A Couple of Far Out 60s Sitcoms

by Guy Belleranti
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Television had a number of far out sitcoms during the 1960's. Two of the farthest out had to be Mister Ed and My Favorite Martian.

Mister Ed ran for 4 seasons from 1961 to 1965. It focused on an architect and a talking horse. The horse's name is Mr. Ed. The theme song begins "A horse is a horse, of course, of course...", but Mr. Ed is anything but a regular horse.

In the series' first episode, architect Wilbur Post, and his wife, Carol, move into their dream home and discover Mr. Ed living in the barn behind the house. Mr. Ed, Wilbur finds, can talk. However Mr. Ed only talks to Wilbur, and plays dumb other times. As a result he gets Wilbur into trouble time and again.

Mr. Ed is a moody and opinionated horse. He eats Carol's tomatoes off the vines, leaves the barn to talk on the phone and so on. It was a silly program, but still entertaining.

Alan Young played Wilbur. Mr. Ed was played by a horse named Bamboo Harvester. Mr. Ed's voice was uncredited, but it is now known that Allan "Rocky" Lane (an actor who mainly worked in B serials and westerns) provided the voice.

Guest stars included such names as George Burns, Clint Eastwood and Zsa Zsa Gabor, all as themselves.

One of the program's producers and directors was Arthur Lubin. In the early to mid-1950's Lubin had directed several Francis the Talking Mule movies.

Walter R. Brooks, author of the Freddy the Pig children's books, is credited with being the creator, with the idea for Mister Ed coming from a short story of his titled "Ed Takes the Pledge".

My Favorite Martian came to television a couple years after Mr. Ed, and ran for three seasons from 1963 to 1966. It didn't feature a talking horse, but it did feature a human-looking Martian.

The series begins with newspaper reporter Tim O'Hara (played by Bill Bixby of TV's Incredible Hulk) finding a crash-landed Martian. Tim's first hope is to capitalize on his find by turning in the news scoop to beat all news scoops. However, the Martian (played by Ray Walston) warns him people will only think he's crazy. So Tim finally agrees to keep the Martian's true identity secret.

The Martian then moves in with Tim and passes himself off as Tim's Uncle Martin. Uncle Martin's hope is to repair his ship so he can return to Mars. Crazy situations follow, usually revolving around Tim's attempt to keep Uncle Martin's real identity a secret. This isn't easy because Uncle Martin is always doing new scientific experiments (like designing a time machine or molecule separator), or using his unique Martian powers to accomplish some purpose.

Among these powers are turning invisible, moving objects with his finger, and reading and controlling minds. He has a couple of antennae that rise from the back of his head whenever he's about to perform his Martian magic.

No one else ever does find out Uncle Martin is a Martian, but there are those who wonder about him. Among them are Tim's scatterbrained landlady and her boyfriend, a suspicious plainclothes cop who dislikes Uncle Martin. Uncle Martin sometimes uses his powers to deal with such snoops. Of course, this just makes the people more suspicious. It also gets Tim into jams that Uncle Martin then has to get him out of.

Indeed, Mister Ed and My Favorite Martian were far out and often silly programs. But they had a tremendous following. Sometimes a bit of far out silliness is just what people need to relax from the stress and pressures of everyday life.

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