Guess which Saturday morning series I'm blogging next?
Truth be told, Land of the Lost is my all-time favorite Saturday morning series, even though I love space adventures like Space Academy and Jason of Star Command. I'm also a real fan of a forgotten series called Run, Joe, Run, about a dog/fugitive on the lam from the law, accused of a crime he didn't commit. It was also a live-action series, it starred a german shepherd, and it ran for two seasons, concurrent with Land of the Lost, if I'm not mistaken.
Anyway, I don't know if I'm committing yet to blog all three seasons of Land of the Lost, because that's forty-three episodes, and - well - I like to keep my options open. But I'll start with the first season, and then see how I'm feeling. The animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes is due out on DVD in a few short weeks, and I would also like to post about that for Saturday morning cult TV blogging too. I haven't seen that series since 1975!
I've written about Land of the Lost at length before. Here's a "retro-file" that I penned a few years ago, and it's replete with interviews from many of the people involved in the show, including Spencer Milligan (Rick Marshall), Walker Edmiston (Enik), co-creator Allan Foshko, Marty Krofft (producer), executive producer Albert Tenzer and more. Below is a snippet:
The year was 1974 B.C [Before Cable]...
Decades before Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton ushered moviegoers through the gates of Jurassic Park, American children of the disco decade knew exactly where to get their fill of prehistoric action. For three seasons, from 1974 to 1976, every Saturday morning was reserved for NBC and the fantastic world of Sid and Marty Krofft's live action dinosaur romp, Land of the Lost.
A generation later, a big budget feature film is in the planning process and Rhino Entertainment has released a handful of original series episodes on DVD and VHS. Linda Laurie's series theme music has become part and parcel of the American pop culture landscape and it acquaints viewers with the story of Land of the Lost better than any synopsis.
To paraphrase, Marshall (Spencer Milligan), Will (Wesley Eure) and Holly (Kathy Coleman), on a routine expedition, experience the "greatest earthquake ever known." They plunge down a waterfall in the Grand Canyon and find themselves lost in a closed, prehistoric, pocket universe known to its bizarre denizens as - you guessed it - The Land of the Lost. In this brave new world, the Marshalls encounter friends such as Cha-Ka, a brave little Pakuni ape-boy, and a baby brontosaur, Dopey. However, even as they attempt to return to their twentieth century home using the Land of the Lost's strange crystal technology (housed in pyramidal stations termed pylons), the family grapples with a T-Rex named Grumpy, his distaff opponent, the allosaur Big Alice, and the nefarious Sleestak.
Hissing lizard people, the Sleestak are the devolved remnants of the once-advanced Altrusian culture and the inhabitants of a mysterious lost city hewn out of stone. On more than one occasion, the Sleestak seek to feed the Marshalls to their (off-screen) God, a bellowing monstrosity inhabiting a smoky pit.
Though all three Jurassic Park movies have deposited adults and kids in the path of rampaging dinosaurs, this was a revolutionary approach back in 1973 when the TV series was formulated; "We were trying to find a habitat that could feature dinosaurs and a family...and those two entities together worked out to be a really good combination," Marty Krofft remembers fondly.
He is also quick to credit his creative team for its input. "Great things happen when you have imaginative people aboard, and we had Allan Foshko, who had worked with us on other things, and it was a very collaborative effort. You have a few nightmares and you come up with these wild characters and places."
According to Foshko, series co-creator and then-vice-president in charge of new programming for the Kroffts, all of the dino-mite excitement commenced with Sid Krofft's long-standing affection for dinosaurs and dinosaur movies.
After that, however, it was up to Foshko to set the scene. "You can't go back in time as easily as you can create something new, so I thought about the possibility of how we could transport a team back into the prehistoric era," Foshko muses.
"After some research, I discovered the Grand Canyon had been underwater at some time in history, and it is the most awesome of our natural monuments. There are so many things about the Grand Canyon we don't know, and one of which was that there could have been another land underneath it, because a stream had eaten its way down through all those layers of sediment for millions of years. And so it seemed to me a perfect setting."
From that provocative notion, Foshko and the Kroffts shot a live-action, 30-minute pilot featuring a combination of then-revolutionary special effects, including matte paintings and blue screens. Featuring voice-over narration and clips of actors interacting with what Foshko calls "gargantuan beasts and dinosaurs," the pilot was test-marketed by NBC and the response was overwhelming."
"The pilot had the feel of Alice in Wonderland or Journey to the Center of the Earth, with these people falling into another world," Foshko remembers with enthusiasm. "The story just flowed, and with these hand-painted storyboards and collages, it was an unusual approach to doing this presentation. We had music and special effects and all kinds of magic. For TV, it was revolutionary..."