Lost in Space battled Batman on Family Feud in one of the most charmingly quirky 1980s reunions
Only a celebrity game show tournament could bring Guy Williams back to America.
Image: Mark Goodson Productions / Freemantle
The Jupiter 2 never found its way home. In 1968, after three seasons, Lost in Space came to an end with the Robinsons still wandering the cosmos. The family encountered a giant talking carrot, visited a scrapyard and — poof! — that was it.
"Junkyard in Space" did not just mark the end of a pioneering sci-fi series. The episode also quietly served as the farewell to a familiar face. It was the last acting credit of Guy Williams, the towering and handsome actor who portrayed patriarch Professor John Robinson. Through both his Hollywood career and the world of finance, Williams had accumulated enough wealth to afford retirement at age 46. Pretty sweet life, if you can get it. So he quit the game.
In the early '70s, the ever-adventurous Williams traveled to Argentina. He discovered the country adored him. Nearly worshipped him. He was a legend down in South America thanks to his starring role in Walt Disney's Zorro television series during the 1950s. So, a few years passed and Williams packed up and moved to Buenos Aires.
Williams settled in the posh Recoleta neighborhood, just up the street from a Cartier store. His one-bedroom apartment sat above a storefront at 1964 Ayacucho. What a coincidental that address was, too, considering that 1964 marked the year that Williams returned to his American TV career after his first international getaway. For years, following Zorro, he worked in European films. But this emigration would prove to be permanent. Williams would pass away in Buenos Aires at the close of the 1980s.
Between the end of Lost in Space and his death in 1989, Williams made just one significant appearance on American television. In 1983, the retired actor packed his gray three-piece suit and rose red ascot into a suitcase and flew 6,000 miles north for a taping of Family Feud. Because who can say no to playing the Feud?
Williams joined four other former castmates to battle in Family Feud's "TV's All-Time Favorites Week." The Lost in Space quintet squared off against stars of Batman, Gilligan's Island and Hawaiian Eye. A fifth 1960s favorite was represented, of course, when you consider that host Richard Dawson rose to fame on Hogan's Heroes.
The first match of the week, Lost in Space vs. Batman, proved to be just as colorful and campy as those two beloved series. Let's start with who was there. The Lost in Space team consisted of captain June Lockhart (Maureen Robinson), Williams, Angela Cartwright (Penny Robinson), Bob May (The Robot) and Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson). When Dawson greeted the crew, he delivered his routine kisses to Lockhart, Cartwright and Kristen, also presenting them with bouquets of flowers.
Mays' presence somewhat perplexed the host. "I didn't know a guy was in there," Dawson proclaimed. "I thought it was a real robot!" Lockhart joked, "We finally got him out of that tin can!" May then presented Dawson with an image of the Robot and proceeded to spew lines like "Danger! Danger!" and "Does not compute!" throughout the episode. We should remind you that May was merely the man inside the costume. Dick Tufeld was the performer who dubbed the Robot's voice.
The Batman team introductions were equally surreal. Adam West sported a sort-of safari suit and aviator sunglasses. Naturally, he was the captain. To his left were Lee Meriwether (Catwoman), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), Burt Ward (Robin) and the one-and-only Vincent Price (Egghead). Now, as you recall, Meriwether merely portrayed Catwoman in the 1966 big-screen Batman: The Movie. She never played Catwoman on the TV show. Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt had that honor. (However, Meriwether did guest star on the show as Lisa Carson, a Bruce Wayne's girlfriend in a King Tut tale.)
This little nit would normally not be worth picking, except for the fact that everyone pretended that Meriwether was Catwoman on the show. West introduced her as the "woman who attacked me several times on the show." And, again, it was called "TV's All-Time Favorites Week."
All was forgiven when the delightful Vincent Price plucked a lollipop from a candy tree. It was a charity thing. Contestants would pick a lollipop and if a black stem was revealed, a charity would win money. Seeing a master of horror bend over to choose a Tootsie Pop from a potted sugar shrub was sheer delight.
And thus the game kicked off. The lightning-quick Lockhart beat West on the buzzer. In fact, most of the Lost in Space crew was quicker on the buzzer than their superhero (and villain) adversaries. When Williams and Meriwether came to the podium, the two plopped their elbows down on the felt and began to arm wrestled — and then leaned across their microphones and kissed on the lips.
Despite some truly bizarre answers (Survey: Name something a guy keeps at a girl's apartment. Batman: "Vitamin pills."), the Batman squad won. In the bonus round, Robin performed so-so, but Adam West proved to be a true Batman as he crushed the answered with laser focus.
"Subway… soda… car… hollandaise… knife," he spat out without hesitation in 14 seconds flat. Boom. 237 points. The World Vision humanitarian organization collected a check.
Williams returned to his encyclopedia collection, computer and rocking chair in Argentina. Professor John Robinson, at last, had come home.