On this day (February 1) in 1976 there occurred one of the great events in television history (for eleven year olds): the FIRST bigfoot episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.
This was an unspeakable confluence of mighty forces calculated to get us to televisions as though drawn by magnets. As we wrote here, The Six Million Dollar Man was at or near the top of my favorite TV shows when I was a tween. So there’s that. But in addition (as regards this particular episode) for some reason cryptozoology and other pseudoscience was very big at that moment (and again, especially with kids our age). We were extremely into bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and the paranormal. I’m trying to remember precisely where we were getting it all from. The tv series In Search Of…wouldn’t be launched until the following year, for example. But there were tons of paperback books for the inquiring mind of the middle schooler, and magazine articles in kid’s magazines and such. I guess that’s where we were getting it.
Even better, in this “very special” episode of The Six Million Dollar Man (the first of three two-parters featuring Bigfoot; he almost became a regular on the series), the part of Sasquatch was played by Andre the Giant! This took it over the top. The Six Million Dollar Man PLUS Bigfoot PLUS professional wrestling?! At that stage we have won the trifecta. (In the second 2 two-part episodes, ‘Squatch was played by Ted Cassidy, Lurch from The Addams Family, which is almost as good).
The conception of the beast, more humanoid than ape-like is interesting to me. They gave him scary, white zombie eyes to terrify us at first. But then he has this hippie frizz of hair and a Grizzly Adams style beard and fluffy fur like a stuffed animal, so that when Steve Austin and Bigfoot inevitably make friends after initially sparring, you can go “Aw! But he’s cute!” He is after all, an endangered species, living among the redwood trees of California, and this is after all the 1970s. If I recall correctly (I’m relying entirely on memory), at the end of the episode, Austin waves to Bigfoot, and Bigfoot magically waves back. It’s kind of like Frosty the Snowman. “I’ll be back, kids!” And he was!