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?