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I watched this show religiously when I was a fourth grader (1963-1964),
and it profoundly affected my life! I have been a fanatical lover of
History since then, and I teach US History at the University level. I
hated it when the series did not continue, and I have wanted to see it
again ever since then. This is not only the best History series ever
made, but one of the best TV series of all time. I rank it as one of
I wish that the series was on video/DVD. I have tried to email CBS about this, with no success; it is doubtful that they even own the series. I hope that someone will get the idea to release it, and do so soon. I also hope that somebody gets the notion to do a new "Great Adventure" someday.
It had a theme song by Richard Rogers, and was narrated by Van Heflin. It told stories with performers of quality: Bob Cummings as "Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse" a pioneer in inoculation for smallpox fighting prejudice in Thomas Jefferson's day; Jackie Cooper as the commander of the Confederate submarine " C.S.S.Hunley" on it's fateful cruise to sink the "U.S.S. Housatonic"; Barry Sullivan as "Holland" the reporter who discovered that President Grover Cleveland (Leif Ericsson) had a secret operation for cancer; Sullivan again, taken in by prospectors John McGiver and John Fiedler, in buying the land of their great diamond field sight unseen - only to have J.D.Cannon (as Clarence King)show that everyone has been fooled by them; Lee Marvin as a California raisin grower fighting the railroads there in 1905. These episodes have not been seen in decades, and deserve to be seen again. Like PROFILES IN COURAGE it has been relegated to the obscurity bin of (ironically enough) history.
It's difficult to believe this was only on for a single season. I remember them as well written drama's that humanized history and count them as a critical factor in nurturing my interest in History so much as to pursue a degree in it. Episodes like "Roger Young", "The Hunley", "The Story of Nathan Hale" and "A Boy at War" were amazing. The talent was there, the story was there, only the audience was missing. I guess folks were too busy watching the Flintstones. I would really love to see these issued on DVD or Video. Appearances by Joseph Cotton, James MacArthur, Peter Graves, Ricardo Montalban, Noah Berry, Claude Akins, Jackie Cooper, Lloyd Nolan, Earl Holliman and George Kennedy to name just a few.
Like "The Americans" which concentrated on the American Civil War, "The Great Adventure" was a quality show which each week presented a dramatization of a person or event in American history. Like "The Americans," "The Great Adventure" was ignored by the American public which, according to the ratings, was far and away more attracted to "Peyton Place," "My Mother the Car," "Car 54 Where Are You?" and other broadcasts which earned television the epithet of "The Vast Wasteland." Van Heflin concluded each episode of "The Great Adventure" by encouraging the American public to read history since, "Learning is the Great Adventure." Not enough of the American public heeded Mr. Heflin's advice.
Was this show only on for one season? That amazes me because I still remember many of the episodes so vividly. I was about 10 years old when "The Great Adventure" was on television and I always wondered why my history classes in school couldn't be this engrossing. I still remember the farms on the western plains being attacked by swarms of locusts, a young Andrew Jackson being struck by a British officer's sword, the founding of the Society for the prevention fo Cruelty to Children", and the claustrophobic feeling inside the USS Monitor. Why don't they have programs like this today? Why don't they run this series again on TVLand?
After reading all the comments of this series I realize this Great
Adventure show must have had an impact on the few that did watch as a
child. I remember it as being very dramatic. I remember well many of
the details of some of the episodes. I can see Lloyd Bridges playing
Wild Bill and sitting at a table playing cards and getting shot in the
back.I remember seeing the hole through his coat. In another episode,
not sure which one,I remember drilling for oil and striking at the
conclusion. I was in third grade and remember it being on Friday
nights. My sisters and brother all watched. I couldn't remember how the
theme song went but I do remember that it was powerful. I searched for
a long time and findly found it on the Internet. I would like to see
the series return on TV or DVD.
ATTENTION READERS: It has been mentioned several times about the theme song. I want to say I found it at www.wavethemes.net. Click on the online TV theme song catalog and look under the G's
I too enjoyed the Great Adventure series. I can still remember small
parts of them after 40 years.
My favorite show was the one about the CSS Hunley. This show inspired me to read more about the various Civil War battles that took place on water.
I also enjoyed the show about Jean LaFitte's contribution to the War of 1812.
I do recall that one of the originals was re-released after the series had ended. It was about Harriet Tubman. It would be good to see the whole series released in a DVD collection, but I have gotten nowhere with this request.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this series as a seven year old on an old black and white rabbit eared TV set, and still remember its great orchestrated theme music. The Civil War episode on the fatal voyage of the Confederate submarine C.S. Hunley haunted me for years as a kid, but this series is responsible for my avid interest in history. The Hunley episode showcased the first use of an ironclad submersible in U.S. waters during wartime, and its assault on a wooden hulled warship. Not quite as good as TNT's 1999 original TV movie of the Hunley, but good enough for its time and just as exciting and informative. Please release the series on DVD, if any prints exist.
I still remember this wonderful series from my youth. LLoyd Bridges portrayed Buffalo Bill Cody. There was an episode about the founding of the SPCA; the first submarine, etc. Does anyone know where DVDs or VHS copies can be obtained? CBS produced it but no of their web pages offer this series for purchase. As a teacher, I am especially interested in showing thee episodes to my students. What a wonderful way to study history. I'm also interested in getting a copy of the opening theme. After much research, I've discovered that Richard Rogers wrote it. It is also on file in Washington DC in the music archives but I can't find where the music was published separately. A little help? Coachgary
This show was well written, well produced and ambitious. It was a
touchingly uncynical effort. One of the producers was the great John
Houseman, Orson Wells' partner in the Mercury Theater and later the
intimidating Professor Kingsfield of "The Paper Chase".
Some of the performances I can remember are Rip Torn as egomaniac John Fremont, Lloyd Bridges as an aging Wild Bill Hickock who is too vain to wear glasses, Peter Graves as Daniel Boone, Jeremy Slate as Nathan Hale, Robert Culp as Sam Houston and James McArthur as doomed World War ll hero Rodger Young. Earl Holliman played a dust bowl farmer fighting locusts. I think Michael Rennie played Jefferson Davis.
Van Heflin was the host/narrator, who was later replaced by Russell Johnson who just served as narrator.
"The Great Adventure" was on during the 1963-64 season. It was on Friday nights from 7:30 to 8:30 pm eastern time. "The Great Adventure" was followed on CBS by "Route 66" at 8:30, "Twilight Zone" at 9:30 and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" at 10:00. A strong line up.
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