10 episodes that prove gorillas were on just about every classic TV show
Why was it that actors in ape suits used to pop up all over television?
The gorilla trope is a prevalent yet under-analyzed aspect of classic television. Going as far back as The Three Stooges shorts, the ape gag was employed for decades for comedic (both intentional and not) or dramatic effect. Actors in gorilla suits were seemingly everywhere.
Though by no means exhaustive, this list offers a bit of insight into just how popular the hairy guest stars were in their heyday.
Where this influx of apes came from or why it ended, we cannot be sure.
The Abbott and Costello Show
When Bingo, the boys' chimpanzee buddy, gets sick, the whole gang travels to Africa to find his parents. Bud and Lou have a humorous run-in with a gorilla during one of Lou's looney attempts to impress Hillary.
Adventures of Superman
"Jungle Devil" (1953)
While searching for a lost scientist, Lois, Jimmy and Clark are captured by jungle natives. A club-wielding gorilla attacks both captive and captor and Superman saves the day.
The Lucy Show
"Lucy and the Monsters" (1965)
After viewing a horror flick, Lucy and Viv are scared stupid, leading to a nightmare filled with monsters and, for some reason, a gorilla maid.
Man From U.N.C.L.E.
"The My Friend, the Gorilla Affair" (1966)
While investigating a mysterious threat in an African country, Kuryakin and Solo encounter a woman simply named Girl and her pet gorilla, Baby. For reasons not readily apparent, Solo at one point dances with the beast.
"Forward March" (1966)
The castaways have seen their fair share of apes. In 1966's "Forward March," a gorilla wreaks havoc after stumbling upon an old WWII arsenal. 1965, Mrs. Howell is kidnapped by a gorilla in "Diamonds are an Ape's Best Friend," and 1967's "Our Vines Have Tender Apes" includes an orangutan menace.
"The Gorilla" (1966)
When Elly and Jethro want help with house chores they decide, naturally, that a gorilla would be the best employee. Hey, you can pay him in bananas.
"A Private Little War" (1968)
Yes, gorillas on far-off planets were common, too. When the Federation becomes involved in an arms race, Kirk must defend himself from a dreaded mugato, a space ape with a huge horn protruding from the top of its head. Kirk sets his phaser to vaporize.
"As You Were" (1974)
Oftentimes, the gorilla was actually a costumed character trying to cause a fright. This trope is almost as common as the "real" gorilla trope. Furthermore, there are many instances of hilarious confusion resulting from the mixup between the "real" and fake gorillas. Here we have Hawkeye and Trapper dressed in gorilla suits in war-torn Korea.
The Incredible Hulk
"The Beast Within" (1978)
David hopes a scientist's genetic research can be used to stop his anger-induced transformations. Instead, he gets into a fight with a gorilla and ends up destroying the laboratory.
"Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua!" (1978)
Among Wonder Woman's many foes are Nazis, criminal empires, aliens—and a gorilla. The Amazon battles a seven-foot-tall, 500-pound gorilla known as Gargantua.