Category Archives: Forgotten Television


a very missing personA VERY MISSING PERSON (1972) – This made for tv movie was the pilot for an unsold series that was meant as another rotating slot in the ______Night Mystery Movie offerings from the networks back then.

Eve Arden starred as Hildegarde Withers, the now-retired schoolteacher turned amateur sleuth in a series of novels and short stories by American author Stuart Palmer. Hildegarde first appeared in Palmer’s 1931 novel The Penguin Pool Murder and was obviously inspired by Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

eve arden as withersThe last Withers mystery completed by Stuart Palmer during his lifetime was published in 1954, but he left behind an unfinished novel titled Hildegarde Withers Makes the Scene. Fletcher Flora used Palmer’s notes to finish the novel, which finally saw print in 1969.

Six movies had been made in the 1930s featuring the supposedly aged Miss Withers. (To show how standards change, in the 1931 novel a third party describes Hildegarde as a “spinster …  age thirty-nine years old.”) The many, many other Hildegarde novels and short stories were ignored for this telefilm, which jumped straight to the 1969 work. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television


pray for wildcatsPRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (1974) – That’s Wildcats as in the Baja Wildcats, the name given by the villainous Andy Griffith to himself and his fellow over the hill dirt bikers – William Shatner, Marjoe Gortner and Robert Reed!

Griffith is pure sleaze as Sam Farragut, a wheelin’ and dealin’ tycoon who enjoys throwing his weight around. He’s the biggest client at an ad agency where Shatner, Gortner and Reed are employed, and he threatens to take his business elsewhere unless they join him on his latest whim – a motorcycle ride along the Baja Peninsula.

This bizarre premise sounds like an episode of Bewitched, as in “Stevens, our biggest client insists we ride motorcycles with him to Baja California.” Instead, this is an overwrought made for tv movie from 1974 in which our kitsch cast gets into deadly trouble south of the border.

Our characters:
Continue reading


Filed under Bad and weird movies, Forgotten Television


Laura Palmer wrapped in plasticIt’s been nearly six years since the finale of the 18 episode run of new Twin Peaks chapters on cable. Like many other fans I’m still debating my final verdict on the series in light of the gloriously dark and nightmarish conclusion, so this particular blog post applies ONLY to the original Twin Peaks television series, the 1992 film Fire Walk With Me and its deleted scenes from The Missing Pieces.

Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’m often surprised at the way so many detractors still try to insist that the show and the movie made no sense. And bear in mind I am NOT referring to the various theories over particular symbolism or the lengthy debates to be had over the ethical and philosophical implications of the storyline.

No, I’m referring to the way some people dismiss the entire project as if it’s a bunch of weirdness with no discernible plot or storyline. There IS a (very) easily discernible plot and storyline. And I’ll say again I’m NOT talking about deeper meanings which no two people may ever agree upon, but the basic tale. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television, opinion


challenge tvmTHE CHALLENGE aka Surrogate (1970) – This made for tv movie aired in February 1970. The storyline involves a downed satellite that contains American national defense technology. It landed near a fictional Asian nation which is closely allied with Communist China.

The fictional nation’s navy recovered the downed satellite, but the U.S. navy blockaded them and, as this telefilm opens, is preventing the other nation from taking the satellite anywhere. The smaller nation is a client state of Communist China, as stated above, and China intervenes on their behalf.

darren in challengeNeither the U.S. nor Red China want to see this incident escalate into an all-out war, so they agree to a solution. Each side will send one man to a small nearby island. Whichever surrogate manages to kill the other within five days will have “won” the downed satellite for its side.

Yes, that’s a silly premise from a real-world angle, but this first aired in a less cynical time, so the fact that the story is obviously an allegory for proxy conflicts like the Vietnam War was considered daring for the period. Original director Joseph Sargent quit the film over creative differences, and replacement director George McCowan insisted on using the Director’s Guild pseudonym Allen Smithee. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television


ark IIARK II (1976) – In the postapocalyptic 25th Century, the year 2476 to be precise, Earth has been left devastated and transformed by warfare and pollution. Surviving scientists send out a team of explorers in a discount Damnation Alley vehicle and wearing Logan’s Run clothing. The crew of Ark II are to learn what pockets of humanity have survived and help them begin rebuilding civilization.

This half-hour, 15-episode science fiction series was targeted at young audiences, but it’s tolerable for adults, too, if the whole family wants to watch it. Very often the Ark II staff must liberate settlements from tyranny or stop them from repeating humanity’s mistakes of the past.

ark ii vehicleThe crew of the “futuristic” vehicle were Jonah (Terry Lester), Samuel (Jose Flores), Ruth (Jean Marie Hon) and the intelligent chimp Moochie (Adam), voiced by Lou Scheimer. Ark II was outfitted with elaborate equipment that was perfect for experiments, medical emergencies and for everyday survival, like the ability to produce whatever kind of food was desired.

The larger Ark II vehicle also came with a smaller vehicle – the Ark Roamer – for shorter jaunts. Think of the Moon Buggies used by a few of the Apollo missions. Another piece of equipment was the Jet Jumper, a personal flying device depicted by the same stock footage over and over again. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television


teuber as JesusJESUS: A PASSION PLAY FOR AMERICANS (1969) – Happy Easter! Here’s a look at an experimental take on the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, all accompanied by music.

