Dec 4, 2012

Astronauts and Cave Men: It's About Time

I don't remember much from the early 1960s, but suddenly in 1966 everything becomes clear -- playing with Tarzan toys, reading The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, listening to The Monkees, and scrambling to watch "good tv": Run Buddy Run, Time Tunnel, Flipper -- and It's About Time (1966-67), a "trapped far from home" sitcom from Sherwood Schwartz, creator of the hugely successful Gilligan's Island.

It was about two astronauts who got zapped into prehistory, where people spoke in "ug-ug" broken English and fought dinosaurs.



Mac (Frank Aletter, right) was a sitcom pro, already the star of Bringing Up Buddy and The Cara Williams Show.  He would go on to play Professor Hayden on Danger Island, with Jan-Michael Vincent.
Hector (Jack Mullaney, left) was best known for his role in the beefcake-heavy musical South Pacific (1958), with Ken Clark as the voluminous Stewpot.  He never married and was reputedly gay.

Mac and Hector wore their astronaut costumes most of the time, but sometimes they wore animal skins that revealed tight, firm chests and shoulders.  The cave people also wore animal skins, and in spite of their fright wigs, many muscular bodies were visible in the background.


Here's another picture from South Pacific.  

There was significant bonding: the two astronauts bickered like a married couple, hugged, fell into each other's arms -- and in the twentieth century, appeared to live together.  They gazed with tongue-lolling horniness at the cave family's daughter, but such minor concessions to heterosexism could be ignored.



And there was a "dreamy boy" for the preteens to gaze at.  Pat Cardi, who had just finished work on Let's Kill Uncle, played the cave family's fourteen year old son, Breen.  He wore a fright wing, but his animal skin was almost as revealing as the tight pants on Flipper.  

Unfortunately, it aired on Sunday nights, opposite the last halves of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Walt Disney, so most of the intended audience was already occupied.

After 18 episodes, low ratings prompted a complete reversal of the premise: the astronauts return to 1960s America, bringing a cave family with them. It didn't help.  So in spite of the ecstatic tv ads and a full run of tie-in toys, games, coloring books, lunch boxes, and the like, It's About Time sank seven episodes later, and was lost to history.  Except for Boomers who can still recite the theme song.