Shazam!: The Series

  • Based on Captain Marvel created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck
  • CBS
  • September 7, 1974 to October 16, 1976


  • Billy Batson-Michael Gray
  • Captain Marvel (17 episodes, 1974-1975)-Jackson Bostwick
  • Captain Marvel (11 episodes, 1975-1976)-John Davey
  • Mentor-Les Tremayne

“Chosen from among all others by the immortal elders – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury – Billy Batson and his mentor travel the highways and byways of the land on a never-ending mission: to right wrongs, to develop understanding, and to seek justice for all! In time of dire need, young Billy has been granted the power by the immortals to summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word!”

A young man gifted with godlike powers travels the countryside with a mysterious old man to help out the everyday citizen with very minor problems.

Shazam! is a product of its time in every aspect. It tried to be socially conscious as more shows of the era were attempting and being aimed at kids makes things very simple to the point of talking down to the intended audience. That was a common issue for live action material on Saturday mornings. For some reason they couldn’t have Shazam beating the crap out of people on a weekly basis. If he were animated that was a different thing altogether. You could sock a few baddies per episode. Oh well…

I am assuming Billy and Mentor are attempting to be incognito as they travel around in a 1973 Dodge Open Road motorhome. At least to the point of not revealing to the world that the young man traveling with the mysterious and never really named old man is actually Shazam (referred to during the series as ‘Captain Marvel’). Yet on that very Dodge Open Road motorhome that they’re traveling in is the Shazam logo emblazoned on the hood.

I am not sure if Billy Batson (Michael Gray) here is intended to be a young kid or a young adult. This was the 70s and it wasn’t impossible to have somebody in their 20s or 30s playing a teenager. Still isn’t. He is the hero and never gets tricked but comes off as if he was born yesterday.

Mentor (Les Tremayne) is a non-character to me. Not because he was a creation purely for the show but because he never gets a name. Seriously. I’m not even sure how Billy knows him or if he knows his name. He is (clearly) to be Billy’s mentor and he does that sort of by dispensing vaguely fatherly advice, but it’s really nothing that the characters Billy sees when he calls out their name doesn’t dispense. And let’s not discuss the implications of a single and unattached elderly gentleman driving around with a young man with no family.

I’m a little stuck on a young man riding around the countryside with a single elderly gentleman. It just seems so weird. What executive at CBS or Filmation or wherever thought this was a good idea. In the pilot it is mentioned Billy is on assignment for WHIZ radio but it comes and goes so quick you forget it gets said. And it never gets brought up again. This was done at a time when the overwhelming amount of shows on American television did not connect from episode to episode. I would think that would necessitate a regular mentioning in some way why things were the way they were. Most shows of the time kept you in the loop by dropping bits a pieces of the setup regularly but not here.

Shazam! is limited by its times in a number of ways. Today even the cheapest of shows have adequate production values. They do manage to be creative in their limitations though. The scenes where Billy discusses the week’s mission with immortal elders-Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury-are animated on the part of the elders with Billy being live action. I understand it’s a cost saving measure, but I think it would have worked better if Billy was animated as well.

I really am bothered by the level of power Billy is implied to have when he transforms. Why? Billy has to deal with relatively minor problems in an episode. What he usually handles isn’t even a big deal for the police. Kids stealing cars. The occasional semi dangerous drug dealer. People coming to terms with this or that in their lives. There is nothing that requires him to have any kind of superior ability here.

Each episode runs about the same. He hears a thundercrack. He talks to the elders. He gets some vague wisdom. Then Mentor does little to clear things up. And then they stumble across the key figure that gets the adventure rolling. And it is all capped off with some moral.

There is no complexity to the stories. No surprising twists or turns. There is a great deal of predictability. And that makes it boring at times. This was done in the day before you could marathon anything and it was not meant to be watched so. Maybe that was the issue on my part.

For kids the show is probably entertaining but for adults I think you might not find anything here to watch. It’s a step down from the animated action adventure shows of the time which were much more engaging. And I’m not sure why the disparity exists. There are shows from that era that I watched then and enjoyed and I watch now and still do. Was the issue that it was live action?

Shazam’s costume is a spandex thing with a lightning bolt on it and the cape that one would expect. It starts out on the side like in the comics (at least during the transformation) but quickly gets switched to something more in the fashion of Superman. I’m pretty sure this was a comfort thing by the actor but it bothers me.

Shazam! isn’t bad but it’s nothing great. It’s definitely a kid’s show. If you like retro TV or want to see something that you wouldn’t get today, this might be worth a watch. Otherwise you can probably skip it.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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