The origins of the Isis TV series can be traced to a live-action show that premiered also on CBS’ Saturday morning schedule a year earlier: Shazam!, which brought to the small screen the low-budget adventures of the Big Red Cheese himself, Captain Marvel—played in Billy Batson form by Michael Gray and in Marvelistic fashion by Jackson Bostwick (replaced in Season 2 by John Davey). Over the span of three seasons, Shazam! presented half-hour morality plays featuring kids and adults who had somehow strayed off the straight-and-narrow and were befriended by Batson and his sidekick
Shazam! was a monster hit for the Tiffany network in its first season, and it was decided in its sophomore year to introduce a companion series with a female super heroine to work on grabbing the young “bobbysoxer” demographic. That show was
As a kid who grew up watching this series, I often had difficulty figuring out why they never filmed an episode that expanded on the opening credits origin…which left a lot of unanswered questions. For example, why exactly was Andrea Thomas (JoAnna Cameron) on that expedition, anyway? Was it funded by some big muckety-muck museum, or did
The Secrets of
One of the things I enjoyed about watching these shows was seeing familiar actors just trying to make the rent—many of which were former child stars who had the misfortune of having their cuteness repossessed from them due to the ravages of time. A good example of this is “To Find a Friend,” an outing that features former Bobby Brady Mike Lookinland as a goony kid who bribes a kid for a ride on a motorbike by showing off his father’s antique WW2 pistol. The kid on the motorbike grabs the roscoe and makes off for points unknown—Andrea and Company must locate him ASAP when they learn from Lookinland’s old man that the weapon is so rusty it’s liable to blow up in someone’s face should they be stupid enough to fill it with shells. Lookinland is a real mess here; his hippie-ish hair is something even a Brady perm couldn’t cure and he’s got an acne problem that would give Proactiv fits. Actually, this episode is a regular child star reunion: the little menace who steals the gun is Tommy “Flipper” Norden, and another pal of Lookinland’s—who also tells him to take a hike when asked for a ride on his motorbike—is none other than Mayberry R.F.D.’s Buddy Foster (brother of Connie and Jodie).
Other actors who show up in Isis segments include Debralee Scott (of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fame), Lou Frizzell, Leigh McCloskey, Philip Bruns (another Hartman alum), Mitch Vogel, Thomas Carter (The White Shadow), Brian Nash (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies), Scott Colomby, Neil J. Schwartz (Happy Days), Christopher Norris (“Ripples” on Trapper John, MD), Barry Miller, Laurette Spang, Colleen Camp and Victor Sen Yung. Albert Reed, a distinguished character actor who appeared on series like Good Times (as Alderman Davis) and The Jeffersons, had a recurring role as the high school principal, Dr. Joshua Barnes—doing essentially what Les Tremayne did on Shazam!; namely adding a bit of class to the show. John Davey also made three appearances on
In addition to all of the Isis episodes, the DVD set contains some first-rate extras: promotional and behind the scenes photos of the show, a look at the Isis merchandise (comic books, puzzles, coloring books, dolls), an Isis comic book and a bonus episode of a series called The Freedom Force, which featured an animated Isis. In the 1990s, the company who owned the rights to the series inexplicably edited out the “morals” segments of the episodes and an attempt has been made to include as many as there are available as rare footage, along with “bumpers” for The Shazam/Isis Hour.
But the big bonuses are interviews with some of the cast and crew, with the cast members (Brian Cutler, Joanna Pang Atkins, Ronalda Douglas Lombardo) providing some interesting insights. Cutler discusses the “Lois Lane” aspect of his character and jokes at how a “suspension of belief” was required to swallow the premise that Rick Mason never seemed to be able to piece it together that Isis and girlfriend Andrea (well, I assume she was his main squeeze; they went out to dinner a lot) were never seen together in one place. (Come to think of it, no one else seemed bright enough to put two-and-two together, though a character in “The Seeing Eye Horse” comes close; a newly blind student, upon meeting
The only thing that disappointed me about this set was the non-participation of star JoAnna Cameron—after all, I didn’t watch the show for pigtailed Cindy Lee; I was in love with the woman in the mini-skirt and go-go boots. Cameron, a former Vogue model who at one time held the Guinness World Record of having appeared in the most television commercials, played the role of Saturday morning TV’s first super heroine and played it bloody well; particularly in the second season when she got a bit more playful with the alter-ego (in one episode she cries out: “Faster, zephyr winds!”) despite the fact that her Isis hair in the sophomore season looked like a really bad weave. According to the DVD liner notes, Cameron dropped out of television and now works at an exclusive Hawaiian resort hotel…so if you’re in need of a night auditor, your Isis-ness—634-5789.