PROGRAM OF THE APES - by Jeff K.


....The credits say the series was "developed" by Anthony Wilson,
not Rod Serling, so the format must have originated with him (though he isn't
credited until the fifth episode). The main innovation from those early scripts
is stronger personalities for Virdon and Kovak, now Burke. Virdon was given a
longing to get back home and Burke was made a smart ass. For me it's those per-
sonalities, as well as that of Urko, that carry the show. There also seems to
be a conscious effort to remove the series from the movies a bit. They moved
the demise of humanity farther from "Conquest"'s 1990's, stayed away from any
Forbidden Zones (settling for forbidden cities) and gave the humans speech.
This last aspect turned the humans from being animals into a persecuted race,
which I think was wise. As animals they are very limiting. They also made Zaius
less adversarial to Ursus/Urko than he was in the scripts.

So when did all these changes happen? It was probably after CBS gave them a
firm commitment that they started from scratch. "Hostage" was likely the last
vestige of the Serling version before they started over with Art Wallace's "Es-
cape From Tomorrow". Epilog Journal #9 says that TV Guide wrote in the spring
of '74 that "(CBS) is contemplating a weekly series based on the 'Apes' flicks".
Well, that is about the time the final draft of "Hostage" was finished (liter-
ally). They would have started on the scripts that were filmed about then.

Arthur Jacobs was gone, so Stan Hough took on the role of overseer. Hough had
been an executive production manager at Fox when the first movie was being de-
veloped. In fact, he is creditted with first suggesting to Arthur Jacobs that
he do a sequel to the original movie. Hough's executive producer was Herbert
Hirschman. Story consultants Joe Ruby and Ken Spears became famous in tele-
vision animation when they formed their own production company (Ruby-Spears
Productions). Cinematographer Gerald Finnerman gained fame on "Star Trek" (as
did actor Mark Lenard) and also directed some television. Lalo Schifrin is one
of the top composers for movies and TV and was responsible for the famous "Mis-
sion: Impossible"theme, due to find renewed popularity this year with the
release of a "Mission:Impossible" movie starring Tom Cruise .

One of the important early tasks was casting the major parts. First of all,
they had to find someone to play the chimp Galen. Would they be able to find
someone who could do it as well as Roddy McDowall had in the movies? Well, they
weren't so sure until Roddy himself approached them about doing it. They had as-
sumed he wouldn't be interested, so they hadn't asked. He would recieve top
billing. The ape makeup had caused cysts to develop on his face during the movies
and he had to have them removed. For the series, his face was insured for
$1 million with Lloyds of London and his contract guaranteed his face a rest
every few days. He was also given a private Winnebago on the lot for privacy.

Over 50 actors were tested for the roles of the astronauts Virdon and Burke.
The parts went to Ron Harper and James Naughton. Harper studied to be a lawyer
but wound up on such series as "87th Precinct", "Garrison's Gorillas", "Wendy
and Me" and "Land of the Lost". More recently he starred in the 1987 movie "Sav-
age Season" (or "Temporada Salvaje"). The POTA producers were so hot for Harper
that they interrupted his honeymoon in Ireland (with actress Sally Stark) and
paid for a round trip, a car and a room at the Hilton so he would do another
screen test for them. Naughton did terrific work in the movies "The Good Mother"
and "The Glass Menagerie" (the book "No Tricks In My Pocket" by Stewart Stern
chronicles the rehearsals for that film). He. is on NBC's "Cosby Mysteries".

The two ape heavies, Urko and Zauis, were played by Mark Lenard and Booth Col-
man. At the time Lenard was best known as Spock's father Sarek on "Star Trek".
And today he is...still known as Spock's father Sarek on "Star Trek". He appeared
in the role on some of the "Star Trek" movies and the character died on
the "Star Trek:The Next Generation" episode "Unification, Pt. 1". There was even
a comic book about Lenard. And he has recently narrated some "Star Trek" audio
versions of novels, including one about his namesake, called "Sarek". Of course,
playing Spock's father isn't the only thing Lenard has done in his career. He's
also played a Romulan and a Klingon. One of Booth Colman's first roles was
playing Guildenstern in a production of "Hamlet". The title role was played by
the elder Zauis, Maurice Evans. Booth has been in movies like "The Great White
Hope" and "Romanoff and Juliet" but I don't have any recent credits for him.

The big question for the series was whether they would be able to maintain
the makeup standards of the movies on a weekly schedule. To that end, the makeup
was supervised by Dan Striepeke, the head of the Fox makeup department and a
guy who was there when John Chambers first created that famous look. Also on the
makeup team were Fred Blau (who did McDowell's makeup), Sonny Burman,
Ed Butterworth and Frank Westmore (of the famous Westmore makeup family).

Each actor with an appliance had their own makeup man and there was also a
crew for the mask wearers and the humans. The makeup usually took about 3 hours
to apply. Since shooting started around 8 AM, those playing apes had to at least
arrive by 5:30 AM (shooting exteriors had to be done earlier because of the
lighting situation at the Ranch, so apes had to start arriving at 4 AM on those
days). The applications were made from life masks of the actors' faces. Guest
stars had to make do with a series of general life masks, since there wasn't
time to make personal ones. About 120 applications were made each week.

