Thursday, April 12, 2018
'Lucan' CS DVD: I Was a Post-Adolescent Wolf Boy The Series
Warner Archive gladdens the hearts of fanboys everywhere with the April 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1977-78 ABC action-adventure anthology series "Lucan." More personal satisfaction comes regarding this set (as well as the reviewed recent Archive release of S1 of "The Mask" animated series) coming out in the wake of "Lucan" (and "Mask") apparently no longer being available on a streaming service.
Unreal TV always is pro DVD and generally is con streaming. Only having time to watch four streaming episodes of "Lucan" (and none of "Mask"), but now getting to pull DVDs of both series off the shelf anytime supports the philosophy of this site. The bonus is that DVDs are especially helpful regarding series such as "Lucan" that have limited (if any) life as syndicated reruns.
"Lucan," which stars hunky teen idol Kevin Brophy, represents the most fun aspects of mid-70s and early '80s television.
At the outset, a 20 year-old stud being a former wolf boy let loose in the "civilized" world after a decade of being taught how to act human is a prime example of the wonderfully outlandish bases for some action-adventure series of the era. Other examples are "Manimal," which centers around an amateur sleuth who can transform into any feral or domestic beast at will, and the young mutants of "The Misfits of Science."
Other '70slicious fun regarding this anthology series is that our titular hero aptly is a lone wolf who helps innocents whom he encounters on his series-long quest. In this case, the objective is to locate his parents so they might somehow form a family and he can learn how he comes to be the leader of the pack on going into the woods. This warrants comparisons to "The Incredible Hulk" and the "Starman" series of that era. Of course, all these follow '60s classic "The Fugitive."
"The Fugitive" vibe is especially strong in the second half of the "Lucan" run (no pun intended). A false accusation of a crime as a pretense gets our dogged hero on the scent of a two-armed man who can prove his innocence.
Vague memories from a tender age are that "Lucan" lacked a fighting chance to establish itself because it ran in the 8:00 p.m. Monday night time against a solid CBS comedy lineup and "Little House on the Prairie" on NBC. The folks at ABC further don't show "Lucan" no respect in airing the pilot as a TV movie in May 1977, airing the season premiere in September 1977, and airing the next episode the day after Christmas 1977 in this even pre-household VCR era.
The scheduling of "Lucan" also reflects that it is ahead of its time. Even five years later, either a basic cable network or a first-run syndication company almost certainly would have provided this series a home after ABC dropping it.
The pilot achieves a good balance between exposition and action by opening with researcher/father figure Dr. Don Hoagland (John Randolph) and his pet boy watching footage of the evolution of Lucan. Our boy with the charming smile bemusedly watches as he transforms from a feral beast, to a semi-civilized kid who is catching on, to a fully normal adolescent.
The catalyst for the series is a result of the squabbling that characterizes the leadership at every university. Hoagland advocates setting Lucan free in the wilds of southern California, but other academics assert that the risk of this lad wolfing out requires continuing to keep him effectively caged at the research center. A relatable element of this is all the good boys (and girls) with spotless records who are denied reasonable privileges during their senior year of high school.
Subsequent events prompt Hoagland to aid and abet Lucan moving to the urban jungle. This both is a step toward this all-American wolf boy becoming integrated into society and allows him to begin his search for his birth parents.
The typical element of being hunted comes courtesy of the university having hired-gun Prentiss (Don Gordon) become the bane of our wolf's existence by obsessively tracking him. This relates to the aforementioned stated concern regarding this dreamy stud being a threat to himself or others. His tendency to slightly revert to his feral nature when threatened somewhat justifies this action.
The initial transition to the real world includes a job at a construction site where our hero immediately learns that an alpha male who continues preying on weaker members of the pack even after proving superiority is not confined to the forest. Other drama relates Ned Beatty playing the construction company owner whom the district attorney has squealing in terror regarding liability for a collapsed building.
Lucan gets another lesson in human nature in the next episode in which a pre "Remington Steele" Stepahnie Zimbalist plays a Soviet gymnast whom our hero saves. This one can be considered pre "ripped from the headlines" in that it involves a Tonya Harding style plot by the husband of a fellow competitor. The motive for the knee-capping this time is more Cold War oriented then merely eliminating the competition. The general idea is that good citizens of Mother Russia should be willing to take one for the team.
The most exciting guest stars are in an episode in which Robert Reed of "Brady Bunch" fame plays the father of a character whom Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist portrays. An amusing aspect of this is that the boy is a jinx. Other memorable guest stars are Leslie Nielsen playing it straight as a corrupt sheriff with a conscience and Regis Philbin as someone who hopes to have good prospects.
Many subsequent episodes focus more closely on the search for Mr. and Mrs. Lucan. These include a particularly notable one in which Prentiss nets his prey, our wolf in grunge clothing once more becomes a guinea pig, and it seems that he is getting the mother and child reunion for which he longs. The bonus is that the element that Mom and Dad will need to skip town leaves the door open for the series to continue by having Lucan resume his tracking of them.
One amusing aspect of the final few episodes is that the apparent bid for a second season includes finding pretenses to have Brophy appear shirtless. These include frolicking on the beach and becoming a boxer. We additionally get an "Angels in Chains" episode in which Lucan purposefully incurs an unfortunate incarceration at a shady prison work camp in order to spring a wrongly convicted innocent in a story that has elements of both "not without my baby" and the black market for infants.
The pure camp fun of all this makes "Lucan" a genuine delight. Much of this joy relates to Brophy (who even has a slight unibrow) fully embracing his role.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Lucan" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.