Thursday, January 23, 2014

IT'S ABOUT TIME's one of those shows that just about everybody born between 1953 and 1961 plopped in front of a television set seems to remember, if not with any great detail which makes one wonder if they actually watched the thing in the first place. For years I would come upon many a mid/late baby boomer type who'd be singing the series' theme during one of their many nostalgia trips (which for me was strange because hey, I didn't need any nostalgia trips in my existence because I was happily still LIVIN' those years!), but when pressed for any details all I would get was that Imogene Coca was in it. Maybe some old CAR 54 fan'd remember that "Ooh Ooh!" guy, but otherwise IT'S ABOUT TIME was more or less famous for being around during those pre-hippydippy days, a happy reminder of them transitional years which people really couldn't give a shit about here in these oh-so enlighten times!

That's why revisiting this series via DVD was a special treat for me, especially when my only other option for prime-time entertainment is watching dulloid police/doctor shows which just come off like NAKED CITY and BEN CASEY watered down to meet the emotional level of your average turdpile shoveler. The entire run of this '66-'67 classic just oozes that mid-six-oh sense of sitcom whackoid that started with MR. ED and ran roughshod by the time the middle portion of the decade showed up, and for a guy who got his turdler jollies sitting plunk in front of the set osmosing the best tee-vee could offer until all there was to enjoy were syndicated reruns, you can bet the old feelings and funzies were rushing back to the point where I was in my room afterwards playing twenty car pile up with my dinkys!

Produced by the same Sherwood Schwartz who gave us GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (standard bearer of just how great mid-sixties sitcom tee-vee could get) as well as the early-seventies family freak-out THE BRADY BUNCH,  IT'S ABOUT TIME had everything going for it from the GILLIGAN-esque prehistoric jungle sets to the same GILLIGAN incidental music, and not only that but the writing was on-par for mid-sixties tee-vee-dom. Not as top-notch as THE LUCY SHOW was during the Mr. Mooney period let alone GILLIGAN, but loads better'n some of the gloppier entries of the day like WENDY AND ME to name but one. And as far as being a GILLIGAN clone well, what would you expect not only with the original story line being but a variation on the shipwreck saga (only with astronauts marooned a million years ago) but with main character Hector "Hec" Canfield (played by sitcom vet Jack Mullaney) trying his best and succeeding at being a verifiable Gilligan-type with some Jack Larson-styled Jimmy Olsen thrown in!

Frank Aletter as Captain Glenn McDivitt does a more'n amiable job doing the Abbot to Mullaney's Costello or Skipper to his Gilligan, and the chemistry actually works just as well as it had with those verifiable top notch comedy teamups. I get the idea that many old time YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS fans probably thought that Imogene Coca as Shag/Shad was a humongous comedown from past glories (never saw GRINDL so I can't comment on that) but as far as playing a comedic cave woman I couldn't think of any better choice for the role unless Vivian Vance was up for it. Ritzig/Toody/Joe E. Ross as Grok was also inspiring especially considering what we've heard about him in recent days, though I kinda get the impression that there were many other actors out there more befitting the part. Can't think of anyone specific offhand though I don't think John Fiedler would have been one of them. Cliff Norton as Boss (the chief of the prehistoric tribe) was about as typically tee-vee as I thought such a role would be, though I enjoyed Mike Mazurki as henchman Clon who did add some spark to the series with his combination brawn and duncitude, something which I guess plagued Mazurki throughout his entire acting career.

Oh, and I shouldn't forget Grok and Shag/Shad's kids, the sexy Mlor played by Mary Grace and the adolescent Breer (Pat Cardi). Breer had long hair for a kid who wasn't in a rock group at the time, and I remember my mother's shock when she discovered he wasn't wearing a wig at all, almost as bad as the time she saw Tony and the Tigers on HULLABALOO and was surprised that Soupy Sales didn't march his sons to the barber shop and march them this instant!

As for Mlor, her character was definitely developed (as was her body) during the days before blatant heterosexuality was outlawed when masculinity and femininity still ruled the world. Definitely a draw for the horny baldoid mid-agers tuning in, her presence was positive proof that female pulchritude was a trait that spanned the centuries before harridans turned the entire sex into bland androids with seemingly interchangeable parts. And it's sure grand to know that, even in primitive prehistoric times, women used to shave their underarms!

The sudden change in format with episode #19 "Twentieth Century Here We Come" must have been a big surprise to those expecting the tried and true GILLIGAN format to live on until the very end, but in an attempt to uplift those sagging ratings Schwartz did just that with results I do find rather likable. Now instead of featuring two 20th Century astronauts in prehistoric times the show had a cave family living in the sixties with all of the predictable yet guffaw-inducing situations any long-entrenched sitcom fan woulda expected. Some of the gags are pretty hotcha like the one where Jack Albertson discovers the family singing an old caveman folk song and turns 'em into a mop top act, while others like the time Shag/d and some beautician get to slinging beauty mud at each other come off so obviously ripoff I'm surprised Lucille Ball wasn't suing.

But hey, these twenty-six IT'S ABOUT TIME episodes do have that boffo mid-sixties fantasy sitcom feeling that drew many a suburban slob to his set, and all I really gotta say is that anyone who hates the show and can't see it for the whackoid fantasy that it is must be one of those tightass types we all grew up with...y'know, the kind who used to berate us for not knowing the difference between apes and monkeys or picked out all of the physics problems with your favorite superhero's powers, or worse yet wouldn't go near a show like this because dinosaurs and cavemen were not contemporaneous with each other!!!! Not like the sitcoms they have today where people just act obnoxious at each other in programs which lack discernible plots...hmmmm, considering just how "real" if bland television is these days I'll just betcha that the same kids who wanted their world to be so exact are the same ones in charge of the entire entertainment industry! And considering the decades-long trend in television blandness I'm pretty sure that none other than sixth-grade irritant Poopy Wilson (or maybe even Farts Flanagan) is now in charge of programming at ABC, giving us utter slop like MODERN FAMILY because that's what we should watch just like we were all supposed to eat gritty spinach because it was good for us! If ol' Poopy still uses his plastic pocket protector I wouldn't be surprised one bit.

1 comment:

Inspector Clouseau said...

How did I manage to miss "It's About Time?" I'm only 2 years out of the Boomer range you specificed.

BTW, TVLand just started showing Gilligan's Island here recently. I think that they started on the day that the Professor passed.

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