A look at shows from the past that may not have stood the test of time and/or that are relegated to their era, but many of us still have fond memories of them.
What Is It? This series follows a scientist who accidentally makes himself permanently vanish while experimenting with invisibility. He uses his abilities to work as a secret agent, while also trying to find a cure for his condition.
Aired: NBC, 1975-6, 1 Season Totaling 13 Episodes
Starring: David McCallum, Melinda O. Fee, Craig Stevens
Created By: Harve Bennett
Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi? No, but worth checking out at least the pilot episode because of the talent involved in creating it.
The Skinny: This series hit the small screen in the mid-70’s and utilized the formula of a person with superpowers working as an agent or helping others frequently seen in sci fi shows of the time. ABC had already found success with the format with The Six Million Dollar Man in 1974 and CBS would launch The Incredible Hulk in 1977. The Invisible Man started out with a somewhat cynical feel to it as Dr. Daniel Westin was at odds with his company Klae Corporation, not wanting to use the invisibility technology for military purposes. But once the show shifted into ongoing series mode, the leader of Klae Corp became a more sympathetic figure and it adopted the case-of-the-week format. Basically, it became The Six Million Dollar Man with invisibility instead of bionics.
But what is most interesting about the series is the talent involved with bringing it together. Harve Bennett created the series and wrote the pilot, and he of course would go on to be a major participant in Star Trek‘s revival on the big screen. Assisting Bennett with the pilot script and writing more episodes for the series was a young Steven Bochco, who of course would go on to fame with such shows as Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. Also involved with writing several episodes was James D. Parriott who would go on to create or co-create Voyagers!, Misfits of Science, Forever Knight, and Defying Gravity. And in the lead role was David McCallum, best known at that time as Illya Kuryakin from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and who would go on to star in the respected British sci fi series Sapphire & Steel. Unfortunately, the network expected by-the-numbers action-adventure stories from this show and never let it the talent involved develop it to the potentially great series it could have been.
Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. This show was thrown into the difficult Monday 8 PM EST hour where it had to contend with the Top 10 sitcoms on CBS Rhoda and Phyllis. The series never managed to attract enough viewers in that hour and was off the air by mid-season.
Should It Be Rebooted? Not necessarily. This series never gained much acclaim, so trying to reboot it would not draw much of a built-in audience. The Invisible Man story has been tried several other times, most notably the series that ran on the Sci Fi Channel for two seasons starting in 2000. And there is plenty of potential in the concept, so at some point I’m sure an invisible man or woman will return to the small screen.
Interesting Fact: NBC apparently really wanted an invisible man TV series, because they tried again the next season with The Gemini Man. The pilot for that aired as a movie-of-the-week in May 1976 and it was greenlighted for series the following Fall. But they put that in the even more difficult timeslot of Thursdays at 8 PM EST against Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley on ABC and The Waltons on CBS. The Gemini Man was yanked after five episodes and there were no invisible men seen on television for a while after that.
Where Can You Watch It? The entire series has been released on DVD (Amazon lists it as multi-format, but that is an error). It not currently available on any of the streaming services that I am aware of, but you might find episodes–particularly the pilot–on YouTube from time to time.