Aliens, robots, and monsters, oh my! Lost in Space and the battle with Batman

Batman was a phenomenon. So what's a show to do to compete?

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In 1966, it seemed like Batman was unbeatable. Not only was the Caped Crusader besting foes like The Penguin and The Riddler, but in real life, the same-named live-action series was considered the biggest television phenomenon of the mid-'60s. How then, was the competition supposed to survive? Were shows on other networks doomed to be foiled again, every week, like The Joker and Catwoman?

One of those shows, on one of those other networks, was Lost in Space, a sci-fi series inspired by Swiss Family Robinson. Here, though, instead of being shipwrecked in the East Indies, the Robinsons were marooned in the infinite depths of outer space.

How were the Robinsons to possibly compete with the ratings bonanza that was Batman's first season? To hear assistant producer Paul Zastupnevich put it, the key was the show's creatures. Throughout their adventures trying to get back home, the Robinsons encounter a wide array of nefarious aliens and monsters. "Strange as it may seem, our space villains are quite realistic compared to these comic book characters," Zastupnevich told the Quad-City Times. Those space villains were crucial in luring a key demographic away from the masked vigilante. Zastupnevich optimistically reported that children under 12 preferred the weird monsters of Lost in Space.

The special effects crew paid careful consideration to make each creature unique and believable. "You can't just put an actor in a fish costume and throw him into the water," said Zastupnevich. "He needs an air hose because we can't shoot him with a bulky air tank on his back. If the actor used an air tank, air bubbles would result and ruin the whole effect."

Dreaming up new monsters was a multi-step process, involving Zastupnevich or producer Irwin Allen communicating ideas for a sketch department to mock up on a drawing board. Then, a few days later, the ideas would be actualized as the special effects crew constructed the monster for filming. 

In addition to the monsters and aliens, the show's robot was central in selling the show to kids. The unnamed robot displayed human emotion while coming equipped with superhuman strength and high-tech weaponry and gadgets. According to Zastupnevich, the android was the subject of many kids' fascination. "Children," he said, "love that robot."

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30 Comments

SalIanni 14 months ago
Competing with "Batman" is one thing. Competing with "Star Trek" is another. Since both shows left the air, they have been constantly compared to each other. More often than not, "Lost In Space" has come out second best which is understandable because how can you compete with such a big global phenomenon? I remain unmoved by the comparisons because I have always believed - and still do - that "Lost In Space" was a better show with a better cast.
Snickers 14 months ago
I never found a talking carrot believable.
Snickers 14 months ago
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Avie 14 months ago
What the article fails to mention is that because they were so expe4nsive to produce, and because networks and producers were in what were called deficit-financing agreements in which the network paid the producer less per episode than the show cost to make (the eventual profits to be generated when the shows were eventually syndicated), all four of irwin Allen's shows -- "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "Lost in Space," "The Time Tunnel" and "Land of the Giants" were literally bankrupting 20th Century-Fox studios, their production coming as they did on the heels of the losses the studio incurred from feature films like "Cleopatra" and unwatched, unloved musicals like "Hello, Dolly!", "Doctor Doolittle" and "Star!"

"Batman" was also produced by Fox, and it was expensive, too, which is why, sensation or not, the show ended its run after three seasons.
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Ivan 14 months ago
Batman when shown here in the U.K. it was a sensation. Shown for 15 minutes a night causing a similar reaction to being at Saturdays pictures watching Zorro. You just couldn’t wait to see the next episode. When Lost in Space first aired as a young boy blew me away and had to wait until each Saturday. The jet pack scene was to a young boy amazing.
Runeshaper 14 months ago
Aliens, monsters, and robots = winning!
Mblack 14 months ago
But the monsters started on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. So shredded plastic bags some sort of sea monster.

So it preceeds Batman
cperrynaples Mblack 14 months ago
Voyage & LIS had the same producer, so yes the monsters were the same! However, to watch it you would have to miss Lassie AND Wonderful World Of Color! At least you could change the channel to see Topo Gigo kiss Eddie goodnight...LOL!
Andybandit 14 months ago
I love watching BM on Saturday nights after Svengoolie. Oof, pow, splat.
CurtisP70 Andybandit 14 months ago
Amen and Batman and company is much better than that rotting tuna!!
Snickers CurtisP70 14 months ago
Have to agree there. Glad they got rid of that stupid tuna.
Karellen 14 months ago
Unnamed robot? I thought it's name is B5.
gbrebner Karellen 14 months ago
A true fan!
Karellen gbrebner 14 months ago
To be honest, I'm not that much of a fan of LIS, but B5 was really well done.
LoveMETV22 14 months ago
"Aliens, robots, and monsters, oh my!"
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Moverfan LoveMETV22 14 months ago
I don't know...I kind of think he'd have chosen I Don't Want To Live On The Moon...[I know Ernie sings it on Sesame Street, but I think Aaron Neville wrote it].
LoveMETV22 Moverfan 14 months ago
" I don't know..."
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"Aliens, robots, and monsters, oh my!" - Homage to “Lions & tigers & bears, oh my!” from
" The Wizard of Oz."
Bob May was inside the robot but not sure if he did the voice.
mooseeugnebagandwallyfan 13 months ago
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cperrynaples 14 months ago
Well most of the time he never said it!Dan would say "Say goodnight Dick!"and Dick would say "Goodnight Dick"! By that time I could stay up until 9 on Monday! 50 years later, I'm in bed by 8...LOL!
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cperrynaples 14 months ago
GOODNIGHT LUCY! Artie Johnson actually ended the show with his German soldier!
Moverfan 14 months ago
You bet your sweet bippy! [For those of you who don't quite get it, look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls].
cperrynaples 14 months ago
For those who still wonder what a bippy was, I'll tell you! At that time, there was a game called "Bet Your Bippy" and basically it was a plastic bottle you squeezed air out of! Sorta a precurser of Hungry Hungry Hippos! Now as to Funk & Wagnalls, as Goldie Hawn would say,"That's a dictionairy you know"! But don't look up bippy because it's just a nonsense word that caught on for a while!
Moverfan 13 months ago
At the time, yes...but it may be in there by now!
cperrynaples 14 months ago
Well, here's a solution kids had in that era: Watch LIS on Wednesday and catch the Batman recap on Thursday! Unfortunally, in the first season, you would have to miss The Munsters! "DARN DARN DARN" as Herman would say...LOL!
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