The trouble with nostalgia titles is that they don’t always live up to childhood memories.
While I enjoyed the release of Saturday morning staple “Isis” a while back, the years haven’t been as kind to its one-time partner “Shazam!,” now available from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
The series aired from 1974-76, and I admit I don’t have that strong a memory of it. I do remember the guy in the red tights, but I have better recall of “Isis.” Even when I was a kid, I liked that show better, I guess.
In this version, criminally coiffed Billy Batson (Michael Gray) says he’s on vacation from his broadcast job (a nod to the comic). He’s touring California in an RV driven by Mentor (Les Tremayne), which nobody seems to think is an odd name. As they come across various troubled teens and other issues, Billy is summoned by Elders (his namesakes, not the wizard Shazam) and told how to impart important life lessons. And when he needs to, he can transform into the adult superhero Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick and later John Davey), who also has a bad haircut, even for the ’70s.
It’s those life lessons that drag down this series. It’s from the mid-’70s, so I expect a certain lack of production values. They do the best with the budget they had.
But it’s ridiculously heavy-handed in its moral message, and that’s even before you get to the moral wrap-ups that aired after each episode, which thankfully are a special feature you don’t have to activate.
They even repeat platitudes, which Billy seems to forget from previous episodes. The Elders quote “to thine own self be true” at least twice, but the concept is lost on him the second time. Commence rolling of eyes.
I do love my ’70s nostalgia shows, so I had high hopes for “Shazam! The Complete Live Action Series” on at least camp value, but it’s not one that will get regular rotation at my place. The three-disc set contains 28 episodes.