Author: Marc Cushman

Publisher: Jacob Brown Media Group; 1 edition (August 1, 2016)

ISBN-10: 0692750185

ISBN-13: 978-0692750186

Once again, media historian Marc Cushman pulls out his magnifying glass   to explore a television classic just like he did with I Spy and his definitive three volume These Are the Voyages tomes on the original Star Trek. 

Once again, Cushman doesn’t leave the smallest of stones unturned. He begins his exhaustive book by fleshing out the pre-Lost in Space career of producer/ director Irwin Allen, most notably his films released throughout the 1950s. One spotlighted film, naturally, is Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which Allen re-imagined into his first sci fi television series. Of course, Cushman gives each of the main stars of Lost in Space the same in-depth treatment, as when he offers a detailed history of June Lockhart’s years on Lassie and an even more detailed review of Guy Williams tenure as Zorro, including the ratings numbers for the show’s run, comparing it to its competition on other networks.

Cushman demonstrates how workaholic Allen saw himself as a P.T. Barnum figure who offered escapist sci fi full of action and spectacle without the more cerebral tones of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Star Trek.  Still, many of Lost in Space’s better episodes bordered on being morality tales or fables. When Cushman dives into his title subject, the minutia continues when he provides a day-by-day history of the show’s pre-production, filming, and post-production. He provides the contributions of each director, writer, and many of the guest stars. He shares the cost for each episode, including the overruns. He presents the often bizarre notes from network censors. It’s hard to believe that, in those days, the thought of two adults, even a married couple, showing more than casual affection on television could arouse fears in the CBS Standards and Practices office that children could be disturbed by any such displays. In fact, the Standards censors seemed preoccupied with anything and everything that might disturb a child. 

Cushman provides no shortage of announcements and commentary culled from trade periodicals, especially Variety, and a wealth of reviews from national newspapers.   Week by week, we see how Lost in Space fared against its competition during its first year, which was ABC’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and  The Patty Duke Show   and NBC’s The Virginian. That was until a little hit called Batman took over the Nelson family’s ABC time slot at 7:30 on Wednesdays.

But the book is far more than a compilation and synthesis of documents and figures. We also get insights into the creative process, as in showing how actor Jonathan Harris, who played evil Doctor Zachary Smith,    helped altar and shape his dialogue in the show as well as adding a needed comic dimension to his character. 

Clearly, only a diehard fan base will want to read this Authorized Biography from cover to cover.           Other readers, such as TV sci fi fans or those curious about television history or production, would likely enjoy skimming through the sections that focus on discussions of their area of interest.    All libraries should absolutely shelve this book. All readers should enjoy the bounty of photographs that, on their own, make the book worth the price of admission. And this is but volume one—the first of three.