Boomers Had a Favorite Martian

When My Favorite Martian had its debut in September of 1963, there was nothing else like it on television. The 1950s saw a rash of sci-fi movies where the aliens were almost always portrayed as space invaders, and now here, on TV, was an alien anthropologist-observer whose one-person spacecraft nearly collides with a U.S. Air Force X-15 rocket-powered aircraft. Evasive maneuvers resulted in a crash landing in an area of the galaxy without a sufficient source of replacement parts.

Ray Walston played the the part of Martin, the man from Mars, and Bill Bixby was the newspaper reporter Tim O’Hara, who happened to witness the crash landing. Tim investigates and sees an alien emerge from the craft who is far different than most of the previous decade’s imaginings. Here is a man, by appearance, very much like himself instead of a monster. Tim decides to shelter the Martian, keep his identity a secret, and house his spacecraft at his home until Martin can make repairs. Attempting to hide Martin’s identity from his landlady, Mrs. Brown (Pamela Britton), Tim calls him Uncle Martin.

In short order, Tim learns that Martin is no ordinary man. He possessed out-of-this-world powers, like the ability to levitate objects with a wiggling of his finger, read minds telepathically, or become invisible. He could also communicate with animals, freeze people or objects and speed people or himself up to work faster, as if he hit a fast forward button. Most fun of all for young boomers, he sprouted antennae from his head to communicate with his home world.

Inevitably in each episode, someone is on the verge of discovering the truth about Uncle Martin, who ultimately uses his powers and 450 years of experience to keep his identity safe and to solve whatever human dilemma was set up for that episode. Tim often creates a problem by fiddling with various Martian gadgets that Martin has made.

Mister Boomer’s family did not watch the show regularly, the way they did other TV shows of the same time, like The Fugitive, The Avengers or The Outer Limits, which may have been broadcast on ABC at the same time that CBS broadcast My Favorite Martian. As Mister B has written before, the vast majority of families owned just one TV, and what was watched during primetime evening viewing was strictly the preference of the parents. Since there were actual seasons in a TV schedule, Mister B’s family might catch an episode when the shows went to reruns, before the summer replacement shows aired. Mister B recalls that most of what he saw of the show came once it went into syndication, after it ended in 1966.

Hard to believe that one year later, Star Trek (1964-66) was first aired, which gave us a look at a universe filled with aliens that were both good and bad. Nonetheless, future shows like My Living Doll (1964-65), Lost in Space (1965-68), and most definitely Mork & Mindy (1978-82) and Alf (1986-90) owe much of their structure and feeling to My Favorite Martian.

How about you, boomers? Did you watch My Favorite Martian?

Boomers Watched “The Jimmy Dean Show”

There has been a resurgence of commercials for Jimmy Dean sausage on TV in Mister Boomer’s area lately. It’s strange for a boomer like Mister B to hear Jimmy Dean’s voice ten years after his death, pushing the breakfast products of the company that still bears his name. Yet for Mister B and many boomers, Jimmy Dean will always be remembered for his 1961 hit, Big Bad John, and his TV show, which ran in various incarnations from 1958 to 1975.

Jimmy Dean was a country singer before he was a TV star, with hits dating back to 1953. Dean had a radio show in the fifties, introducing future country stars like Patsy Cline, Buck Owens and Roy Clark. He moved the radio show to TV in 1957, as the first incarnation of The Jimmy Dean Show. In 1961, Big Bad John crossed over from the country to the pop charts, hitting number one on both. Dean proved he had an audience beyond the country music of the day.

After bouncing from CBS to ABC, his TV show was relaunched in 1963 for a national audience. Rural-based comedy was in vogue then, with The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres all commanding large viewing audiences. Dean’s laid-back delivery and down-home humor made him a hit with people like Mister Boomer’s mother, who never missed an episode.

Many boomers enjoyed the show for another reason: Rowlf, the piano-playing dog. Rowlf was Jim Henson’s first Muppet to get a regular spot on a TV show. Frank Oz and Jim Henson controlled the puppet through show routines, which included humor bits and duets with Dean. Henson was so grateful to Dean for his support that he offered him a percentage of his burgeoning Muppet company. Dean politely refused, saying he had not done anything to deserve it.

Dean often featured his friends Roy Clark and Buck Owens on his show, as well as country legends George Jones, Johnny Cash and a host of others. In addition, pop stars like The Everly Brothers and Gene Pitney, as well as comics such as Jackie Mason, Don Adams and Dick Shawn had guest appearances. Owens and Clark went on to star in their own TV show, Hee Haw (1969-71). As he had with his radio show, Dean believed in helping upstarts gain a foothold in the industry, and is credited with giving Roger Williams his start, as well. In 1964, the show hosted the first TV appearance of teenager Hank Williams, Jr., singing songs made popular by his father.

It has been written that Dean’s poor upbringing in Texas during the Depression pushed his entrepreneurial spirit to want to go further, and earn more. He landed some roles in TV shows like Daniel Boone (1967-70) and several big movies, including Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Never at ease with his acting ability, in the late 1960s Dean started The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. with his brother, in Plainview, Texas. Together, they ground meat for sausage, while his mother did the seasoning. It was a profitable business within six months, and by the 1980s, worth more than $75 million. He sold it to Sara Lee Foods in 1984, which makes hearing his voice on the commercials that much creepier.

“Sausage is a great deal like life.
You get out of it about what you put into it.”
— Jimmy Dean

How about you, boomers? Do you remember Jimmy Dean for his music, TV show, TV and movie career or his sausage?