enjoyed the Bionic Woman series more. The stories seemed better written and had more heart and soul. Lindsay Wagner was amazing making a wonderful role model and hero. The two series started off on the same network, but The Bionic Woman moved to a different network Making Oscar Goldman, one of few characters that plays the same character regularly on two separate networks at the same time. The Six Million Dollar Man aired on ABC from 1974 to 1978. The Bionic Woman aired from 1976-77 on ABC but switched to NBC for its third season ending in 1978.
- Shazam! / Isis hour
Shazam! First aired on its own in 1974 for one season but was then paired with The Secrets of Isis where the two superheroes would occasional cross over. Shazam starred Michael Gray as Billy Batson, who, with a single word, can transform into Captain Marvel played by Jackson Bostwick and later by John Davey. Billy rides around the US in a motorhome with “Mentor” played by Les Tremayne. Each episode taught a “moral” lesson which was explicitly explained. Not only was the show entertaining but it taught children how to be good people.
Isis, stared Joanna Cameron as Andrea Thomas, a seemingly normal school teacher, who becomes the embodiment of the Egyptian Goddess, Isis, by the use of an ancient amulet she discovered while on a dig in Egypt. With the powers of nature at her control, she helps her students by getting them out of tough situations and righting the injustices of the world. Isis invoked her powers using rhyming couplets. An example: In order to fly, she would say, “O zephyr winds which blow on high / Lift me now so I can fly“. Just like her crimefighting friend listed above, each show ended with an explanation of the “moral” of the story. Isis aired for two seasons from 1975 to 1976.
- Captain Cosmic (Space Giants / Ultraman)
The last was a local show hosted by Bob Wilkins playing Captain Cosmic where he would introduce different Science Fiction series. Already a fan of Godzilla, I fell in love with the Japanese Kaiju style shows of Space Giants and Ultraman.
Space Giants ( Ambassador Magma in Japan) was the English dubbed Japanese TV series. The evil monster Rodak comes to conquer Earth, but are stopped by Goldar, a giant gold being with a long mane and antennae, his human sized wife, Silvar, and their normal human boy sized son, Gam. All Three could turn into rocket ships and shoot energy beams from their antennae. Each week they would fight a giant monster that threatened earth.
The original Ultraman saw Shin Hayata given the ability to transform into the giant Ultraman to fight the evil Kaiju’s that were attacking Earth. He could only remain Ultraman for a limited time and the blue indicator on his chest would blink when he was running out of power and needed to change back. Just a few months ago, Marvel Comics acquired the license to make Ultraman comic books.
These are the five shows that molded me into the man I am today. Not sure what that says about me!
The Five: My Top Five Favorite Hero shows (live action) from my childhood
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