Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Collection Recommendation #3: Korg 70,000 B.C.

"Neanderthal Man left no written records of his history, just some tools and burial mounds. This story is based upon the assumptions and theories drawn from those artifacts. It might have happened in 70,000 B.C..."

Such is Burgess Meredith's unpretentious disclaimer that closed each half-hour episode of "Korg: 70,000 B.C.": a 1974 -'75 Hanna Barbera, live-action, Saturday morning television series. It was created and produced by Fred Freiberger, co-writer of "Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and a producer on "Star Trek", "Space: 1999", "Wild, Wild West" and "The Six Million Dollar Man".

Recently, TCM Archives released the entire 16-episode run of "Korg", and for those who remember the series, this is a real treat, in that it remains unique among children's programming. 

"Korg" stars Jim Malinda in the lead; Bill Ewing as his resourceful brother, Bok; Naomi Pollack as Korg's mate, Mara; and their children: Christopher Mann as older brother, Tane; Charles Morteo as younger brother, Tor; and Janelle Pransky as their little sister, Ree.

Malinda and Ewing are generally the focus, each giving memorable performances, but all participants are top-notch, creating a credible family whose earnest members truly care and look out for one another: far more the Waltons than the Flintstones, one might say. Still, their naivete can't be denied, and it leads to a number of educational, tense and touching scenarios.

Some episodes deal with the basic ins and outs of life, such as "Trapped", "The Beach People"; and "Ree's Wolf": the latter a tender, coming-of-age tale. Others, such as "Eclipse of the Sun", "The Exile" and "Magic Claws" play upon superstition and the overcoming of psychological hindrance."The Hill People", on the other hand, is a prehistoric variation of Helen of Troy, with the episode's guest counterpart doing something the mythological maiden never dared do: thwart a burgeoning war. 

With the proper push (and perhaps a bigger budget), "Korg" would have played well during early prime time, since adults generally seemed to like it as much as children. By today's standards, however, I'm not so sure youngsters would appreciate or tolerate the series' sense of rough adventure, particularly if their interest lies in such mollified fare as "Minions". 

This is a shame, since the series' concept has much to offer. For those who watched it during the '70s, its content will still be appreciated (along with its now-available-via-Ebay tie-ins: a King Seeley lunchbox, Milton Bradley board game and Charlton Comics series); for those who missed the brief phenomenon, you now have the chance to fill the void. 

I can only hope some open-minded executive might take note and give "Korg" (or something like it) another crack. Lord knows we need a show of such anthropological depth these days, for kids and adults alike. 

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