Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain Video - The TV Show!

It's somewhat difficult to imagine the massive influence this show had on its audience, a crew new to television and hungry for adventure of a scientific kind. The long defunct Dumont Television Network was the home to Captain Video and his Video Rangers, a live weekday show targeted to kids. There are only a handful of episodes extanct these days and frankly watching them now it's clear that seeing a huge number would grow tiresome. They were like candy, wonderful in the moment, sweet and satisfying, but taken in too large an amount dreadful and likely cause trouble.

Al Hodge takes aim with Don Hastings at his side.
The show's premise was pretty simple really, or perhaps not. Captain Video heads a worldwide organization of Rangers who help police the world with the aid of all sorts of high-tech gadgetry which allow the team to launch into space and fend off villains from this world and beyond. Every day a live presentation would move the story forward incrementally, not unlike a daily comic strip, the momentum only visible after a longer period. The pacing of the show was aided by the addition of relatively random vintage westerns and other adventures which pretended to be other Rangers in remote parts of the world. Shot live, the few episodes that survive show the usual  hit and miss of live TV production and required actors who were nimble.

Richard Coogan in command.
The first Captain Video was Richard Coogan who played the role a few years before being replaced by Al Hodge. Both had a sidekick named merely "Ranger". This duo talked to one another and others and once in a while did something but mostly the static nature of the show shines through. This is the illusion of adventure and motion, hidden behind two-dimensional sets and overwrought dialogue. It's yeoman work to make it work, but somehow they did for six years with all manner of success including spin-offs of all kinds.

To get a look at some of the fragments left from those long ago shows look below.

For another way to watch these episodes follow this link.

Captain Video was a phenomenon, not alone but with the virtue of being the first such adventure character developed just for the new invader of the home, the TV.

For all the touting of bogus and fictional technology which makes the show tick, it's the intimate nature of this very real technology of television which most explains the success of Captain Video and the Video Rangers.

More on Captain Video next week as the Dojo takes a close look at the movie serial.

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  1. While the show's pacing (or plodding) may try the patience of modern viewers, Captain Video had its impact and left its footprint firmly in 1950's life. Consider the Honeymooners episode where Norton is dressed up as a Video Ranger (and Ralph's reaction when he sees him) pure comedy gold back then and even today. The youtube clip for your video enjoyment.

    Then there was the 1956 cartoon 'Rocket Bye Baby' from Warner Brothers featuring Captain Shmideo.

    It is amazing how the Dumont Television Network, (Dumont, the poverty row of TV broadcasters) produced such a bare bones TV show, but the show's effect was enormous and left a big impact on TV viewers back then and today.

    I also find it charming that back in the fifties the idea that space travelers would wear ties and jackets into space would be the norm.

    1. The idea promoted by TV and movies (just finished watching a classic noir movie) that most folks wore suits and ties most of the time. I've heard of Captain Video for decades, but never really explored it until now. I'm learning a lot.

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