In my specific kid generation you were either a Batman or a Lost in Space kid. Maybe it had to do with how old we were in 1966 because most of the big kids told us Lost in Space was way cooler than Batman, but for me and my friend Timmy, it was Batman and Robin all the way. BAMM! POW! It was the only show on TV as far as we 3rd graders were concerned, (ok so maybe Dark Shadows ran a close second).
In 1965, the ABC network introduced us all to Lost in Space, a breakthrough television series about an American family that was to travel in space. If I’m remembering correctly, they were trying to get to a planet to see if it could be inhabited. The mission was sabotaged by a Doctor Smith and we assume this was a second sabotage since the ship was named the Jupiter II. The doctor began in the series as a bit of a villain but eventually became more of a villainous goofball, playing the role of comic relief. The scripts revolved around an ensemble cast but for the most part, I recall most of the story lines revolving around Doctor Smith, the Robot and Will. DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!
Danger Will Robinson
The following year though, (1966), Lost in Space was pitted up against a new series from CBS – Batman. In January, Lost in Space bet on “The Keeper” while CBS threw up Frank Gorshin as The Riddler in “Hi Diddle Riddle”. It was a two-parter with Diddle Riddle airing on the 12th, (Wednesday night), and the exciting conclusion scheduled the next night, “Smack in the Middle”.
If you were a kid, you were begging your parents to let you watch one of these two shows that night in January. Timmy and I had been talking about Batman ever since they began advertising it on TV and by the time January rolled around, we were like two strung out meth addicts, looking for the next score, ready to do anything for it. My dad ruled the television in our house and it wasn’t like it is today. Today, televisions are a lot more affordable due to most households having more discretionary income and TVs becoming proportionally less expensive over the years. So me and everyone I knew had only one television set. One set and only five channels, (7 if you were lucky enough to have a UHF antenna). There wasn’t going to be any damn Batman in our house! Our set would be tuned into some crappy show like The Virginian.
Luckily, I had my friend Timmy and he had his mom Ginny who just loved to spoil Tim rotten, (man I loved that mom). (Go back and read this story to learn about Ginny – it’s worth it – link). So anyway, when Tim and I went running into his house pronouncing, (begging), that we were going to watch Batman in an hour, his big brother Ricky, (only about 3 times as large as Tim and I put together – hey, he chewed on dog chains for snacks), informed us that he was going to be watching Lost in Space!
Ginny was taking a bath so Tim asked his dad, (Art), for a ruling and like any smart husband for the past millennium, he applied a bit of diplomacy – “whatever your mom says works for me”.
Men and women, take notice – women have so much more power in the home if only they recognize it and then know how to leverage it. My wife likes to call me a controlling person, but the fact of the matter is that we both are firstborn, driven adults. She is even more controlling than I, the only difference is that she’s really the boss and just lets me strut and show off my tail feathers every great once in awhile. She knows the secret – if she’s keeping me happy, she pretty much gets whatever she wants…and we men are so easy to keep happy. I think Timmy’s dad was a very happy man.
But back to the story. At the “whatever your mom says”, my friend Timmy beat his little fists on the bathroom door where his mom was taking a bath, (most houses in our neighborhood didn’t have a shower). Their house, (or maybe it was just Ginny), was a lot more open and unashamed about nudity than mine, (hey, when you looked like Timmy’s mom, you don’t have much to be bashful about). That said, Ginny opened the door and stepped out to answer Timmy and to head to her bedroom where her change of clothes was waiting.
The heck with my dad’s hidden Playboy magazines, now this is true art! Ginny was in the prime of her life and what a beauty she was. Even as a 7 year old, I knew that I had been awarded a rare glimpse into the face of beauty, (ok, so maybe I wasn’t looking at her face). Ginny saw me sitting there in that soft green living room chair of theirs and she quickly backed up into the bathroom, laughing about it the whole time. “Sorry Robbie” she said from behind the wall. I said nothing. No one had ever taught me the proper way to address a nude Italian mom and so I played the only card I had which was to stare open-mouthed, much like an opossum caught in the beam of a flashlight from a backwoods night hunter looking for an easy meal.
Many years later, I was to become a Lost in Space kind of kid (thank God for reruns). Similar to raising me and my 8 brothers and sisters, (I assume), The Keeper was about this guy who traveled through space; his goal – to collect a male and female specimen from each species of animal across the galaxies. Had he landed in our tiny little Prytania neighborhood, likely he would have passed on collecting a set of specimens from the human race. Or not….after all, many of us were often compared to animals. Today, I still enjoy a good science fiction movie or television series. Yes, I admit that I have seen every single Star Trek, every single X-Files episode and every single episode of Fringe. I guess what I enjoy most in science fiction is the aspect of stretching the human mind, its creative capacities to imagine and explore the unimaginable.
I know today that it was a tumultuous time for American adults, but for me, 1966 was a time of innocence, a time for watching silly shows like Batman because we were just little seven year olds who liked to watch cartoons like Johnny Quest and his dog Bandit. Maybe even a goofy thirty minute science fiction series like Lost in Space was over our heads at the time. If we had a television in the house, there was only one. There was only one bread winner in the house too. Moms kept us kids company during the summer and at nights and they let us have our freedom during the day. Sometimes they even popped out of their bathrooms, offering us a free lesson in human anatomy. Ginny, if you are up there somewhere reading this over my shoulder as I’m writing, I know you have a big smile on your face. I couldn’t appreciate it as a seven year old, but I sure can now and so I say to you:
VA, VA, VA VOOM! Oh, and thanks for giving in to Timmy and letting us watch Batman.
WILL ROBIN ESCAPE?
CAN BATMAN FIND HIM IN TIME?
IS THIS THE GHASTLY END OF OUR DYNAMIC DUO?
ANSWERS…TOMORROW NIGHT! SAME TIME, SAME CHANNEL!
ONE HINT–THE WORST IS YET TO COME!