My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series

| October 20, 2015

I grew up on classic TV sitcoms, raised on healthy daily doses of my mother’s favorites: The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island among a host of others. It’s an affinity I retain to this day, though to some it might seem less an affinity and more a minor obsession at times. In fact, when pushed to choose favorites, I’d declare my favorite American sitcom of all time not to be something released during my actual childhood or formative years, but infact NBC’s Car 54, Where Are You? (1961-63). Yet, somehow in this lifetime spent watching reruns of 60’s and 70’s television, I didn’t see a single episode of My Favorite Martian (CBS, 1963-1966) until something like a week ago when I got an advanced look at MPI Media Group’s home video release of the complete series on DVD. In that time, I’ve plowed through I can’t even tell you how many episodes and my immediate response to it all is: why was this never a part of my life before?

The series, which ran three seasons (two black and white seasons and the final in color) for a total of 107 episodes, is phenomenally funny. The series centers on the exploits of reporter Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby, The Incredible Hulk) and his live-in “relative” Uncle Martin (Ray Walston, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), who isn’t really his uncle as it happens. In fact, Martin is actually a Martian who’s crash-landed on Earth and staying with Tim until such a time as he can return to his home world.

Clearly, the storyline possibilities are vast with a setup such as this, only series creator John L. Greene, who later wrote for Bewitched, allowed the series even more creative latitude by giving Martin virtually limitless powers. Martin can levitate things, turn invisible, speak to dogs, perfectly mimic voices, store noises like a tape recorder in his head for subsequent playback, and even live for centuries. In many ways, he’s not unlike a certain alien Doctor who appeared on BBC the very same year that My Favorite Martian debuted, only Martin’s adventures are traditionally far less harrowing than those that The Doctor takes his companions on. In one early episode, for example, Tim and Martin must use Martin’s extraordinary abilities to play matchmaker for a pair of star-crossed, canine lovers lest Tim’s boss get mad at him. Of course, in one third season episode, they accidentally use Martin’s time machine (that can also transmit you through space not unlike the TARDIS) to summon Frank and Jesse James from the past, and the outlaws ultimately relieve Martin of his time machine at gunpoint, plotting to rob people throughout space and time.

So sure, the adventures in My Favorite Martian aren’t always low stakes per se, but you can always count on them to be funny as hell—there’s never cause to hide behind your couch out of fear for the characters. Of course the consistent comedy owes much to the series’ solid writing, but there’s also truly no underestimating the contributions of the series’ lead players, Walston and Bixby. Though Walston’s comedic acumen is no doubt apparent to many of you from his portrayal of Mr. Dibisch in the Billy Wilder classic, The Apartment (1960), some may be surprised to find Bixby too being declared a talented comedic performer. After all, Bixby has long been known almost exclusively for his portrayal of David Banner in The Incredible Hulk (a role for which I don’t think he gets enough credit, by the way). Yet Bixby first made a name for himself prior to Hulk in leading man roles such as that in My Favorite Martian and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (ABC, 1969-1972). The fact that he’s now remembered almost exclusively for a dramatic role serves as a testament to his versatility as an actor. And that versatility shines in My Favorite Martian. So impressive is he here that I can’t help but mentally draw constant parallels between Bixby’s dialogue readings and those of a young, Wilder-affiliated Jack Lemmon. That’s some praise!

My Favorite Martian is truly a series worth looking into if you are as yet uninitiated. But if you’re a fan of classic television, I’d say you could safely put MPI’s My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series on your to-buy list outright. The set collects all 107 unedited episodes on 15 discs, with the set ultimately clocking in at somewhere around a grand total of 50 hours’ worth of material including special features.  Special features across the three separate season sets include:
-the original series pilot,
-a 1964 promotional game show appearance by Ray Walston,
-a Ray Walston commercial,
Let’s Talk to Lucy (1964-65) radio show spot in which Lucille Ball interviews Bill Bixby and Ray Walston,
-original sponsor spots and commercials,
-behind the scenes home movies,
-spaceship test footage,
-photo galleries and comic strips,
-and two random lost TV pilots for ultimately unproduced series.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: TV on DVD
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