Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Bigfoot and Wildboy (1976 - 1979): "The Abominable Snowman"

The production team of Sid and Marty Krofft, and creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears bring us our next Saturday morning series here on the blog: Bigfoot and Wildboy (1976 – 1979).  

This unusual series aired on ABC, first as part of the 90-minute The Krofft Supershow and then in its own time slot for a season in 1979.

Originally, The Krofft Supershow was a kind of compendium or anthology of series. Each week, Captain Kool (Michael Lembeck) and the Kongs would introduce episodes of Dr. Shrinker, Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl and Wonderbug.

In the second season, Dr. Shrinker was dropped in favor of Magic Mongo and Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl was traded for Bigfoot and Wildboy.

As I’ve written here and in other venues, Bigfoot was a major “thing” in the 1970s, explored in documentaries, and imagined on such series as The Six Million Dollar Man (1973 – 1978) and The Bionic Woman (1976 – 1978).  So, a Saturday morning series about Sasquatch must have seemed like a slam dunk.

In Bigfoot and Wildboy, Ray Butcher stars as Bigfoot, an intelligent (if hairy…) creature who, eight years before the start of the series, befriends a child and raises him in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. 

This child becomes Wildboy, Bigfoot's sidekick and friend. In the first year of the series, Wildboy is often accompanied by a Native American girl, Susie (Monika Ramirez), on their adventures.

It is plain from a screening of a few episodes that The Six Million Dollar Man’s Bigfoot is a significant and important inspiration for this series. We see several shots, for example, in each episode, of Bigfoot running and jumping in slow-motion, to strange “whooshing” sounds.

In fact, “The Abominable Snowman,” an episode aired in two fifteen minute parts, features a lot of filler, and that filler consists of Bigfoot running through the countryside, and jumping.  

The special effects look impressive in a seventies kind of way, in the same way as the effects do on the aforementioned bionic series.  But too much of anything -- even Bigfoot running and jumping -- gets old quick.  These scenes are repetitive and sort of dull, today.

In “The Abominable Snowman,” an evil scientist, Dr. Porthos (David Hurst), plans to intercept an important U.S. weather satellite from his base in a ghost town in the Pacific Northwest. He deploys his robotic Abominable Snowman to keep strangers at bay.

A young man named Toby (Christopher Braun) returns to the town to visit his father, but is accosted by the Yeti robot.  Before long, Wild-Boy, Bigfoot and Susie come to his aid, and attempt to stop the robot, and prevent Dr. Porthos from interfering in the launch.

During the course of the episode, Bigfoot gets locked in a vault, but fights his way out, and ultimately saves the weather rocket/satellite. He also defeats the shaggy-looking Abominable Snowbot.

This isn’t a Filmation series, so Bigfoot and Wildboy goes light -- at least here -- on the preachy moralizing. Instead, this is a straight-up adventure show, with an unusual set of superheroes.  It’s a little strange watching the first episode because nobody considers it strange to see Bigfoot for the first time. Instead, characters just accept that he’s there, and committed to helping out.

I’d have to stop and think for a minute.  Wow, Bigfoot is real.  And he can talk. And he can raise human children….

The writing is pretty shallow here, truth be told, and Dr. Porthos boasts no real motive for wanting to control the government’s new weather satellite.  

Also, it isn’t clear why he would not build a Bigfoot robot, rather than a Yeti-bot, given the part of the world where his HQ is located.

In short, “Abominable Snowman” -- and indeed Bigfoot and Wildboy itself -- helps to explain why the seventies were so weird.  How do you explain a show like this today?  A leaping, racing (in slow mo) Sasquatch and his teenage ward fight criminals in the Pacific Northwest, and nobody thinks that’s weird?

Yup, it was the seventies all right.  I loved growing up there.

1 comment:

  1. John I absolutely agree with your thoughts..."
    Yup, it was the seventies all right. I loved growing up there."

    SGB :)