Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Dozierverse: What might've been

I was talking to a friend the other day at the supermarket, and he expressed his disdain over the current series Smallville, now in its 9th season. Not only does he not get the whole concept over the series, chronicling the career of young Clark Kent (Tom Welling) before he becomes Superman, but it bothered him that central characters like Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) had been written out of the show, and the producers had taken extreme creative liberties in creating their own version of the Justice League, as we've seen their takes on Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg (of the Teen Titans), Martian Manhunter, and most recently, the Wonder Twins, in the last few seasons. It got me thinking.

A few years ago, I had acquired a VHS tape of the unaired Batgirl pilot from 1967 starring Yvonne Craig. The spin-off never got off the ground, and the "Dominoed Dare-Doll" was added to Batman for its 3rd & final season. In addition to the short feature were some network ads for NBC's Captain Nice and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and a trailer for 1975's "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze", George Pal's adaptation of the pulp legend. Also, there was a teaser for yet another William Dozier production, one that, luckily for us, never saw any airtime at all.

Six years before Wonder Woman was adapted into an ABC Movie of the Week with Cathy Lee Crosby (That's Incredible) and Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island), Dozier had tried a half-hour, comedy-adventure version designed along the same camp line as Batman, but infinitely worse. The fact that neither ABC nor NBC or CBS picked it up proves that what worked for Batman wasn't meant to work for the rest of the DC characters.

Undaunted, Dozier also tried to apply his formula to comic strip legend Dick Tracy. You've probably seen the title credits on YouTube or the full pilot, which I found on the Classic Television Showbiz blog. Tracy's theme song was composed and performed by the surf-rock group, The Ventures, better remembered for their awesome take on the Hawaii 5-0 theme. Instead of being closer to Green Hornet as a more serious crime drama, Tracy was also geared toward the campy Bat-audience, even going so far as to cast Victor Buono (King Tut on Batman) as the villain du jour, Mr. Memory. Apparently, Dozier believed that Chester Gould's cast of bizarre criminals (i.e. The Mole, Pruneface) would lend itself to be used the same way Batman's Rogues Gallery was used. As with Wonder Woman, network execs passed on Dick Tracy. Hence, Dozier's body of work on television consists solely of at least three series: Batman, Green Hornet, and the lone true sitcom Dozier ever made, The Tammy Grimes Show, with Batman being the most successful of the three.

You've heard of how actors are typecast. It's easy to assume that a producer such as Dozier was also typecast, after a fashion.


Samuel Wilson said...

I've never been that deep into Smallville but I've always felt that comics fans should get over their purism regarding its approach to the DC Universe. Call it an alternate reality and deal with it like every other alternate reality that the comics-exploitation industry throws at you. From what I know about Smallville I have to give the creators and producers credit for their "All bets are off" approach and their willingness to consider an alternative history for Clark Kent that doesn't necessarily end in a generic Superman continuity. That may be why it's lasted so long.

hobbyfan said...

I've never understood why comics fanatics can't think outside the box, which is what the Smallville crew is doing.

Meanwhile, what say you regarding William Dozier, or didn't you read that part of the post?