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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

AQUANAUTS '66

THE AQUANAUTS ‘66
The 1970—71 paperback men’s adventure series The Aquanauts did not originate the clever moniker referring to risk-taking SCUB divers—or underwater astronauts. The Aquanauts was also the name of an hour long TV show, which ran for 32 episodes on the CBS network during the 1960-61 season.
 
The Aquanauts aired Wednesday nights on CBS at 7:30 opposite the hugely popular Wagon Train on NBC and Hong Kong with Rod Taylor on ABC. It was followed on CBS by Secret Agent with Patrick McGoohan at 8:30.
 
The show chronicled the adventures of ex-Navy frogmen Larry Lhar (Jeremy Slate) and Drake Andrews (Keith Larson). As civilians, Lahr and Andrews kept their SCUBA tanks filled by becoming professional salvage divers. Braving the dangers of the deep while recovering sunken wrecks, the duo often came into conflict with dangerous adversaries who wanted to reach the wrecks first, had a vested interest in seeing what had been sent to the bottom stayed there, or were trying to hide something else in the vicinity.
 
The early episodes of The Aquanauts were produced by Ivan Tors, who had previously created Sea Hunt—which ran in original syndication from 1958 to 1961 and turned Lloyd Bridges into a cultural icon. Underwater footage from Sea Hunt was often recycled by Tors for use in The Aquanauts.
 
In The Aquanauts, Larson’s and Slate’s characters were younger, hipper versions of Lloyd Bridges’ Sea Hunt character, Mike Nelson. However, the plotlines of both shows were remarkably similar—each week, a given crime or eco-disaster could only be solved/prevented by scuba diving adventurers. The heroes were menaced by killer whales, killer sharks, found buried treasure, recovered rocket nose cones, were trapped in free falling shark cages, became the victims of murderous doubles, and were framed for murder. 
 
After 14 episodes, Larson developed a sinus issue making it impossible to for him to dive. As Larson put it, "I began bleeding like a sieve when I went down thirty feet." His character was written out of the show as having rejoined the Navy. Ron Ely (later to become famous as Tarzan and Doc Savage) joined the show as Mike Madison, another ex-Navy diver. In an unforeseen future twist, Ely would take over Bridges’ role as Mike Nelson in a syndicated revival of Sea Hunt in 1987. The updated version was canceled after only one season.
 
With the departure of Larson came other changes in the show. While still accepting freelance diving jobs, the characters of Madison and Lahr decided to move to Malibu and open a dive shop (appropriately called, The Aquanauts). Both divers were given cool ‘60s era bachelor pads, giving pretty girls in bikinis a place to show up in distress. Another new character, a salty sea dog named The Captain, was added to the cast as a good friend of the divers. CBS also took the opportunity to rebrand the show as Malibu Run, instantly making the sleepy little namesake beach town famous. 
 
The network further meddled with the concept by trading exciting underwater dangers in favor of more traditional, clichéd, and cheaper land-based shenanigans. Consequently, the show sunk faster than a million dollar yacht scuttled for insurance money.
 
Despite its short run, The Aquanauts was popular with the programmers at Buffalo TV station WNYP-TV, who at one point were airing the series every day at the same time. Unfortunately, the station inadvertently played the same episode every day for two weeks until someone noticed.
 
Even as the name and format changed from The Aquanauts to Malibu Run, Dell put out a one shot comic tie-in under The Aquanauts banner. It was dated May 1971, with art by Dan Spiegle, and listed as #119 in Dell’s four color series.
 
There was also a 1961 TV tie-in novel, The Aquanauts by Daniel Bard, published by Popular Library. The story featured Keith Larsen's character Drake Andrews.
 
As was obligatory for any show worthy of TV tie-in items, The Aquanauts had their own roll, spin, and move board game produced by Transogram.
 

 
 
The Aquanauts producer Ivan Tors also produced the 1966 film Around the World Under the Sea. The movie starred Sea Hunt stalwart Lloyd Bridges. ATWUTS charted the adventures of the Hydronaut, a deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine with a civilian crew. The Hydronaut’s mandate was to circumnavigate the globe underwater while planting monitoring sensors to predict impending earthquakes. Although Jules Verne was not credited, his influence was clear throughout the film. Tors’ production company also choreographed and filmed the underwater sequences for the James Bond movie Thunderball-in which Tors actually used some shipwreck footage from The Aquanauts.
 
THE AQUANAUTS EPISODE GUIDE
Paradivers
Collision
Rendezvous: 22 Fathoms
Safecracker
Deep Escape
The Stowaway
Disaster Below
Arms Of Venus
Night Dive
The Cave Divers
The Big Swim
Underwater Demolition
River Gold
Niagara Dive
Killers In Paradise
Secret At Half Moon Key
Stormy Weather
The Armored Truck Adventure
The Defective Tank Adventure
 
EPISODES AS MALIBU RUN
The Jeremiah Adventure
The Tidal Wave Adventure
The Radioactive Object Adventure
The Double Adventure
The Margot Adventure
The Rainbow Adventure
The Frankie Adventure
The Guilty Adventure
The Landslide Adventure
The Kidnap Adventure
The Stakeout Adventure
The Scavenger Adventure
The Diana Adventure
 















 

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