Saturday, October 01, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "The Brain" (November 9, 1974)

In “The Brain,” Mentor (Les Tremayne) and Billy (Michael Gray) befriend a smart but lonely boy named Jimmy Carter (!) (Christopher Man). 

Jimmy is nicknamed “The Brain” and wants very much to belong in a group of friends.

A bully, Greg (Biff Warren), however, arranges an initiation ritual for Jimmy at a dangerous construction site at a nearby beach.

Greg also participates in the initiation and becomes endangered when a conveyer belt unexpectedly activates.  It’s up to Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) to save Greg from injury or death.

“The Brain,” by Donald F. Glut, returns to the Filmation series’ of tradition of having the Elders quote a famous historical and/or literary figure. 

In this case, that figure of renown is Davy Crockett. The Elders warn Billy about the fact that some people would place themselves to be put in danger to be accepted. And then comes the quote: “Be always sure you’re right. Then go ahead.”  So, it's not hard to determine that the message of this episode involves peer pressure.

Jimmy Carter -- the boy that Mentor and Billy encounter in the “Brain” -- besides anticipating the name of a 1970s President is a seventies-style geek. He is a devoted reader (currently reading Oliver Twist), and he possesses a fascination with making costumes and masks. On his bedroom wall, he hangs a poster of Captain Marvel. 

Today, of course, we live in a culture wherein the geeks won. 

They rule the world, and they especially rule in Hollywood (sometimes to the detriment of the movie business, actually…). But in the early 1970s, when this series was made, the war was not yet won. Young boys who didn’t love sports were thought to be somehow inferior, or wrong.  Jimmy is the person who the Elders make note of, who would do something dangerous to be accepted.

Intriguingly, that may not actually be the case, if you read between the lines.  In fact, the bully, Greg, is the one who is nearly hurt, and one wonders if he is putting himself in danger to be accepted; knowing that he is not likable, or smart.

It’s nice to see this episode of Shazam show the geek, Jimmy, to be a bright, engaged, resourceful person. In my experience, that’s the way geeks are, or at least they were, before the Internet allowed some to exercise their Ids so vociferously.

“The Brain” is a good episode of Shazam, buoyed by the shooting locations, namely that huge, industrial wreck on the beach.  Once again, this series features no standing sets, save for the interior of Mentor’s camper. 

And this week, the locations work to help sell the danger of the “initiation.”

Next week: “Little Boy Lost.”

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