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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

How I Spent My Saturday Mornings

Fellow members of my generation love to point out how much better we had it as kids in the '70s. We didn't have those damn video games and smartphones and contraptions and whatnots and clangbangers. We played outside with sticks, damn it, and we liked it! Of course, at that age, we would've given anything for the clangbangers and whatnots of today, but we don't really talk about that.

One aspect of being a child in the '70s I find vastly superior is Saturday morning television. Perhaps it's the by-products of 5000 channels and 300 streaming options, but there isn't much on Saturday mornings these days to warrant excitement. Except maybe Valerie's Home Cooking because it stars Valerie Bertinelli, which, by virtue of my undying adolescent crush on her, requires I watch.

We definitely had it better back in the day and I'm going to prove it by presenting five live-action television series that completely ruled my Saturdays.

1. Shazam! (3 seasons, 1974-1976)

Forget the 2019 movie (which I enjoyed, actually). This is the Shazam! with which I identify. Young Billy Batson travels the highway and bi-ways of the land with his mentor (literally, a character simply called Mentor) righting wrongs and dealing out some sage Saturday morning wisdom. Now, if you've never seen this show, you can order the complete series online, but be warned. Two actors played Shazam. Jackson Bostwick and John Davey. Bostwick was the first and Davey took over in the latter episodes. You will be forced to choose the superior Shazam and if it's not Jackson Bostwick then you will be wrong. Just check out this clip in which he stops a plane. HE STOPS A PLANE, YOU GUYS!

2. The Secrets of Isis (1975-77)

Archaeologist Andrea Thomas (Joanna Mitchell) discovers an ancient amulet that, when she utters "oh, mighty Isis!" transforms her into a superhero based on an ancient Egyptian goddess. And Joanna Mitchell was a goddess to me. When Andrea Thomas transformed, she could solve problems no mere mortal could, like fighting bears, foiling thieves, or opening tight lids on jars. FUN FACT: The Secrets of Isis is the first weekly American live-action TV series to feature a female superhero, premiering a few months before The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman. Here's a full episode for you to enjoy. Watch it.

3. Space Academy (1977-79)

Space Academy was a children's riff on Star Trek. A 300-year old man (Jonathan Harris of Lost In Space) led a crew of gifted teens and children on a quest through space. Everything was space-themed after the success of Star Wars, so it was only natural a Saturday morning show would follow suit. Only 15 episodes of Space Academy were produced by they ran for two years. Like many shows of the time, life lessons were taught because someone determined that must be the point of all children's programming. I couldn't find any episodes, but here is the opening title sequence. FUN FACT: The lead ingenue was portrayed by one of the most prolific child actors of the 60s and 70s, Pamelyn Ferdin. She's a great social media follow because she posts candid photos from all the shows and films she worked on.

4. Ark II (1976)

Other than Planet of the Apes, my introduction to post-apocalyptic fiction was Ark II. Scientists travel a desolate planet (mainly America) doing stuff. Their mode of transportation was an RV type vehicle that served as a roaming science lab. Their mission was to reintroduce valuable knowledge to a civilization fallen into a new Dark Ages thanks to the ravages of pollution and climate change. There are full episodes on YouTube but the screen resolution is wonky, but I did find an interesting mini documentary on the show.

5. The Ghost Busters (1975)

Man, this was a weird one. Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch of F-Troop reunited for a live-action comedy series about three bumbling detectives who investigate paranormal activity. One season of 15 episodes was all that was produced. Every episode followed the same formula: the team would get an assigment from someone named Zero, discover that their ghost of the week was holed up in a spooky castle outside of their unnamed town, hilarity ensued before the capture of the ghost. This was pure slapstick but I never missed it. FUN FACT: This series inspired me to write my own paranormal stories about a ghost chasing cat named Midnight.

It's interesting. While I watched these shows and devoured a bowl of whatever sugared cereal was in the house, my dad would walk in and wonder how I could watch something so stupid. They didn't have nonsense like this when he was a kid and they were all the better for it.

I dunno. I think we had it pretty good.

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