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Old January 20 2009, 03:18 PM   #21
Piper
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Re: IRWIN ALLEN: what are YOUR opinion(s) of his sci-fi TV series?

I enjoy all of Allen's shows with the exception of The Time Tunnel, which is unarguably his cheapest show. The main set might have cost a lot, and is somewhat iconic, but he more than made up with it by the excessive number of episodes effectively made by nicking footage from other films and using that and stock footage. I find it really boring, and brings out the worst of his worst tendencies.

My favourite is Lost in Space. It's the one of the four which actually has characters as opposed to archetypal chisel-jawed heroes and simpering heroines who it would be generous to describe as one-dimensional. That Dr Smith and the Robot were accidents, neither of which were in Allen's original pilot, is quite revealing - it was entirely down to the talents of Jonathan Harris, Bob May and Dick Tufeld that elevated what is otherwise, especially once it goes to colour, often a terrible series into something amusingly watchable. I always feel sorry for Guy Williams though - he was cast as that chisel-jawed hero and was unlucky enough to be in the one series of Allen's in which that wasn't enough. There are some moments in the series when you can sense that he's genuinely annoyed.

Voyage is the next best. It has a decent first season and a half when, as others have noted, there was a mixture of cold war hijinks mixed in with monster of the week shows. It then rapidly descended into something terrible - you can take one or two of the schlocky Season Three Monster episodes as a bit of kitsch fun, but when that's all the season is made up with you very quickly lose the will to live. Sad to say, Allen did often treat his audience with contempt and it's never clearer than here - two episodes even have the same climax. It's arguable that Voy's S3 is the worst season of TV Allen ever produced, and that's saying something. The show also suffers from two unexciting leads. Richard Basehart tries his best, but he and David Hedison just can't overcome the lack of material they were given to work with.

Finally Land of the Giants, which starts off as a Lost in Space clone, complete with cute kid and Dr Smith clone, but, as others said, developed a little in its second, stronger year. A lot of episodes are little more than characters being captured and then escaping, but the sets are often impressive, and there's the obligatory appearance every episode of the infamous Giant Hand, which Allen loved to include, even though it doesn't look very good.

I have to agree with Mistral that Allen did TV sci-fi no good at all. Before him we had Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, Star Trek ran at the same time as Lost in Space... and then nothing of any quality. Allen was often his own show's worst enemy - out of the four, three descend from vaguely promising beginnings - especially so in Voyage's case - to increasingly awful rubbish with few redeeming features. He believed that as long as you had constant action you could get away with anything, and as such he could never qualify as a TV great. Nevertheless, I can't help enjoying much of his output, although I've never quite understood why, apart from the fact it's fun to spot a monster or prop which had already turned up in another show, which happens about every other show!
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