Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Captain Video was the first of the American television space shows, beginning on the DuMont network in 1945. Set in the twenty-first century, Captain Video had a base on a mountain top. His uniform was US Army surplus with lightning bolts sewn on. He had a young assistant, though not a boy, who was always called Video Ranger.
The series was done live five days a week, and was extremely popular with children. The show did not begin by going into space, however. Captain Video was, like a typical small-town children's show master of ceremonies, originally the introducer of short sequences of old theatrical films; in his case, old cowboy movies. These were announced by him as the actions of Captain Video's agents on Earth.
Captain Video's early opponent was Dr. Pauli, an inventor who wore gangster clothing but who spoke like a Nazi or Soviet. Like the last few theatrical serials, the plots often involved wildly implausible inventions made from cheap props. However, some of the scripts were written by major science fiction writers of the time, including Damon Knight, James Blish, and Michael Shaara; these apparently displayed rather more discipline and imagination than most of the other children's sf series.
Eventually Captain Video got himself a spaceship, the Galaxy. The show became one of the four early space programs, of which there was much plot-stealing between them, even the very same week. However, as Captain Video was made in New York City, its guest stars often were better actors than those series produced in California on similarly small budgets.
The series is mentioned in the first episode of The Honeymooners as a comedy series independent of any variety show of Jackie Gleason's. Columbia also made a theatrical serial under the name, although it had somewhat better sets and props. Some kinescopes of the show itself survive, although most is lost.
Also let it be known that a small locally owned video store in New York is named Captain Video.
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