Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book review: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: A TV Companion

If you were fifteen years-old in the fall of 1979 (as I was), then "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" was the greatest television show ever.

Jam-packed with colorful (and often very revealing) costumes, disco-infused sets and music, super cool “Star Wars” style space battles—this sexy prime time space opera featured great villains, two strong leads in Gil Gerard and Erin Gray, enjoyable humor, and a slew of memorable guest stars including Jack Palance, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ann Lockart, Frank Gorshin, and many more. The series also had solid writing thanks to story editors Anne Collins and Alan Brennert.

This exquisitely detailed, beautifully presented behind the scenes book takes the reader right there into the production of the show, beginning with the development of the theatrically released 1979 feature film that was eventually edited into the series pilot episode.

This book by Patrick Jankiewicz (with a forward by Col. Deering herself, Erin Gray) is a fan’s dream come true—an absolute treasure drove of well-organized and insightful behind the scenes information including dozens of modern day interviews with cast members, guest stars, and the crew who made it all happen. Best of all, there is a fully fleshed out, detailed episode guide.

I always wondered what happened to Buck Rogers after year one. Why, despite being fairly successful in the ratings, the show was completely revamped into an almost unrecognizable form.

After year one, show runner Bruce Lansbury and his talented writers Anne Collins and Alan Brennert left and the network brought in “Gunsmoke” producer John Mantley .

Mantley completely destroyed the Wilma Deering character by changing her from a strong, confident, bad ass leader and making her a meek stewardess (I kid you not). The sexy, witty, exciting show I loved was gone and in season two Buck Rogers became a dour, banal, dull, unimaginative version of “Gunsmoke” in space. This book does a great job of explaining how all of this went down.

Bottom line: One of the best behind the scenes TV “making of” books I have ever read. A must for fans of the show.

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