Martin's newest gizmo, a molecular reassembler, switches the psyche of the two subjects to which they are exposed. Martin would like to use it to eliminate all hostility in the world, not to switch ...
Widower Steve Douglas raises three sons with the help of his father-in-law, and is later aided by the boys' great-uncle. An adopted son, a stepdaughter, wives, and another generation of sons join the loving family in later seasons.
Exigius Twelve and a Half, an exoanthropologist from the planet Mars, becomes stranded on Earth after his one-man spaceship narrowly misses a NASA rocket plane and crashes near Los Angeles. The alien is rescued by Tim O'Hara, a newspaper reporter who explains the Martian to friends and authorities by introducing him as his Uncle Martin. "Uncle Martin" looks human, except when he extends his retractable antennae with which he can become invisible. His special powers and unusual illnesses present a constant challenge to Tim in his efforts to preserve his friend's cover. Written by
Delightful Comedy (at Least for 2 Seasons) Uplifted by its Two Stars
During its first two seasons on the air, "My Favorite Martian" often really *did* seem like the story of a Martian anthropologist providing insights into human society. In "We Love You, Miss Pringle" (the show's finest episode), for example, Uncle Martin helps convince a high school graduating class to honor Miss Pringle, one of the toughest (though hardly one of the nicest) teachers at Tim's old school. Martin used his "special abilities" to reveal that she had often helped students in trouble but always behind the scenes. Or in "Martian Report #1," Martin decided to "study" a little orphan girl because Martian children have no "childhood" -- but when she learned about this and was hurt by it, he was forced to confront that she was a real person with feelings not just a specimen.
Sadly, by the third season, these "human interest" stories were largely forgotten, and each episode followed a predictable formula: in the first half of the episode, one of Martin's gadgets would wreak some kind of havoc (e.g., he accidentally exchanged his personality for that of Mrs. Brown; he shrank himself into a bottle, and had folks thinking he was a genie when it was opened; he developed a "Midas touch" and turned everything he touched into gold; and so on). The second half of the episodes were then devoted to "undoing the damage" from the first half.
The worst, though, were a series of completely absurd "spy" shows "inspired" by the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." craze in which an organization called "CRUSH" battled a government agency called "TOPSEEK," with Martin and Tim caught in the middle. It was perhaps a useful "filler" idea the first time they used it, but with repetition, these episodes played like live-action cartoons. Even Ray Walston complained about the silliness of many of the third-season scripts.
Despite these occasional shortcomings, though, in many ways this show was ahead of its time: apart from Superman, it was the first show to feature a main character endowed with special abilities, premiering a year before the whole boatload of such shows (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Mr. Terrific not to mention the Munsters and the Addams Family) that populated television during the Sixties. Those first two seasons rarely relied on contrived "Martian havoc" to carry the episodes, and instead often had wonderful stories in which the characters acted like real people and Martin's powers or gadgets only incidentally were involved. The concluding scene in the "Miss Pringle" episode or Martin's scenes with the little girl in "Martian Report," for example, had a poignancy rarely found in what was supposed to be a comedy show.
The scripts on the show were also often quite sophisticated; for example, Martin was forever telling Tim it was "no time for levity" not "jokes," but "levity." Martin's well-developed vocabulary undoubtedly sent more than one viewer scrambling for a dictionary. And one of the few redeeming features of the last season, when Martin and Detective Brennan were always trying oneupmanship, was that they were constantly quoting Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Ben Jonson, or Edgar Allan Poe to one another.
Perhaps most importantly, there was a remarkable chemistry between Bill Bixby and Ray Walston that's evident from the pilot onward. They genuinely seemed to care about one another, and that chemistry made what was otherwise a far-out premise seem, in their capable hands, completely believable. Had they stuck to the human interest stories and not gone in for gadget-driven plots, the show could have lasted a lot longer than it did.
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