Recently I got the urge to re-watch the classic 70s show Land of the Lost, about a family that gets trapped in a strange land populated with dinosaurs and lizard-men and lots of other bizarre creatures. Like Jonny Quest, which I wrote about last month, Land of the Lost was a rare example of a “children’s” show that managed to engage and challenge the minds of its viewers, with incredible stories of time travel, alternate worlds and a complete mythos for fans to explore — it was very much “Lost” for kids. It’s no wonder the writing was so good, since SF legends like Ben Bova, Larry Niven and Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana contributed scripts, and in the prehistoric days before Japanese animation, it was cutting-edge stuff. Since the show had a budget of about $50 per episode (or so it seemed), they had to get creative on the production side, for example the Sleestak “God of the Pit” who we never see, only hear. While the show did have innovative stories, it retained some of the condescending attitudes of the era — no matter what kind of dangerous situation Marshall, Will and Holly were in, they’d say things like, “but you might be hurt!” rather than using the word “killed,” since kids would apparently be traumatized at the very suggestion of death. Nowadays there are dozens of thoughtful anime series with stories that really challenge the mind, and young people today probably can’t imagine a time when virtually all television aimed at anyone under the age of fifteen had to be completely sterile and boring.
Or am I giving TV too much credit for not being condescending to viewers? Maybe it’s still bad but I just don’t know since I’m grown up and living in Japan.
Land of the Lost told hardcore SF stories in the pre-anime era, and it was gloriousLa.