Growing up in the 1960s, and spending quite a bit of time in front of the TV, I saw some rather peculiar things. I saw a genie, a martian and a talking horse. I saw an adman married to a witch and an eclectic family of monsters with a knockout niece who made me wish I was at least ten years older. (And wish I was a werewolf too, if that's what she was into.) I saw another creepy, kooky family who looked like they belonged in a sideshow. And I saw cousins...identical cousins.
It was the golden age of the wacky television premise, but, to me, it all seemed quite plausible. As far as I was concerned, these were all just rather unusual situations that were probably all going on, in very limited instances, all over the country. These things were apparently only possible in America. No other nation, certainly not Russia, was allowed to be that colorful. (Well, maybe they could have the cousins: two girls with identical babushkas.)
Not surprisingly, before the decade was out, a couple of goofy superheroes made their way onto our TV screens. After the success of ABC's rather campy take on the Batman comic book, NBC created their own nerdy hero: Captain Nice (played by William Daniels). CBS also weighed in with Mr. Terrific, a series that seemed to answer the question that was on no one's lips: What if Gilligan had super powers?
While Captain Nice actually attempted to satirize the superhero genre, portraying the good Captain as a momma's boy who somewhat reluctantly dons a flamboyant costume in order to fight evildoers, Mr. Terrific went the silly route. The main character, Stanley Beamish (played by Stephen Strimpell) was an earnest, well meaning klutz, and therein lies the charm of this show.
Volumes have been written by comic book historians crediting the Clark Kent character, as he was originally conceived by Jerry Siegel, as the means by which insecure, vulnerable fanboys could identify with Superman. But, at that point in Superman's history, the stumbling, geeky Kent was an act. Stanley Beamish was no act. He was the character.
When Stanley took his power pill, his face contorting and changing color in the transformation to Mr. Terrific, he gained incredible power. Nevertheless, he was still the same guy. He did not posture, as Captain Nice often forced himself to do. If Stanley, in his perpetual puberty, was going to be knocking into walls and tables and people, then the world had just better watch out.
That was kind of empowering to a little kid in that era. Grownups were so much bigger and stronger. They were always right. We were always wrong. Stanley was just like us: just trying to get along, trying to do the right thing, being a nice guy.
It was so nice, once a week, to see the nice guy finish first.moreless