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A British TV Odyssey

A British TV Odyssey

British TV Odyssey

This was an agency news report by Bob Thomas that was syndicated to local newspapers in the USA and Canada in August 1975. The first appearance seems to be 12th August 1975 - it appeared in different papers throughout August, usually without the author credit and often edited.

Alternative headlines:

Larry Distel of the Santa Ana Register added his own thoughts when the Thomas story ran in his paper on 12 August 1975 under the title "New Space Series Threatens Other Shows", pB5.

disrupt well ordered orbits

LOS ANGELES (AP) - With the new television season approaching its start, the three networks are nervously eyeing the sky for signs of an enemy moon station.

Actually the 311 travelers on Moonbase Alpha are benign, trying to save an earth endangered by misorbiting of the moon. But to the networks "Space: l999' represents a threat to their own well-ordered orbits.

Here's why. "Space: 1999" is the new series produced by England's I.T.C. and starring Barbara Bain, Martin Landau and Barry Morse.

The company's boss, Sir Lew Grade, sidestepped the networks to offer it to local stations. Some 128 channels, 90 per cent of them with network affiliations, will start offering the series in the next few weeks.

Many of the stations have knocked out network shows to offer "Space: 1999" in prime time. This could mean damaged ratings and possible extinction for new series, particularly those in the 8-9 "family hour."

Why did "Space: 1999" go to syndication instead of networks?

"It's a matter of economics," explained Landau, the intrepid Commander Koenig of Moonbase Alpha.

"Each show cost $275,000 - they would have been $400,000 if they had been made here. There was no way they could have been made for less money. Every set had to be built; because of the nature of the story, we couldn't shoot anything outside the studio.

"Sir Lew had guaranteed Barbara and me 24 episodes. No network will commit itself to more than 13 episodes, so he decided to sell the series to Individual stations for a year's run - 24 first runs and 24 reruns.

"He has made it work. "Space: 1999" is the first series that will be shown in 101 countries simultaneously."

The Landaus explained how they became Involved in the project. After their success In "Mission: Impossible" (three Emmies in a row for Barbara), they were offered a variety of spy projects, husband-and-wife detectives and-or Hepburn-Tracy vehicles. "After looking at the films we realized no one could top Hepburn and Tracy," said Barbara, chief medical officer on Moonbase Alpha.

In August 1973, the English producing team of Sylvia and Garry [sic] Anderson journeyed to Hollywood - to see the Landaus - they literally knocked on our door." The visitors outlined their proposal for a space series.

"It takes place 23 years from now," Miss Bain recounted, "and scientists from many nations are on the moon to provide a defense system against invaders.

"Nuclear wastes are deposited on the far side of the moon, and they explode and send the moon out of orbit."

Tidal waves and earthquakes strike the earth as the moon and its inhabitants veer into space. The rest of the adventure concerns the search of the moon travelers for a new home.

The Landaus were intrigued by the proposal and committed themselves to a year and a halt of production in England. This meant transplanting themselves and daughters Susan and Juliet, now 15 and 10, to a 200 year-old house in the Little Venice section of London.

"Each show was like a "2001: Space Odyssey," [sic] said Landau.

"In fact, the same technicians who worked on the movie did the effects for our show. There were two operations: the principal photography on the sets at Pinewood Studio and another special effects studio on the Thames 20 miles away.

"We were also fortunate to have the pick of the English theater as guest stars. Among them were Richard Johnson, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Margaret Leighton."

The filming of "Space: 1999" spanned Watergate ("We watched live reports on television at 4 a.m.") and the energy crisis.

"When English industry was on a three-day week, our company was permitted to use generators," said Miss Bain. "Our scientific equipment wouldn't work, but the actors did,"

Will "Space: 1999" continue into the unknown?

"Sir Lew will decide In November whether to make more films," said Landau. "We'll decide then, too."

Why Space 1999 Poses Threat by Larry Distel

Every year about this time TV writers are belted with just about every conceivable thing an army of publicity writers can dream up about the new fall shows (and the returning old shows, too)

Most of the stuff isn't worth sending out. At a time when most of us might be nearing starvation for lack of cold, hard facts about the new shows, or a look at some of them, what we get is cream puff stuff not even fit for snacks.

When writers like Bob Thomas, of AP, writes the story elsewhere on this page about the upcoming "Space 1999," you'll note that for the most part he is reciting what the stars have to say about the show.

That's fair enough and I guess the fans might be interested in what they have to say, particularly since Barbara Bain and Martin Landau really haven't been heard from all that much since they jumped off "Mission: Impossible" to seek other "better" fields for their endeavors.

Yet the views of the stars of the show, or of the producers hardly can be considered objective. Everything they have to say about it has to be discounted a little, if not a lot, for their judgment must needs be colored a little by their own appearances in the series.

There is reference in the Thomas story to something that does come under the head of cold facts: that is, the fact that "Space 1999" is being syndicated, and apparently has been sold well enough that many stations across the country are planning on running it in prime time.

Since this includes many stations which normally carry network programming, it can only mean some network shows will have to be cut off to make way for "Space 1999".

First losers in the ratings, of course, will be those programs which are pre-empted right from the go, as absence from the air will be reflected in national ratings, which in turn determine which shows will survive past mid-season cuts.

However, other shows also are wary. For since these are syndicated shows, the local stations will have full control over when they run them and can change time at will. In other words, there will be nothing to stop shift of "Space 1999" from its original time spot into another spot during the week if another network show doesn't please the station manager.

So "Space 1999" does pose a real threat to many of the network shows this fall. Though I have not seen it, it does come from a top producer, with known stars, and covers a field that has an established following, the science-fiction field.

In our own area the three networks escape the dangers faced in other areas for Channel 9 will be carrying the show at 7 p.m. Saturday nights.

I have thought that a strange decision. For 7 p.m. Saturdays is not a big audience time slot, particularly with a show with the quality this new one is supposed to have.

Apparently the station is opting for winning a large share of a comparatively small audience, instead of challenging the network biggies and ending up with a passing, but small, share in prime time.

Expect to get a look at this show soon and will pass along what I see. Actually, there will be a preview of the series on the air Aug. 23, with the regular series starting Sept. 20.