Before the concept album Jesus Christ Superstar became a stage production and before Godspell came this rock, improv jazz and blues version of the Passion of the Christ. Peter Ivers composed the curtain-to-curtain music, while director Timothy S. Mayer wrote the dialogue and lyrics, adapted from the King James Bible version of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Continue reading


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pathfinders in spacePATHFINDERS IN SPACE (1960) – Balladeer’s Blog’s recurring segment Forgotten Television examines the half-hour per episode British television miniseries Pathfinders in Space. Fans of early British sci-fi will likely remember that in the 1950s and 1960s the BBC aired several episodic serials of 6 or more parts, like the original Quatermass tales, Object Z and its sequel, plus others like The Trollenberg Terror, which were remade as feature films (The Crawling Eye in this case).

As for Pathfinders in Space, this 7-episode television serial was the second in a connected series of sci-fi adventures that anticipated the kind of kid-friendly, semi-educational fun of early Doctor Who episodes. Target Luna, from earlier in 1960, was the first of the adventures about Buchan Island, a Scottish complex that served as the U.K.’s fictional Cape Canaveral for its space program. (No episodes of Target Luna have survived.)

pathfinders picBuchan Island looked as comically unconvincing as the set from Captain Z-Ro, but in my opinion that adds to the charm of these primitive attempts at televised science fiction. Target Luna introduced viewers to Professor Wedgwood and his children, some of whom would appear in the following serials as well. That 6-episode item centered around the Buchan Island personnel testing manned orbital vessels, setting up the 7-part Pathfinders in Space, in which the Wedgwoods and others flew to the moon.

Okay, it’s obvious that small children would not be sent on such a mission, but Pathfinders in Space was meant to be educational for kids as well as entertaining. Female professor Mary Meadows joins the team of MR1 (Moon Rocket 1) on its mission to the moon.  Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television


floris dvdFLORIS (1969 and 1975) – Actor Rutger Hauer and director Paul Verhoeven first worked together for this adventure series set during the very early 1500s. The program aired on Netherlands television in 1969, then was remade – again with Hauer in the swashbuckling title role – in 1975 for German television and ran for even more episodes than the original series.

Rutger starred as the fictional Floris van Rozemondt, the knightly lord of his eponymous castle. Ever the adventurer, Floris had spent ten years as a mercenary, a privateer and a sea trader, acquiring quite a fortune from the latter two pursuits.

sindala and florisAround the year 1502, word finally caught up with our wandering hero that his father and two older brothers had died. Floris returned home, accompanied by his adventuring sidekick Sindala (Jos Bergman), an Indian Fakir. (Floris and the Fakir was originally going to be the title of the series.)

Upon his arrival, Floris discovered that Castle Rozemondt had been unjustly taken from him and occupied by Maarten van Rossum (Hans Culeman) – a subordinate of the Duke of Guelders. The Guelders Wars, centering on efforts to bring the Netherlands together as one nation, had broken out during Floris’ absence and van Rossum was on the opposing side of Floris’ family.

floris in the centerFloris and Sindala fought their way out of the hands of the enemy and wound up allied with Wolter van Oldenstein and his men at Castle Oldenstein. I often wonder if the 1991 film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves took partial inspiration from the premise of Floris, with a returning nobleman fighting oppression alongside a nonwhite comrade from his overseas adventures. Continue reading


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bret and camelRELIC OF FORT TEJON (November 3rd, 1957) – Here’s something a little different from the usual for Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category. The 1950s James Garner series Maverick was an all-time classic, but this particular episode is often overlooked.

The subject matter deals with a camel supposedly left over from the ill-fated American Camel Corps that the U.S. Army tried launching in the 1800s. The project fell through in the end, but the dozens of camels from the experimental program – and their offspring – wound up roaming the deserts of the southwest for decades afterward.

bret at card tablePreviously, I’ve examined the James Garner western One Little Indian (1973) in which his soldier character winds up using a camel to flee an unjust mutiny charge, and the legendary Red Ghost of Arizona, a Camel Corps leftover which was sighted multiple times in the 1880s to 1890s and was mistaken for a monster.

In Relic of Fort Tejon, Garner’s iconic Bret Maverick, a gambler/ gunslinger, wins a camel named Fatima from a fellow gambler who conned him into thinking he was using an Arabian stallion as part of a poker wager. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television, FRONTIERADO


Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category takes its final look at episodes of the 1966-1972 series N.E.T. Playhouse. For the opening look at the 1966 episodes click HERE

lorraine hansbLORRAINE HANSBURY: TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK (January 20th) – A 90-minute biography of African-American playwright Lorraine Hansbury, whose works include A Raisin in the Sun. Her husband Robert Nemiroff wrote this drama which includes performances of scenes from her plays. Ruby Dee, Roy Scheider, Blythe Danner, Barbara Barrie and Claudia McNeil were among the cast members. 

GALILEO (January 27th) – An airing of the 1968 Italian film about the famed scientist who was charged with heresy for agreeing with Copernicus by refuting the notion that the sun and the planets revolved around the Earth. Liliana Cavani directed this 1 hour and 45 minute production starring Cyril Cusack.   

HARRIET (February 3rd) – Adaptation of the 1943 stage drama about the life of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The drama follows Stowe from her early fantasy writings through her important novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an indictment of the Democrats’ “peculiar institution” of slavery. Kitty Winn, Gretchen Corbett, Dolph Sweet, Richard Dysart and Madeleine Sherwood starred. 90 minutes. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television