Friday, June 5, 2009
Land of the Lost - a 70s classic!
Okay, so my family and I have been watching a lot of DVR'd episodes of the 70s classic "Land of the Lost", since Sci Fi Channel has aired three marathons of the show in two weeks time.
A quick synopsis of the show, for those who don't recall it:
The Marshall family, consisting of dad Rick and his kids, Will and Holly, encounter an earthquake while rafting the rapids. Plunging down a waterfall, they go through a strange mist and wind up in the Land of the Lost.
The Land is what Rick calls a "closed universe", meaning it is sort of like a small world unto itself. Strange things live here, and we are left unsure as to how they came to be here. Were they trapped, as the Marshall family was? Or are they natives?
The family goes about trying to stay alive, avoiding hungry dinosaurs and menacing Sleestaks, lizard-like humanoids that hiss a lot and are generally bad news. They also meet another, less dangerous race of beings called the Paku, small, hairy, missing-link type creatures, who are primitive in intelligence, but have developed a language of their own. One, Chaka, becomes a good friend.
The series lasted for three seasons on Saturday mornings, from 1974 to 1976, with a total of 43 episodes. At the beginning of the third season, Rick Marshall was pulled through a doorway in a magical pylon, presumably winding up back home. At the same time, his brother Jack, who had been searching for his missing relatives on Earth, is pulled into the Land and is rejoined with his niece and nephew. Spencer Milligan, who played Rick, supposedly left due to a contract dispute.
This marked a major change for the show, one of many changes the third season had, including a 'dumbing-down' of the stories and premise of the show that ultimately proved too much. It was canceled soon thereafter.
Without a doubt, this was a Saturday morning kids show. But it shouldn't be quickly dismissed as JUST a kids show. Where so many of the programs before (and since) were mindless entertainment, this show (and other Krofft Productions programs) tried to be more than that.
You can look at it now and laugh at the effects, consider them laughably cheesy. But at the time, it was good stuff. And anyone who shrugs off the stories as silly hasn't really watched them and paid attention. The writing, acting and production is above par, not just for it's time, but for now, as well. These stories were well thought out, well written and were produced with sincerity for the integrity of it all. The writing may have dropped off in the third season, but the actors were still putting their all into it.
And it shows. Re-watching these episodes with my kids, I had a fear that they would dismiss the entire thing as "too cheesy" or "too old". There were some chuckles over the dinosaurs appearance (it is a post-Jurassic Park world, after all) and some laughs at obvious green-screen type work.
But I was happily surprised. They liked the show. They liked the characters. And they were getting involved in the stories, these old stories from 30 plus years ago were still able to catch and hold onto audience of kids today. That speaks more about the show than I can, really. And they have been using one of the phrases from the show, when expressing something that is a bummer - "Fat rats!" hahaha
I am struck, as well, by how into their roles the actors were. Spencer Milligan never gave a hint of embarrassment at playing the dad in a show like this. He gave Rick Marshall a brain and a heart and, in my opinion, should have been given whatever raised he wanted for the third season. He deserved it.
Welsey Eure and Kathy Coleman, as Will and Holly, were energetic and talented kids who could act circles around some of the so-called actors on kids shows these days. And I have seen my share of them, thanks to my own kids.
In the first two seasons, the show didn't play down to it's audience. In fact, it is just the opposite. They knew kids were smart enough to follow the plot and to grasp some of the weightier ideas they threw about. And they even went beyond that, since some stories were more than kids minds could grasp, and instead gave them something to think about and to use their imaginations with. That is respecting your audience, and it is too often lacking in kids shows (and adult shows) today.
In the early 90s, Krofft attempted a revival of the show, with a different family called the Porters, but it didn't take, lasting only 26 episodes over two seasons. I haven't seen this version since it's original airing, so I can't comment on it's quality compared to the original show. I have heard that the character of Christa, a young woman who grew up in the Land, was originally planned to be an adult version of Holly, but the plan was quickly dropped. Could have made for an interesting story!
Now there is a major motion picture based on the show, starring Will Ferrell as Rick Marshall. I have a bad feeling that this movie is going to be more of a parody of the show than a true, respectful version of the real thing. But, I will wait until I see it for myself to make a decision either way.
One thing I don't care for is that the cameo appearances by Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman have been cut from the film. From what I have read, the ending was completely re-shot and their scenes were cut. I know it may sound nitpicky, but it would have been a real treat for fans of the old show.
I have also read some of Wesley Eure's blog. He is pretty open about how him and Kathy, and Philip Paley (Chaka), have been treated during the process of the new movie's ad campaign. He isn't bitter, just resigned to the fact that they aren't the stars anymore. That said, I think they could have been treated so much better. Yes, they aren't the stars of the new movie. But they are the stars of the original, and they are loved by many fans still. It is a shame to ignore them, but paraphrasing Eure, that's Hollywood, I suppose.
Regardless, we will always have the original show to watch and enjoy for what it is: good entertainment produced with intelligence and heart. My thanks to all who were involved in it's production, you made something special, loved by more than one generation, now.
Some Land of the Lost links & some videos!
A great, detailed review of the show (and a pic of Enik!)
An awesome fan site - Land of the Lost Dot Com
Tyrannosaurus lex - another cool Land of the Lost site
Wikipedia article all about Land of the Lost
Wikipedia page for the 90s remake show
Land of the Lost fan fiction and more
Offical site for the movie "Land of the Lost"
UPDATE: "Where are they now?" article about the stars of the show!
UPDATE: Great blog from RETROSPACE on the show!!!
Below, the opening theme song!
And here are parts 1 and 2 of more recent interviews with Kathy Coleman and Wesley Eure - Good to see they are still friends!