Saturday, May 09, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Secrets of Isis: "The Hitchhiker" (September 8, 1976)

In “The Hitchhiker,” two high school girls -- Hope (Jewel Blanch) and Joanne (Lynn Tufield) -- make a habit of hitchhiking. 

One morning they almost die when their driver, an irresponsible teenager named Charlie (Barry Miller) takes them on a speeding trip that catches the eyes of the police and nearly ends with a deadly wreck.

Fortunately, Isis (Joanna Cameron) is present, and helps the girls avoid a deadly crash. Joanne promises that she will never “hitchhike again,” but Hope doesn’t seem to get the message.

The next day, rather than wait for the bus with Joanne, Hope gets back in the car with Charlie, and another dangerous ride ensues.

This time, however, his car breaks down on railroad tracks as a train barrels towards it...

According to Saturday morning television, hitchhiking was apparently one of the great social issues of the 1970s. It was dangerous…and everybody was doing it!

Secrets of Isis (1975 – 1976) takes on the problem in “The Hitchhiker,” an episode which sees the super heroine helping two teenage girls who fall in with the wrong driver.  

And yes, this narrative or plot-line was absolutely re-used on an episode of The All-New Super Friends in 1977 (“Hitchhike.”)  There, two high-school girls also ran afoul of a bad driver, and required rescue from the Wonder Twins.

The idea of both of these stories (and for audiences) is: get scared straight!  

Violent, dangerous hitchhiking incidents should prove how dangerous it is, and prevent people (especially kids) from doing it. Today it all feels like silly exaggeration, and much ado about nothing.  I find it hard to believe that teenage hitchhiking was ever quite the epidemic that Saturday mornings of the disco decade made it out to be.

Intriguingly, this is one of the few episodes of Isis in which we see Mrs. Thomas (Cameron) actually teach a class.  Here, she undertakes a chemistry lesson, but it’s really all about hitchhiking. She discusses the danger of a “catalyst” in an unpredictable situation, and likens it to the plight of Joanne and Hope.

The driver in this case, Charlie, is the episode’s real menace.  He decides to take the girls on a police chase, drives the car through a parked construction vehicle, runs off the road, drives without a license, and stalls out on the aforementioned race tracks. Charlie learns the error of his ways at the end (on Isis, the perps always do…) but if anyone on the series ever deserved some jail time, it’s this guy.

In terms of Isis and her abilities, we see her take apart the molecular cohesion of a vehicle in the road, so that Charlie’s car won’t crash into it.  

Molecules by which we’re bound separate…let space be found,” she says, invoking the mighty goddess.

Vis-à-vis the series’ special effects, there appears to be some new footage of Isis in flight this week. I would say this is so, in part, because these shots feature Isis’s new hair-do and cut.

Next week: “Class Clown”

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