Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Superman Week: Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Superman the Musical


Superman Week rolls on with Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The 1975 ABC-TV adaptation of the Broadway Musical It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman.

The musical was a flop on Broadway when it premiered in 1966, but nonetheless, ABC produced a version for television, starring David Wilson as the Man of Steel, Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane, and Loretta Switt and David Wayne in supporting roles. The TV version was quite different from the Broadway show that inspired it, featuring a more 70s sensibility (disco-like songs, etc.) and is much shorter than the stage version. The show is admittedly quite tacky, but I enjoy it as a cultural artifact that represents its time.

Fun fact: Warren later screen tested for the role of Lois Lane for the 1978 theatrical film.

The show aired only once--and in late night, no less--as an installment of ABC's Wide World of Entertainment, but is available on video and DVD via the comic con circuit.

Here is a trailer for the presentation. Thanks!


8 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Ah, the low-budget sins that ABC and CBS would periodically trot out in late night when Carson was so dominant for NBC...THE WIDE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT and to some extent THE CBS LATE MOVIE (among other packages, when either net wasn't trying good--Dick Cavett--or terrible--Joey Bishop--chat shows...both of those on ABC, while CBS went bland with the likes of Merv Griffin and, much later, Pat Sajak) certainly spun all sorts of good, bad and ugly (and that film) past us...

Todd Mason said...

Before the Eastern Educational Network (the regional public-station consortium that predated PBS and is now essentially the syndicator American Public Television) got ahold of MONTY PYTHON in 1975, ABC ran some (mildly censored) episodes in the WIDE WORLD package...patterned, of course, after the similar desperate improvisation, for relatively underfunded ABC, of THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS, which had paid off handsomely for ABC over the previous decade and for several to come...

Phillyradiogeek said...

CBS Late Night, aka Reruns of Shows We Couldn't Make Popular When They Aired The First Time.

The last show I remember airing as part of Late Night was Mrs. Columbo. I saw Kate Mulgrew and thought, "Why the hell would a woman like that marry Columbo? No wonder they divorced."

Todd Mason said...

Was that the hook they hung MRS. COLUMBO on, that they divorced? Huh. Also, THE CBS LATE MOVIE was full of cheap theatrical and made for tv films professional enough not to look too bad, but often as dire as one could want...LOVELY BUT DEADLY being an anti-favorite of mine, down to its unctuous theme song.

Todd Mason said...

And never forget, even if you could, CBS's much later CRIME TIME AFTER PRIME TIME...a few decent series, and then there was NIGHT HEAT and a few others which plumbed almost as deeply...

Phillyradiogeek said...

A clarification on Mrs. Columbo, according to the always accurate Wikipedia:

"Mrs. Columbo, a spin-off TV series starring Kate Mulgrew, aired in 1979 and was canceled after only thirteen episodes. Lt. Columbo was never seen on Mrs. Columbo. Connections with the original Columbo series were made obvious: the glaring presence of Columbo's car in the driveway, Dog, and Mrs. Columbo emptying ashtrays containing the famous green cigar butts- all featured in the show's opening sequence. References were also made to Kate's husband being a police lieutenant. There were notable discrepancies between the two shows.
Due to the negative critical and public reaction to the show, the producers made changes to Mrs. Columbo. The spin-off was renamed Kate Columbo, followed by Kate the Detective, and finally Kate Loves a Mystery. The main character was likewise renamed "Kate Callahan"; all references to and ties with the original Columbo show were dropped. After this, a reference was made in the show to Kate's divorce: the character was no longer Mrs. Columbo nor was she meant to have any connection with him at all."

As for CRIME TIME: my father loved SILK STALKINGS.

Todd Mason said...

SILK STALKINGS, which lived on for several seasons on the USA cable channel (one of their first original dramatic series) and FOREVER KNIGHT, the vampire cop romance drama which was for a few seasons in first-run syndication, were the major survivors of AFTER PRIMETIME, which died when David Letterman came to CBS with THE LATE SHOW...though for some reason CBS really loved NIGHT HEAT, which really was memorably awful (and, like most, a Canadian co-production). The most interesting series that didn't last long was one of the several series called SCENE OF THE CRIME, this one a remarkably perverse for broadcast anthology produced and introduced by Stephen J. Cannell.

Delmo said...

Actually the ABC version of the Superman musical aired twice-once in 1975 and again a year or so later. I remember as I watched both airings as a child. Had to ask permission to stay up that late.

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