The series was shot in California. Interior scenes were shot at 20th Century
Fox's Pico Blvd. lot and exteriors were done at the Fox Ranch in Malibu Can-
yon. The series "MASH" was also shot at the ranch, making a similar topography.

Marvin Paige was the casting director and found it more difficult than some
would think. Actors had to be a certain heighth (chimps: 5'7", 5'8" or smaller;
orangutans: 5'10"; gorillas: 5'11" or 6'11") and brown-eyed (the only ape with
blue eyes was Kim Hunter's Zira). He needed more gorillas than any other ape
because they were the villians. There was also a certain walk the actors had to
do and Paige would run a film for those he hired showing how to walk. It was
difficult because the actor's only tools were their voice and eyes. As Paige
said, "If the actor does not make that mask come alive, the whole characteriza-
tion falls apart".

The series premiered on Friday the 13th (9/13/74) and those who are super-
stitious probably predicted the result. "Planet of the Apes" didn't establish
itself fast enough and was cancelled after half a season. CBS didn't even bother
to repeat the episodes, except for the first one (12/27/74).

What happened? Mark Lenard points out that the audience was never there from
the beginning. Either people didn't know about it or wanted to watch something
else. Indeed, "Apes" was on against the #2 & 3 shows of that season, "Sanford
and Son" and "Chico and the Man". "Apes"' other competition, the cop show "Ko-
diak" died even quicker, lasting less than a month. And "Kodiak"'s companion,
"The Six Million Dollar Man" was saved only because ABC moved it out of that
time slot in November. Would "Apes" have survived had CBS moved it? Perhaps.

But Roddy McDowall has said that the real problem was the expense of the series
and that it was attracting too many young kids. The sponsors of kids' programs
advertise on Saturday mornings and, indeed, POTA ended up as a Saturday morning
cartoon. McDowall didn't understand what the problem was, opining that "kids are
important" and the merchandising could have carried it. Actually, CBS didn't get
a cut of the merchandising.

But one might hope these network honchos would show a little creativity. Any-
body can look at a bunch of low numbers and yank a show. Some of the biggest
successes in TV started with low ratings and were given a chance: "Cheers",
"Northern Exposure", "M*A*S*H", the list is endless. Even "Star Trek" had bad
ratings it's entire original run. It was always on the verge of cancellation.
It's interesting to think of what would have happened if it had been cancelled
as quickly as "Apes". There wouldn't have been enough episodes for syndication,
at least not in America. Would it still have been able to create the phenomenon
we know of today? Or would it have gathered dust on a shelf somewhere? A more
recent example is the "X-Files" science-fiction series. That show premiered in
September '93 on Friday, POTA's old haunt. As usual for science-fiction series,
it got low ratings initially. But the Fox network took notice of it's cult fol-
lowing and renewed it for the current season. It's now firmly established and
won the 1995 Golden Globe for best drama series, beating out loftier competition.

The POTA series was received better in England, where it had very good ratings
and also respect. Critic Leslie Halliwell (known for his famous "Halliwell's
Film Guide") called it a "clever retread of a powerful movie in a format some-
where between "The Fugitive" and "Gulliver's Travels"...the usual public indif-
ference to quality merchandise caused a sudden cancellation".

--------------------------------------------

'Program of the Apes'
and
'Episode Rankings' -
reprinted from APE CHRONICLES, December 1994, Issue 18
  THE (EPISODE) RANKINGS - Jeff K.


Well, how do my favorites stack up against the consensus? To find out I retabulated
the results from our annual poll, combining the polls of '93 {Chronicles #8)
and '94 {Chronicles #14, which only ranked 11 episodes). I basically gave
each episode points depending on where it appeared on each list {#1=14pts,
#2=13pts. etc.) and then totalled each episode's points from both polls.

POLL RESULTS

1. THE TRAP                                        8.  THE INTERROGATION
2. THE GOOD SEEDS                          9.  THE CURE
3. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW.     10. THE LIBERATOR
4. THE LEGACY                                  11. TOMORROW'S TIDE
5. THE HORSE RACE                          12. THE GLADIATORS
6. THE DECEPTION                            13. UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH
7. THE TYRANT                                   14. THE SURGEON

JEFF'S LIST
1. THE LEGACY                                    8.  THE GOOD SEEDS
2. THE TYRANT                                    9.  THE INTERROGATION
3. THE GLADIATORS                          10. THE CURE
4. THE TRAP                                         11. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW
5. THE LIBERATOR                             12. THE SURGEON
6. THE HORSE RACE                           13. UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH
7. THE DECEPTION                             14. TOMORROW'S TIDE

So what does all this mean? Nothing really. Everyone wants different things
from a POTA episode, or even different things from viewing to viewing. I know
my preference has vacillated over the years. I guess the main thing is that
either you dig the show or you don't. I would say that this show was what first
made me a fan. It's gotten it's knocks over the years but so what? It TVized
the concept somewhat and many find that distasteful. But it's also been alot of
fun for others and has made it's own contributions to the "Apes" mythos. It
explored this Banana Republic with a breadth that few mediums have the time to
do. Has it tarnished POTA? Everyone has to decide for themselves but I don't
think so. I'm glad Virdon and Burke landed here 20 years ago. It wouldn't have
been the same without 'em. Happy Anniversary to the show and thanks to those
who brought it to us.