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Captain Caveman isn’t in this. Strike one. – It’s About Time #1

July 2, 2012

Beefy middle-aged guys with Ernest Borgnine arms wearing fur and showing a lot of shoulder. JUST WHAT THE WORLD DEMANDED.

Most of America has probably never heard of — or doesn’t remember — It’s About Time. I certainly hadn’t. Didn’t know if it was a movie or what. Turns out it was a TV show, which lasted but one year, on CBS’s 1966-67 broadcast season. I think this is one of those cases where a small segment of the population might remember the show fondly. “Oh yeah. It’s About Time. That was the show where astronauts accidentally went back in time to caveman days, and wackiness ensued. That show was kind of fun.” But now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube (not sure of the rerun status of this series — can’t be all that hot a commodity) people can refresh their recollections with brief clips and come to their senses. “My God. This thing blew HARD.”

I’m not going to pass judgment on the show. Never saw it, though its contemporary cousin, Gilligan’s Island, was a syndicated childhood favorite of mine, so I can’t hold the Goofy Laugh-Tracked Garbage Television genre against it too hard. Idiot entertainment has its place in all eras, and perhaps IAT was a forerunner of our time’s Snooki. (I don’t know what epoch gets the worst of that juxtaposition. Probably ours.) Also, its posterity is hamstrung by having no huge stars whose names echo down to the present day. Imogene Coca (Your Show of Shows) and Joe E. Ross (Car 54, Where Are You?), the cave-folks (Shad and Gronk) on the above cover, had their degree of fame, but not transcendent levels. (Incidentally, I can’t fathom that they were 100% thrilled to be a part of this. I imagine a constant murmured chant of “in it for the money in it for the money” could be heard all around the set.)

As stated, I have no first-hand knowledge of all this. Can’t judge the series. All I can comment intelligently upon is the comic that sits on my desk.

You know what? It’s not terrible. Yes, the stories are simple-minded drivel, outstripping the usual lowest common denominator situations and wordplay. But it’s the art where one finds the pleasant surprise. Dan Spiegle, no stranger to adaptation work (having handled, just to name a couple of books featured on this blog, The Shaggy Dog and Sea Hunt), brought a light, deft touch to the illustrative chores. Take this early scene, as the astronauts dig themselves out of a sticky introductory situation:

We won’t worry about Prime Directive/Butterfly Effect concerns about rupturing the timeline. Or that the cavemen speak English. MOVE ALONG.

Even the script (scripter unknown), which is pretty dreadful, creates an amusing situation or two. Everyone’s familiar with the classic caveman proposal: bonk a woman on the head and drag her back to your cave. Well, when our astronaut friends try to modernize the courtship rituals of their new compadres, things don’t go all that well:

Okay, that’s sort of funny.

Spiegle’s art is clean. It isn’t overly busy, and it doesn’t have pretensions. It amazes me how much better it is than the work in something like the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. issue reviewed here recently. One would think that an established franchise (granted, a show that was also cancelled in one year) would have better craftsmanship within, but no. Gold Key had other ideas, it seems. Hell, I even find it — in a limited way — more visually appealing than “superstar” art that I grew up with. It doesn’t do too much, and that’s more than enough.

It’s About Time, in a bid to save itself from the network axe, apparently went through a reinvention midway through its solitary year on the air, retransplanting the characters back into the modern era, and making the cave-dwelling friends and family the anachronistic ones. The comic never had the chance to get that far. One and done. And there was much lamentation…

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