Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "The Lure of the Lost" (September 28, 1974)

The Filmation live-action series Shazam (1974 – 1977) grows a bit more serious this week with an entry titled “The Lure of the Lost.”  While most series stories thus far have concerned juvenile or adolescent topics such as peer pressure (“The Joyriders”), being nice to your sibling (“The Brothers), or even caring for a pet (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”), this episode actually involves youngsters becoming involved with drug dealers and illegal drugs. 

As “The Lure of the Lost” commences, Mentor (Les Tremayne) and Billy Batson (Michael Gray) argue over what kind of music to listen to in their “far out” camper.  Mentor prefers Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but Billy likes “modern pop.”  Before radio privileges can be determined, a call from the Elders comes in.  Billy learns from the Gods about a “girl avoiding responsibility” that he will soon meet.

But in a variation from recent and established series formula, the Elders provide no famous quotation from a literary or historical source to guide Billy on his quest.  Instead, they simply note “the way is yours to choose.”  Perhaps it was too much trouble to find good quotations once the grind of the series was in full swing, or perhaps the producers were simply attempting to dial back the moralizing.  Also by allowing Billy to choose his own course, the writers make room for a little more heroism in the series.  He’s not quite so…programmed.

Anyway, Mentor and Billy soon meet Holly (Christina Hart), a flighty girl who has driven her VW bug into a ditch.  They help free the car, but when Holly leaves behind her purse, Billy finds illegal drugs in it. When confronted, Holly claims that they belong to her brother, who has fallen in with a villainous drug dealer.  Captain Marvel saves her brother, Gary, during a car chase, and instructs Holly to bring the drugs to the police.  But instead Holly flushes the drugs down the toilet to spare Gary any jail time, an act certain to have repercussions.

To be continued…

I must confess, I was a little surprised to see the generally benign and child-like Shazam! go into a story involving teens using and selling drugs.  Even more radically, one of the drug dealers is really destructive and immune to lessons about moral goodness.  He actually lies and claims that Billy is a drug pusher, which confuses Holly and makes it difficult to achieve her total trust. 

Although this is hardly Batman fighting Bane or Superman fighting a trio of villains from the Phantom Zone, “The Lure of the Lost” possesses a bit more danger and intrigue than some of the other episodes.  Usually, bad kids completely fold when faced with the upright moral values of Billy or Captain Marvel.  Here, Holly goes against his wishes and destroys the drugs.

Still, as an artifact from the didactic era of kids programming on Saturday mornings, this episode of Shazam feels a lot more like an After School Special than it does a superhero production.

This story-line concludes in next week’s tale “The Road Back.”

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