Monday, June 2, 2014

Daytime Heroes: The Adventures of Superman (1952)

You know the intro:

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"

The Adventures of Superman ran for six seasons (1952-8), becoming the first series based on a DC Comics book to be adapted for television. At a time when the Man of Steel was legitimately DC's #1 attraction, something that isn't the case anymore, Superman deviated from the usual comics format in that Superman (George Reeves) fought only gangsters, con artists, and the occasional mad scientist. None of his arch-enemies, such as Lex Luthor, would appear on television until Filmation's animated adaptation came along, eight years after the series ended.

As a result, the supporting cast was more of a repertory company, as actors were used in various roles on a recurring basis. Future TV stars such as Leon Askin (Hogan's Heroes) and The Rifleman's Chuck Connors & Paul Fix (in separate episodes) made early appearances. Askin appeared at least twice. For voice actor devotees, Herbert Vigran, a frequent player for Hanna-Barbera in the 50's & 60's, made a few appearances as various gangsters, and Sterling Holloway, years before being the original voice of Winnie The Pooh, played a well meaning scientist.

My first exposure to the series came when it aired in syndication in the 70's. I barely remember seeing it locally, but it was part of a swank afternoon block on WPIX that was an action lover's dream, as Superman would be bracketed in between Batman & Lone Ranger, with Gilligan's Island at the end of a 2 hour block.

Rating: B.

Edit: 9/20/14: The episode previously posted here was deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues. In its place is a promo, produced in color in 1966. Many of us have seen this during the series' run in syndication in the 70's.


magicdog said...

I was one of those kids who used to watch that block!

It's a shame that shows don't seem to be syndicated anymore in the traditional sense. Shows like this one just aren't shown, but rather available for DVD viewing. A bit sad really when you see how shows have been replaced by infomercials, court shows and reality shows of one stripe or other.

Episode like this one were such teases to us! A character is supposedly going to get married, have a former spouse come forward or some such thing that gets undone by either a dream, the revelation it was a work of fiction by one of the other characters, or time travel! At least Supes was allowed to marry in "Lois & Clark" and NOT have it taken back!

hobbyfan said...

So true.

Today, it's all about the bottom line with local stations. Too many court & reality shows pop up like pimples because they're supposedly cheaper to produce, but how much cheaper? They never tell you.

Since TNT "knows drama", couldn't they take a break from endless blocks of Charmed & Law and Order to run something like this in the morning? Naaaah. Too easy.

magicdog said...

It's true that court shows, infomercials and reality shows are much cheaper to make compared to conventional scripted fare. Professional actors, writers, set design, etc. would take much more money to create the final product - and be a ratings success. It's too much of a gamble nowadays.

A show like the 50s version of Superman would be better on weekend mornings on networks like WTBS or ABC Family (if they remember the "Family" element that is!) or maybe Hallmark. I do understand wanting to break the hold L&O has on the network - I just wish they'd show the old eps from the early 90s rather that eps from the last 16 years over and over.

hobbyfan said...

That would be because the earliest L & O's are now on WE (Women's Entertainment). Go figure.

Given how Hallmark has chopped up the open to Perry Mason, I wouldn't trust them with Superman.