Updated: January 29, 2017
BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTO GALLERY #05
Irwin Allen produced some of the most colorful and entertaining television programs of all time. Personally, I'm much more fond of his brand of science-fiction as opposed to the more (supposedly) serious fare like Star Trek (the original series) or the 1990's crop of sci-fi junk food.
A proud and stubborn proponent of style over substance, Allen had at least one sci-fi series on the air every year from 1964-1970. In 1966 alone, he filled three hours of network programming a week with his offbeat brand of whimsy.
BUT IT WAS THE SIXTIES
AND THERE WAS NOTHING
ELSE ON TV ANYWAY:
It's interesting to note that the more sci-fi shows Irwin Allen produced, the less imaginative they got. Still, they were enjoyable to watch because of the flawless casting and colorful sets, props and nutty devices. The special effects were especially good for the time period.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a genuinely dark, moody spy drama blended with fantastic undersea scenes. Before long, werewolves, toy robots and leprechauns roamed the halls of the Seaview.
Lost in Space started out as a straight drama revolving around an American family stranded on a hostile planet. In 1966, CBS execs insisted the show become more comedic and 'camp' to compete with the higher-rated Batman on ABC. Enter the interplanetary Vikings, space department stores and bizarro carrot people.
Time Tunnel was perhaps the best of the lot, at least the first episode was. But it too quickly degenerated into alien invasions topped off with laughable historical gaffes.
After Time Tunnel was cancelled in 1967, there was another remaining season for Lost in Space and Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea before they too were hustled off the air.
While ABC was content renewing Voyage for a fifth season, Allen knew the formula was well-worn. In late-1967, he put together a 7-minute film to show ABC execs what he had in mind for a replacement - Lost in Space lightly re-concepted as Land of the Giants.
Land of the Giants was a one-hook premise - seven people trapped in a land of much bigger people surrounded by huge ferns. It was Gilligan's Island meets Lost in Space without the fun.
ABC was naturally interested; after all, CBS had initially given the green light to a fourth season of Lost in Space in 1968. The show was only yanked from the fall schedule at the last minute. "The ratings were still quite good," Irwin Allen told a reporter. "There was no really good reason for the show to be cancelled."
To further enhance the new show's obvious derivative nature, the Land of the Giants promo film utilized stock FX shots of the Jupiter-2 from Lost in Space, including exciting color footage of the spaceship crash landing that was never before broadcast. The presentation was slick and ABC liked what they saw. Land of the Giants, possibly one of the worst sci-fi series ever, ran for two years in the Sunday night at seven time slot.
With Land of the Giants a solid player on ABC, Allen was hopeful that he could replace the now-canceled Lost in Space with his 'new' idea for 1969-70 - The Man from the 25th Century.
A seventeen-minute pilot film was made to show what the program would be like, but this pitch looked more like a rejected episode idea for Lost in Space than a fully realized weekly series concept.