TV was a very strange & varied viewing landscape a few decades ago. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, unless you were deeply into computers, the Internet hadn’t even been heard of by most people. With the complete lack of cute kitten YouTube videos, the main choice of entertainment was the good ol’ TV and the often very weird shows dreamed up by drug- and alcohol-fueled television producers.
Believe me, there were many, many unusual and outright puzzling TV programs I watched while growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. The following shows were too strange for television, as most of them lasted only for one season (or even less). But we’ll always remember them fondly for the fact that they were incredibly strange:
1. Manimal (1983)
He’s a MAN that can turn into an ANIMAL. MANIMAL! I bet the TV execs were tripping very intense balls when they came up with this show…
The astounding adventures of a
goddamned Yuppie man who can turn into any animal! Man… Animal… Manimal! Get it? (That small voice in your head now muttering, “What a lame premise” only proves you are in fact sane.) This show followed the shape-shifting heroic exploits of Dr. Johnathan Chase, which sadly lasted for only eight episodes. Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing Dr. Chase turn into a wombat or a platypus or a squid or some other weird creature. Maybe even a Ginger.
2. Man from Atlantis (1977 – 1978)
In this scene, the Man from Atlantis has a race with a dolphin. Guess who wins? Yup. The goddamned Man from Atlantis, that’s who. TAKE THAT, DOLPHINS. Maybe that’ll wipe that stupid, sardonic grin off your watery faces.
This unusual show about Mark Harris (played by Patrick Duffy of “DALLAS” fame), a man supposedly from Atlantis, lasted only thirteen episodes (although there were four made-for-TV movies). Due to his Atlantean body, he could breathe underwater (natch), had super strength and could withstand incredible ocean pressures. Sort of like Aquaman with a stylish 70’s haircut. Too bad he couldn’t withstand his series being cancelled, though.
3. Supertrain (1979)
A train with a glandular problem? And it has malls and swimming pools? And… ADVENTURE!?! Sign me up. Beats that lousy Love Boat ship cruise with that bald captain prick.
Indeed, Supertrain was like a weird “Love Boat” on the train tracks. The train in question was a massive nuclear powered bullet train that could go from New York to Los Angeles in 36 hours. It lasted only nine episodes, being considered one of the worst television flops in history.
4. Quark (1977 – 1978)
Just flyin’ ’round the galaxy, collecting garbage… now there’s a career!
This short-run TV show (only eight episodes) was set in the year 2222 and followed the (mis)adventures of Adam Quark, commander of the United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser. His mission, along with his unusually wacky crew, was to fly around the galaxy collecting space trash. This series is considered a cult classic among science-fiction fans. A show about garbage collection? Can’t miss with that!
5. Street Hawk (1985)
Slow down the intro music to half-speed and you got yourself some Vaporwave! A E T H E S T I C S.
The gritty adventures of a police office and his high-tech motorcycle capable of reaching speeds up to 300 m.p.h. Personally I don’t see the safety in zooming around city streets at almost half the speed of sound, but there you go. This gem of a TV series lasted only thirteen episodes. Did you know the theme music for this show was composed by Tangerine Dream? Now you know.
6. Small Wonder (1985 -1989)
The theme song is horrible… turn it off… please. It could be played as the national anthem for HELL. TURN IT OFF.
Just your typical family with an android 10-year old girl. The premise of the show is the father, Ted Dawson, builds an android that he then tries to conceal from his greedy boss. This show has also been criticized for being one of the worst shows of all time. And we can see why.
7. Automan (1983)
Gotta love that Tron-like look.
Here’s a strange one, a TV show about a cop and a computer-generated hologram fighting crime. Only thirteen episodes were made. Automan also had a computer-generated sidekick named Cursor that could make things like cars or clothing or delicious fudge (joke).
8. Bosom Buddies (1980)
Tom Hanks in drag, now there’s good quality television!
The premise of this show was pretty far-fetched: two single men dressing up as women so that they can live in a woman’s only building because the rent is “dirt cheap”. Surprisingly enough this show lasted two seasons. Tom should have dressed Wilson up in women’s clothing in Castaway, it would have made the years go by faster.
9. Galactica 1980 (1980)
Because my Battlestar Galatica must always include Lorne Greene. He’s Canadian! Strange why there was no CanadArm on the ‘Galatica, though. Their loss, eh? Buncha space hosers.
Only ten episodes were made of this show, which was created to appease the demand of fans of the original “Battlestar Galactica”. If the fans knew the sequel was going to turn out like this, they may have re-thought their write-in campaign. Did you know that people from Battlestar Galactica become like superheroes on our planet Earth? It’s due to the lower gravity and all those 1980’s PCB’s floating in the ozone layer.
10. Whiz Kids (1983)
I’m pretty sure the “super computer” in this show promo is actually a Commodore 64.
Young hackers as detectives! Where can you go wrong? Well, this show lasted only one season with eighteen episodes. If you like watching a whole bunch of geeky kids using 1980’s technology to solve mysteries, you’ll love this show. Well, probably not love. More like you’d watch the intro for five seconds and turn the channel to “Manimal”. Who can resist “Manimal”? He’s a MAN that can TURN into an ANIMAL…. MANI- oh, never mind.
SlackerDan is a Generation X comedy writer who watched waaaay too many strange & obscure TV shows when he was a kid. Invite him to your next pool party to perform a loving tribute to Patrick Duffy from “Man From Atlantis”. Until you find his body at the bottom of the deep end.