Tag Archives: television show

“Planet of the Apes” was a live-action television show?!

Why, yes.  Yes, it was.  It ran for a single season in 1974.

Was it any good?  No.  No, it wasn’t, judging from its pilot.  I at first typed “Planet of the Peas” in the headline you see above, and that typo was more entertaining than the actual program.

What we’ve got here is a poorly scripted, milquetoast rehash of the famous films, which (let’s be honest) were themselves high on camp and low on brains.

We have little of the charm of the movies, yet all of their cheesiness.  A spaceship is not designed to travel through time, but still helpfully features an ostentatious “chronometer.”  Our astronauts never suspect their real location until it is revealed to them — despite the fact that the apes speak modern, Americanized English.  Then our square-jawed heroes react minimally to the news that everyone they know or love is dead, along with their civilization.  Solving this central mystery is helped by an ancient, plot-convenient textbook, which thoughtfully contains pictures of both human-built machines and apes in cage.

Other flaws are more egregious.  Roddy McDowall and Booth Coleman both return as apes.  Confusingly, however, they do not reprise their film roles — they are actually different ape characters.  The humor falls flat.  (McDowall’s ape is a … nepotist?  Or something?)  And continuity with the movies is either clumsy or nonexistent.

I’d rate this short-lived program at a 3 out of 10 for three things that were neat.  One, the ape makeup and costuming is still fun.  Two, McDowall is always fun to watch and was a superb actor, even under all that makeup.  And, three, this really can scratch your nostalgia itch for popular 1970’s science fiction.  (Let’s dress up and play low-budget make-believe in the Southern California desert, shall we?)