1 October 2005 | jonesy74-1
Aside from Johnny Weismuller, Ron Ely is my favorite Tarzan. An unlikely show, in a sense, it played well amidst the superhero genre that was somewhat prevalent at the time - i.e. Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward and The Green Hornet with Van Williams and Bruce Lee. The show was also contemporary with Star Trek.
Unlike campy Batman, the show took itself seriously and yet, Ron Ely running around in a loin cloth week by week on prime time, didn't seem out of place. Ron played Tarzan serious and straight, dealing with poachers and jungle baddies of all sorts as though it were natural for a partially naked man to be a quasi-jungle policeman/detective. Ely's Tarzan was reminiscent of Hawaii Five-O's Steve McGarrett (played by Jack Lord).
This was no "Me Tarzan" ape-man. Ely's Tarzan was articulate and educated.
Enter Jai (Manuel Padilla Jr. - The Pharoah's Carlos from American Graffiti) and Cheetah the Chimp to provide the less-serious, comedy relief tone to the show. I always wondered how Jai fit in to the cast, as it seemed unusual for a Hispanic boy to be running around in Africa with Tarzan. Was he an orphan or what? Was he a "ward" of Tarzan's, a la Batman's Dick Grayson? Nevertheless, Jai provided an important element to the series - he took the serious edge off of Tarzan and made him compassionate, looking out for a young boy who emulated him (loin cloth and all).
You could always count on Cheetah to bring a smile to Tarzan's face at the end of each show with Jai in hot pursuit shouting, "Cheetah, you come back here," or something of that nature.
Ely had a great physical look for Tarzan. Long and lanky, yet sinewy and strong, he made the physical part of Tarzan's exploits look good. The vine swinging and running through the jungle were performed with style and aplomb.
The introduction always ran with Ely calling out that famous Tarzan yell (Johnny Weismuller's original recorded Tarzan yell - as it was with most Tarzan movies and shows).
The plots were well-contrived and enjoyable. It was one of my favorite series at the time.