Monday, August 8, 2016

Superheroes: Pioneers of Television

Earlier this year I reviewed Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle on here. That DVD was actually part of a two pack that went along with another PBS 2014 documentary that is the subject of today’s blog, Superheroes: Pioneers of Television (trailer).

The theme for Pioneers of Television is that it documents five of the original live action TV series that were a nationwide hit back when there were only a handful of TV stations available in all homes. Ryan Seacrest narrates this feature that is just under an hour as the documentary shifts from focusing on the following series: Adventures of Superman (1952-58), Batman (1966-68), Wonder Woman (1975-79), The Incredible Hulk (1978-82) and Greatest American Hero (1981-83).

I knew of most of these shows, but probably never seen more than several of them all together when stumbling upon them channel surfing. The TV series that stuck out the most to me was Batman as I recall being perplexed watching it as a kid when the campy nature of the show went right over my head. The feature tracks down several cast and crew members for memories including star player, Adam West and his sidekick Burt Ward. The feature made sure to mention how quick the rise and fall of the show was and the cast and crew even talked a little trash on the behind-the-scenes drama between West and Ward.

I do not recall watching any episodes of the old Wonder Woman show, so it was a very appreciated learning experience hearing interviews from star Lynda Carter and other cast and crew members. It seemed like it borrowed a lot of the campy nature of the Batman series, but also paved the way as one of the first shows with a strong female lead. I do recall seeing a few episodes of The Incredible Hulk as a kid and recall being petrified of Banner going green and morphing into the Hulk. The documentary pulls archived interviews from the late Lou Ferrigno who portrayed Hulk, and Bill Bixby who was his lesser half, Bruce Banner. They share some interesting anecdotes on how they got casted and production problems that lead them to rely on Ferrigno’s natural strength instead of Hollywood effects.

I am only familiar with Adventures of Superman because of the series being a vital part of Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the show’s star, George Reeves in the film, Hollywoodland. The documentary makes sure to chronicle Reeves’ personal demons that affected him behind-the-scenes as the series went on and how everything leads up to his controversial murder/suicide. Greatest American Hero was the only show covered hero I have zero memories of all together and had no idea of its existence until it was covered here. It was more of a light-hearted comedy with the premise being of an ordinary man played by William Katt stumbling upon a supersuit without instructions so he is discovering his powers as the show progresses. Katt and other crew members provide insight on how they became disinterested with the show as it went along and had to take orders from the studio to transition it into more of a campy comedy like Batman.

There is not a whole lot in the way of extra features on the disc, with only two bonus scenes of interview snippets from Adam West and Burt Ward. It was enlightening learning some more info on a lot of these shows I was only faintly familiar with as a kid, but obviously I probably would have gotten more out of this if I was a generation or two older and grew up with these shows. Since it attempts to cover several shows in under an hour there is only so much detail they dedicate to each series, but the time allotted to each show seemed about right with my familiarity with the series covered. Pioneers of Television is a nice supplementary piece that came packaged with A Never-Ending Battle, and all together made for a nice bundled value of the $20 I believe I paid for it at Target.

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

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