The success of Batman on the ABC television network in 1966 created a Bat-craze across the country. Naturally, the other networks wanted to cash in themselves, so NBC and CBS developed their own superhero shows.
NBC's offering was called Captain Nice and it premiered on January 9th, 1967. In the show's first episode, we met police chemist, Carter Nash, played by William Daniels. Carter was a henpecked, meek momma's boy who, although a crack scientist, lived at home with a domineering mother and a father who always hid behind his newspaper.
His mother, Esther Nash, was played by Alice Ghostley who would later make a big splash as Samantha Stevens' Aunt Esmeralda on Bewitched. Carter, true to his character, is a bust with women too. And although the lovely police sergeant, Candy Kane, played by Ann Prentiss had a crush on Carter, he was too shy and withdrawing to do anything about it.
Carter had developed a super-serum he termed "Super Juice" which gave the recipient incredible strength and speed, flying ability, and invulnerability to harm. However, it hadn't yet been tested on anyone. When Candy was accosted by thugs, Carter, in a panic to take action, drank the Super Juice and was able to immediately dispatch the bad guys and save the day.
However, its effects only lasted for one hour. And Carter was so shaken by the experience, that when he got home, he told his mother what had happened and prepared to destroy the formula. His mother, however, stopped Carter from destroying the serum formula and convinced him that using the formula would be a great service to the city in fighting crime. She then created for him a garish superhero costume of red, white, and blue striped long johns with "Captain Nice" emblazoned on his chest.
A cape and goggles completed the look. When asked why he picked the name of "Captain Nice," Carter recalled that when the formula took effect, he felt as if he was hit by a bolt of lightning and the effect left his clothes in tatters, save for his monogrammed belt buckle with the initials "CN" visible. After saving Candy and defeating the thugs, he was asked by a bystander who he was and as he scrambled for a name, he looked at his belt buckle and saw the "CN." The idea of "Captain" came easily but, panicking for another word, came up with "Nice."
Captain Nice had a theme song:
Look! It's the man who flies around like an eagle.
Look! It's the enemy of all things illegal.
Look! At the muscles on those arms, they're like hammers.
Look! It's the nut who runs around in his pajamas.
That's no nut boy, that's Captain Nice.
Captain Nice appeared on Monday nights and was consistently walloped in the ratings, appearing directly opposite The Lucy Show. It lasted all of 15 episodes, but its pedigree was astounding.
The show was loaded with talent beginning with Buck Henry as its creator and executive producer. Henry also created Get Smart for NBC and later starred in many movies, to include Catch-22 and shared an Oscar nomination writing credit for The Graduate.
The series' producer was Jay Sandrich, a long-time TV stalwart who was associated producer on The Andy Griffith show, and directed over 100 episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later, The Cosby Show.
William Daniels (Carter Nash) later played Dustin Hoffman's father in The Graduate, Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere, the voice of Kitt (the car) on Knight Rider, and Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World. Ann Prentiss, the younger sister of Paula Prentiss and sister-in-law of Richard Benjamin, played Candy Kane. And though she never enjoyed the success her older sister had, she bounced around various TV shows and movies for many years.
Sadly, in 1997, she was convicted of making terrorist threats, assault with a firearm, battery, and solicitation to commit the murders of her father and sister.
Captain Nice is almost impossible to find today, save for unauthorized bootleg videos and DVDs which can often be found on eBay, some internet sites, and various comic book conventions. The show had been criticized for its lack of action and reliance upon too much dialogue, but its sweeping campy style helped set the bar for later offerings such as The Greatest American Hero on ABC and the live action The Tick on Fox.
Captain Nice undoubtedly was cancelled due to the declining interest in superheroes on TV. Even Batman only lasted one more season before it too was cancelled. Still, Captain Nice is a quirky footnote to the whole superhero genre.
About the author: David Galassie is a human resources specialist in Columbia, South Carolina. In his free time, he pursues popular culture- comic books, animation art, and music. A frequent contributor to Rewind the Fifties, he chronicles the more notable acts of the 1960s as well as many obscure bands and one hit wonders.
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