Planet of the Apes: The Television Show

Planet of the Apes TV Series

It being the birthday of Roddy McDowell (center) it seemed a perfect time to toot a horn on behalf of a favorite show of mine when I was the ripe old age of nine. The Planet of the Apes tv series ran for one season in 1974, one year after the last of the original five films Battle for the Planet of the Apes appeared in cinemas. Apes-Mania was at its height. There were Apes action figures, lunch boxes, comic books, coloring books. And for several months we had the 13 episodes of the tv show to inspire our playground games.  (14 were made, but only 13 aired at the time) .

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The show was very similar to the films, only this time there were two lost time-travelling earth astronauts (James Naughton and Ron Harper). Somehow this made the experience less bleak than in the films, most of which play like existential nightmares. Here, if the apes caught you, your friend could be counted on to come rescue you by the end of the episode. And of course Roddy McDowell, as he had in the films, played a more intelligent, sensitive chimpanzee (here named Galen) who runs afoul of ape leaders Dr. Zaius and the singularly pea-brained and war-like General Urko.

Unfathomably (to me, at the time) the show was canceled due to poor ratings. (“But all the kids watched it!”) But…not to worry. The following season, on Saturday mornings, we got…Return to the Planet of the Apes.

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