Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "The Contest" (September 11, 1976)

In “The Contest,” the Elders contact Billy (Michael Gray) after he’s accidentally burned Mentor’s lunch. They tell Billy that sometimes a “winner loses more than he gains.”  

Billy soon learns what this means when he meets Glen (Mark Montgomery), a boy want to win a motorcycle in a contest at a local shop. Glen’s friend works with a man named Fred (Dennis Olivieri), who wants him to cheat in exchange for a favor. Glen agrees, but the favor is terrible. Fred wants the keys to the van where Glen works, at Alva Space Products.

Fred uses the keys to steal the van, and also a solar powered gyroscope for a space satellite. Captain Marvel (John Davey) comes to the rescue when the thief gets caught on an out-of-control motor boat.  Glen, meanwhile, learns his lesson and returns to the motorcycle.

“The Contest” is probably one of the most unnecessarily complex (and therefore) bizarre episodes of Filmation’s live-action series, Shazam (1974-1976). The episode jams in about twice as much narrative as usual, shoehorning together the “criminal plot” and “teenager learns valuable moral lesson” ideas/tropes into one fast-moving but convoluted installment.

Here, bizarrely, a story about a teenager wanting to win a motorcycle becomes a far ranging criminal plot about stolen space equipment, and ends with a chase on the water. The important gyroscope, meanwhile, gets tossed into the air by Captain Marvel and explodes.

All’s well that ends well, I guess…

“The Contest” also features a couple of notable guest-stars. William Campbell of Star Trek (1966-1969) fame -- the actor behind Trelane and Captain Koloth -- has a small role as a local police officer. And Walker Edmiston -- Land of the Lost’s (1974-1977) Enik, is Bob Rose, the owner of the motorcycle shop.

Both of these are nothing roles, but still, it’s more casting fire power than one sees in the typical Shazam episode.

Next week: “Bitter Herbs.”

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