Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "Debbie" (September 13, 1975)

In “Debbie,” Mentor and Billy are attempting to take a selfie when a message arrives from the Elders.  

They speak to Billy of a “parent’s authority,” and how that authority expresses “love.”  The Elders also warn of a person who “disrespects authority.”

These cryptic musings become more comprehensible after Billy and Mentor encounter Tom (Harry Moses) and Debbie (Cindy Henderson), two young teenagers who are nearly killed on a joy ride.  

Debbie’s mother doesn’t approve of Tom and wants Debbie to stop seeing him. Debbie sneaks out in a car, however to see him.  She defies her mother's wishes.

This time, Tom’s driving nearly gets Debbie killed by a truck…until Captain Marvel (John Davey) intervenes.

John Davey stars as Captain Marvel in this week’s episode of Shazam (1974-1976), taking over for Jackson Bostwick.  

To make things more confusing, Bostwick is back in next week’s episode (“Fool’s Gold,”) and then Davey takes over again, but for the remainder of the series.

It’s a bit of a shock seeing Davey portray Captain Marvel, especially if you are used to Bostwick’s portrayal. Davey is not fat by any means, but he is stockier; heavier built.  It’s a different look all together. Accordingly it’s a little difficult to picture the lithe Billy Batson turning into this guy; who is more like a heavy-weight boxer than a lean superhero. Davey is by no means bad in the role, but seeing him replace Bostwick, at least at first, is a jolt.

The episode Davey is premieres in is also a bit of a disappointment.  Basically, this whole episode is a plea to teenagers to just listen to their parents…because parents are usually right.  Their authority, says the episode, is just a form of love

I don’t know about this, frankly.  I’m a parent, but I still don’t care for the heavy-handedness of this message.  This is supposed to be a show for kids, working their way to adulthood. The insanely pro-parent message smacks a bit of indoctrination if you ask me.  

Shazam should be a series that always stands up for kids, and their right to explore their world.  It doesn’t need to tow any agenda for parents, so kids obey them.  

Here, of course, Debbie’s Mom is right about her boyfriend, Tom, and learns the error of her ways, even apologizing to her Mother. 

This plays more like an adult’s fantasy of parenting than what parenting is actually like.  It's a very one sided story.

The episode’s high point occurs when Captain Marvel gets to pick up a car, and move it out of the way of an oncoming truck on the highway. This seems like a relatively big-budget effect, and perhaps it was included to make Davey’s premiere memorable.

Next Week: “Fool’s Gold.”

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