25 April 2014 | SimonJack
A low-budget imitation that barely holds one's interest
Johann Wyss' original "Swiss Family Robinson" (1812) has been so popular that many have copied it in whole or in part over the decades. That includes a number of movies and TV productions. But I don't think there's been a single video story that has followed the family cast as Wyss wrote it – a father, a mother and four sons. That's curious, because I think the original book cast would make the adventures quite interesting. We can reflect on films made about Mark Twain stories as examples – Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
This TV series from 1998 has some of the original premise about a shipwrecked family, and a protagonist bad man from the shipwreck. But the similarities end there. Perhaps the addition of two daughters and elimination of two of the sons was meant to build more interest for female viewers. I don't object to an all new family, but then the cast should be very good and the script excellent. Unfortunately, this series doesn't have very good acting at all – Richard Thomas included. And the script and direction are quite poor.
In spite of the outdoors scenery and shooting, this series still had a stagy sense about it. As another review commented, I also had a DVD with just a few of the episodes. It was supposed to be 30 installments of half an hour (more like fewer than 25 minutes with commercials and recaps of previous episodes). But, some of the descriptions of those episodes make me wonder if they ever were produced. It seems that the series was dropped before the end of its first season run – or for sure by the end of that season. My guess is that it didn't go over very well. Has there ever been a film in the past in which the natives were so beefy? They might at least have tried to find some slim, muscular men to play the parts of the island natives.
The original story was a very entertaining piece of fiction – along the lines of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Journey to the Center of the Earth," and similar stories that combine adventure with a little science-fiction. I think this would be a good story to recreate as originally written with a first-rate cast and some of the unusual, fictitious plants and creatures.
This TV series was made as a family program, but I think it would soon put the older family members to sleep, and the younger ones would soon drift away from the TV to play games or do homework.