Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Disco Buck

Over at The American Mind, Sean is waxing nostalgic for the late 70s TV show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and all I can say is "EW, NO NO NO NO NO!"

What I remember seeing in its original airing, I disliked immensely. I'd spent many hours poring over my Grandfather's collections of old Buck Rogers comic strips, and this was NOT Buck Rogers. This was some sort of weird space show that stole the name, dressed it in a leisure suit, and turned it loose in a disco.

The original Buck Rogers got trapped in a mine cave-in and stuck in suspended animation, emerging 500 years later to discover that half of North America had been taken over by invading Mongols, while in the other half lived a sort of loose association of freedom fighters. There were no spaceships until much later in the comic series. Rather, the Mongols had these cool airships, kept aloft by repellor rays, and their capital was Niagara Falls. The Americans used biplanes. I was thrilled.

The Sci Fi Channel used to (and may still) air reruns of the show. What I saw during a few brief moments on the Sci Fi Channel last year confirmed my suspicions that this show deserves to sit on the shelf along with all those old Gloria Gaynor LPs.

Who knows what episode it was, all I know is that the character of falseBuck was in some 25th Century Disco. The clothes reflected polyester's last desperate grab at glory as it passed from one decade to the next. Leisure suits tricked out enough to give them a futuristic look while remaining rooted in contemporary America.

And of course, there was ubiquitous disco music. The disco beat had all the characters doing some weird dance/stop movements that I'm sure were a hallmark of pop culture. (Imagine a whole room of Mark Spitzes and Farrah Fawcetts going wiggle-wiggle FREEZE! wiggle-wiggle FREEZE! and you'll have an approximation.) Whoever made this show must have been thinking that Disco was the future. That Disco would be around forever. That we would boogie-oogie-oogie until time itself wound down. Disco, of course, died almost a year later after trying one last time with "Funkytown."

Seeing how the past imagined the future can be fascinating. Or, in the case of the Buck Rogers television show, quite depressing.

You know, I would love to see someone try to make an authentic Buck Rogers movie or TV Show, following the original comic strip as closely as possible. That 70's TV show was so far off the original that even my teenaged brain, desperate for Sci Fi in any form (or Erin Grey in a jumpsuit), refused to watch it on principle. There was no friggin' TWIKI in the comic strip.

But there were biplanes, airships, anti-grav belts, disintegrator rays, repellor rays, and a bunch of scrappy Americans fighting their Mongol oppressors. Cool.

But hey, if Disco Buck is your thing, go ahead and buy. Me, I'll save my pennies for "The Bionic Woman" DVDs.


At 10:26 PM, Blogger Sean Hackbarth said...

I remember as a kid first paging through some Buck Rogers comics. I hated them because they had nothing to do with the tv show. It also bugged me then and bugs me now when a laser gun is refered to as a "ray gun." How 1950s. But the show was a little screen version of Star Wars with lasers and space battles. I loved it then, but wonder why no one makes something like that today.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I guess it all depends on what you were exposed to first. I really got into the comics and so really disliked the series. Though some people whose opinions I respect (or perhaps used to) recall it fondly. It may have had something to do with Wilma.

I won't begrudge you your joy, though. :-)


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