Monday, July 15, 2013

MeTV Blogathon: The Green Hornet starring Van Williams

As a kid, I loved old movies and TV shows. During the 1970's, the era of  "free TV", there were three stations in my area that had great afternoon programming: WNEW (Channel 5), WWOR (Channel 9), and WPIX (Channel 11). WPIX had two of my favorites: The Little Rascals and Batman. During one episode of Batman, I was introduced to another crime fighter, The Green Hornet and his partner Kato. I have to admit I was intrigued. I had always enjoyed the campy style and awesome guest villains on Batman. However, I found myself really connecting to the straight performances of Van Williams and Bruce Lee. I became a fan immediately and today I must say I enjoy The Green Hornet  TV series better than Batman. For one thing, Green Hornet and Kato were better in a fight!


The success of Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward led to ABC giving Batman producer William Dozier the go ahead for a Green Hornet series. Unlike Batman, The Green Hornet was a real crime drama. In addition, the Green Hornet is not a superhero. He is a vigilante and viewed with skepticism by the police and public. In actuality, Green Hornet is newspaper publisher Britt Reid and his identity is known by the district attorney, Frank Scanlon (Walter Brooke). In fact, Scanlon often privately asks for Green Hornet's help on difficult investigations.

Britt Reid and Casey
This proves to be a difficult task. Reid has a reporter, Mike Axford (Lloyd Gough) who seems to be particularly interested in following the Green Hornet and his exploits. Luckily, Reid has an ally in the workplace, Lenore "Casey" Case (Wende Wagner). Casey is Britt Reid's assistant and confidante. She also knows that Britt and his valet are in fact Green Hornet and Kato. With Casey's help, Reid is able to keep Axford in check and from finding out his secret identity.


I have to say that I think this show still holds up. I like how Van Williams, Bruce Lee, and Wende Wagner underplay their roles. There is a genuine intelligence in their characters and the actors did a good job in conveying that quality. In addition, I love the tone set by the opening theme. Billy Mays' arrangement of "Flight of the Bumblebee" gives the show a noirish tone. I wish the show had lasted more than a season because it is a great way to introduce young viewers to serious but not overly violent crime fighting. I would love to see this show find a place on MeTv's Saturday night line-up rather than be hidden at 6 am on Saturday. For those of us in NY, MeTV doesn't even show this (Paid Programming runs at that hour here). However, if you do get on your MeTV affiliate, I recommend setting the DVR and enjoying The Green Hornet.

Van Williams and Bruce Lee
Obviously, the breakout star of the show was Bruce Lee. In Hong Kong, the series was actually called The Kato Show in syndication. However, I've always been a bigger fan of Van Williams. I think he gets overlooked as an actor because he was a hunk. Admittedly, he's easy on the eyes but he does a good job portraying Reid and his alter ego. I had the privilege of meeting Van Williams at Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, NJ this past April. He is still a hunk and a really cool guy. David did a Green Hornet sketch card and Van signed it for him. David also gave him an sketch card of himself (not as Green Hornet). Then, David got a photo with Van. I had him sign a deck of Green Hornet cards. So as you can see, that episode of Batman turned me into a lifelong fan of Van Williams.

David with Van Williams in April, 2013

David's original sketch card

Back of card autographed by Van Williams
Vintage card deck signed by Van Williams

21 comments:

  1. I'm fairly new to Green Hornet, but was drawn to it because of Van Williams. And yes, because he's a hunk! :) But also he's quite good.

    I'm so jealous that you got to meet him, and it's great to hear he's nice.

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    1. Amanda, he is very nice. He's also had some health issues recently and had to cancel some appearances so many fans were very excited that he was there!

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  2. GREAT article honey !! I too am a fan of the show and it's stars ! Hopefully your entertaining and educational style will bring new fans to this vintage T.V. classic !

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    1. Thanks honey! Sharing the love of the past with you makes it special.

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  3. I long to see this show again. Truly a classic, and your article brought back a lot of good memories.

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    1. I have found it on YouTube. But like I said, I'd love to see it elsewhere! Glad it brought back good memories.

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  4. Gilby, how cool that you met Van Williams and he signed David's sketch! I remember being bummed when THE GREEN HORNET was cancelled after just a year during its original broadcast run. Like you, I think it holds up better than BATMAN (camp, by nature, is a product of its era). I believe that three episodes were combined and packaged as a film in Asian countries to capitalize on Bruce Lee's stardom. The series certainly help catapult him to international stardom. This was an excellent pick for the Me-TV Blogathon.

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    1. Thanks Rick. David loves sharing his art and Van was surprised and pleased when he given a sketch card. Just hoping Green Hornet gets a better spot on MeTV in the future.

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  5. The Green Hornet and Kato may have been better at a fight but did their punches yield exclamations like the Dynamic Duos' did?

    What a great post! I grew up in the NYC area as well so your describing the programming on those free channels it brought back lots of memories. Also love your pictures - how exciting to get to meet a childhood hero.

    And I must confess, outside of their appearances on Batman, I've never seen the Green Hornat and Kato. :/

    Aurora

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    1. Thanks Aurora. Go you remember the game on WPIX in the late 70's? It was on air asteroids and they would call a kid who entered randomly. The kid then had to say PIX quickly so they would shoot the asteroids and win prizes. My brother and cousin used to practice say PIX really fast in case they called!

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  6. I do not think that I have ever seen an episode of Green Hornet. Although, I really enjoyed the picture of David with Van Williams. How cool is that!!

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    1. Thanks Dawn. It was very cool for us!

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    1. Bruce and Van were great together!

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  8. Ah, The Green Hornet! I don't remember much about it from its original run, except for Al Hirt playing "Flight of the Bumblebee."

    Unfortunately, our Me-TV affiliate in Dallas doesn't carry it, since they devote the overnight hours to local programming and infomercials. Sigh.

    Thanks for the great pictures!

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  9. Mitchell, I sympathize. Our affiliate stops at 10pm, restarts for a few hours, then goes to paid programming. Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. I didn't see an actual episode of The Green Hornet (outside of the crossovers on Batman, that is) until the Sci-Fi Channel starting rerunning the show many moons ago. I'm a fan of the series mostly because of its OTR history, but I'm like you: it's a shame the program couldn't find an audience beyond a single season.

    Oh, and our Me-TV affiliate runs its infomercials on Sunday mornings from 6 to about the time The Brady Bunch reruns kick in (I was glad they moved the Phil Silvers reruns, because I only got to see the first half-hour). Other than the interruption for high school football games on Thursday nights the programming is fairly solid.

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    1. Ivan, my hubby and I also love Green Hornet serials as well as OTR. FYI, on Sunday, METV does not begin until 2pm, so i sympathize!

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  11. Isn't it interesting that as kids watching afternoon TV after school that we were at the mercy of whatever reruns the local channels had to show? Never saw The Green Hornet, unfortunately, as it wasn't shown in my area. However, it's also interesting what big fans all of us became of these shows, a love we carry through to adulthood. Really enjoyed your post and the photo of David and Van.

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  12. I've never seen an episode of "The Green Hornet," to be honest - though my brother and his friends were great fans back in the day. I've been aware of the show mostly in relation to Bruce Lee's early career. I enjoyed your post, though, and will give the Hornet a look one of these days.

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  13. I never knew Bruce Lee became famous because of "The Green Hornet".

    I never really paid much attention to the GH and I see I've been unfairly writing him off. I'll have to investigate -- especially since you mentioned the theme song giving the show a "noirish tone".

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