2 March 2005 | P_Cornelius
Better than you think
The Time Tunnel first appeared on TV when I was 11 years old, and it has been four decades since I have seen any of Tony's and Doug's adventures. Thanks to the Starz Action Channel, I've recently had the opportunity to view a few of the episodes once more. Yes, it's a little more goofy than I thought all those years ago, especially when story lines start to turn around the appearance of aliens. But the show is also much better than some of the younger critics seem to be saying.
How so? Well, think about the assumptions behind the Time Tunnel. The producers of this program ASSUMED its audience, back in 1966, had at least a passing familiarity not only with the history of the Titanic, the Alamo, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Custer's Last Stand but also ASSUMED its audience was aware of the outlines of the story of the Trojan War, the War of 1812, the Siege of Khartoum, and the Dreyfuss Affair--and remember this was long BEFORE the making of PAPILLON. Imagine an hour long TV series today turning one of its plots around the Dreyfuss Affair! It couldn't happen. Today's audiences haven't heard of Dreyfuss and can't even tell you what CENTURIES Pearl Harbor or the American Civil War took place in.
As strange as it may sound to the ears of the contemporary TV viewer, the truth is the Time Tunnel was geared towards a much more sophisticated audience than today's viewers, who are illiterate in their own culture and history. Could a TV series today do a story about the attempt to assassinate Abraham Lincoln--in 1861! The ability of the producers to take this all but forgotten historical incident and turn it into a hour long story could only have worked had the 1966 TV audience been well founded not only in the history of the American Civil War but in Lincoln's assassination in 1865.
The fact is the Time Tunnel could not work for today's dumbed down TV viewers. You can't assume they know what they had for lunch yesterday, much less the history of their own nation or Western Civlization. It's so much easier--and necessary--to develop films and TV shows around cartoon heroes with no baggage and no grounding in all that nasty history.