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Susan Saint James
Lucas Tanner: A Interesting and Teen Oriented Show
This was a brilliant show that lasted one season on NBC. It was on the Wednesday night schedule right after the family-oriented drama "Little House On The Prairie",and it was preceded by the lawyer courtroom crime drama series "Petrocelli". This was a series that was adult-oriented but at the same time was aimed at teenagers and parents and it show was set in a modern day high school,and it one of those shows that was a combination of "Mr. Novak","Room 222",and later on "James at 15". The series "Lucas Tanner" started as a two hour movie that was made for television that aired as part of the NBC Movie Special Presentation in early 1974. The made for TV-movie was directed by Richard Donner(of "Superman",and "Lethal Weapon fame),who was a pioneer director in a lot of classic television shows before he made the jump into feature length films. On the strength of that pilot movie,the show became a weekly series that produced 24 episodes that ran its course on NBC from the first telecast of September 11,1974 until the final telecast of the series on August 20,1975. The series was produced by Roy Huggins,who also served as the executive producer of the series under his production company Public Arts Productions in association with Universal Television.
The star of this short-lived series was David Hartman who gives a charismatic performance as Lucas Tanner. Hartman before he came onto this series was a regular on several shows including his roles as ranch-hand David Sutton on "The Virginian"(NBC,1962-71),which lasted one season(1968-69),and also as Dr. Paul Hunter on the dramatic series "The Bold Ones:The New Doctors"(NBC,1969-73),and also in several TV-movies and feature length films.
Lucas Tanner(David Hartman) had been both a baseball player with the major leagues,and a sportswriter but had given it up both after the tragic loss of his wife and son in a auto accident. Wanting to start a new life,he moved to St. Louis,Missouri,and obtained a job as an English teacher at Harry S. Truman Memorial High School in suburban Webster Groves(just outside of St. Louis). There he encountered frustrating resistance to his down-to-earth teaching style,primarily from the more tradition-bound teachers. The support of the school principal Margaret Blumenthal(Rosemary Murphy),who was replaced in January of 1975 by school principal John Hamilton(John Randolph),and the gratitude and support of his students were often the only things that kept him from "throwing in the towel." Lucas' warm and understanding nature made him a favorite of the students,who appreciated his ability to treat them as individuals and not as juvenile and demeaning kids. He was very in tuned with the kids and the only ones the students in times of support and sometimes counseling. Lucas also served as a guidance counselor as well since he was working in two positions at the school. He drove around town in a huge Chevrolet station wagon(which was the sponsor of the show at the time),and also had a special friend as well named Glendon Farrell(Robbie Rist),a small kid who was one of Lucas' next door neighbors whose parents were part of the Peace Corps,and at times would often come over to visit and talk about certain issues. Talk about a show that took on the issues of the day,since this show came out in the middle of the Watergate scandal and the resignation of the Nixon Administration. Not to mention at a time when the energy crisis was at chaos.
Others that were in cast were Jordan Adair,who was one of Mr. Tanner's students,played by Dirk Blocker,the son of actor Dan Blocker,aka Hoss Cartwright from the TV series "Bonanza". Speaking of David Hartman's career after this series left the airwaves in the summer of 1975,he ventured into the world of daytime television and made the jump from prime-time programming to weekday mornings as the host of the morning news and information show "Good Morning America" which premiered on ABC-TV in the fall of 1975. Hartman however,would continue to be the host of that morning talk and news show for the next 12 seasons until his retirement from the series in 1987. He is still doing news corresponding work for ABC News these days and still hasn't lost none of his acting chops for Hollywood neither.
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