Land Of The Lost (Past & Present)

With the recent release, and subsequent flop, of the big screen remake of LAND OF THE LOST, I’m wondering if there are any other fans (or critics) of the original show on which it is based.

Like many my age (early 40’s) LAND OF THE LOSTwas a weekly Saturday morning event in my house, where we got totally lost for a half hour watching the Marshall family fight to survive in that strange, closed universe filled with dinosaurs, Sleestak, Pakuni, and various and sundry other races that somehow managed to fall through one of the mysterious doorways in time and space.

Nowadays, I hear a lot of people berate the show for it’s special effects, acting, costumes, etc, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the original LAND OF THE LOST was pretty sophisticated Saturday morning kid’s fare. The special effects, while crude by today’s standards, were state of the art at the time. And while the acting was a bit over the top, this WAS a Sid and Marty Krofft show…..two producers not exactly known for their subtlety. And I’ve met more than one person who admitted to having nightmares about the Sleestak….a creature design so good it was virtually unchanged for the new movie.

But LAND OF THE LOST featured some excellent writing, including episodes penned by former STAR TREK writers such as David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana. And it featured some pretty dark subject matter for a kid’s show…..references by Will and Holly to their dead mother (and even seeing a vision of her in one episode), the near constant threat of violent death (being eaten by dinosaurs, or offered as a gourmet sacrifice to the unseen Sleestak god of the pit), and even the discovery of a corpse in one episode (pretty heavy stuff for Saturday morning TV).

And somehow, the creators always managed to throw in a good positive message. Sometimes it was heavy handed, sometimes subtle, but it was always there. And I always thought Rick Marshall was one of the best TV dads around (even if he did manage to get his family stuck in such a bizarre world).

The downside was arguably the show’s third season, when Spencer Milligan (Rick Marshall) left the show and was replaced by Roy Scheider look-alike Ron Harper as Uncle Jack. The writing, the production values, all took a turn for the worse. Probably the worst sin was the sudden, almost weekly appearances of other humans in the Land….which took away from much of the mystery and isolation of the Marshall family. It was also kinda ridiculous to see these characters pop in and out of the Land with apparent ease, while the Marshalls’ every attempt to leave met with dismal failure.

But overall, LAND OF THE LOST was a good show, imaginative, well written (mostly), that could be enjoyed by the whole family. Faults? Imperfections? Of course. But it never talked down to it’s audience and never descended to lowest common denominator entertainment like it’s big screen descendant.

I for one have very fond memories of this show, and my kids and I still watch it regularly via the magic of DVD. And given the new films’ approach of discarding everything that made the original show so memorable, and choosing instead to wallow in not only filth, but mediocrity, I was extremely pleased to see it tank at the box office.

What say you?

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