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Irwin Allen's adaptation of the 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss follows the adventures of the Karl Robinson, his wife, two boys, and an orphaned girl, who wash up on a volcanic island after a shipwreck. Also on the island is Jeremiah Worth, who was marooned there seven years earlier. Written by
"Swiss Family Robinson" was a strange turn for Irwin Allen since he was known for his futuristic action-adventure series of the '60s. Allen's "Swiss Family Robinson" had a setting of not the future or present, but in the traditional setting of the book by Johnathan Wyss -- an unknown island in the early 19th Century.
The reason that Irwin Allen's name is in front of the titles is because the "Swiss Family Robinson" had been done before (the famous Disney film being the obvious one). And I believe there had been either an Austrialian, or Canadian-made "Swiss Family Robinson" series -- ironically, one of these series was even in production at the time Allen was making his series! So, by throwing his name up before the titles let audiences know this was not any run-of-the-mill production, but the "Irwin Allen version".
Additionally, this was the first time Allen did not 'create' the concept of a TV series. Despite his seasoned technical crew, the series was a disappointment, since it was made on the heels of his spectacular "Poseidon Adventure" and "Towering Inferno" movies. The SFR was lackluster and most of the story lines were predictable and lacked suspense. The effect of the volcano erupting was clearly a miniature (and not a very convincing one at that).
The series' only saving grace was a two-part episode that served as a potential spin-off series called "Jean Lafitte". Starring young, newcomer Frank Langella in the title role, the two-part show was an exciting and fun romp with Lafitte involved in the war of 1812. (Actually, this proposed spin off might have made a much more interesting and action-filled series than it's parent program).
Out of the series cast, the one who made the show enjoyable was Cameraon Mitchell, as Jeremiah Worth. This character was not in the book and was clearly created by Allen as a Smith/Fitzhugh type of curmudgeonly, sea-dog of a character. Mitchell was superb in his role as the weaselly Jeremiah -- a wayward sailor who was always looking to increase his wealth and save his own hide first (like Smith), but when push came to shove was there to assist the Robinson's when they were in a jam (ala Fitzhugh).
Allen's LAST series, "Code Red" (1981), although set in present day Los Angeles, was at least exciting and had decent writers that kept the audience interested in the characters and the action going on around them. Sadly, I could never get excited about "Swiss Family Robinson". For whatever reason, either because of casting or the pedestrian story lines it never really appealed to me.
After the failure of "Swiss Family Robinson," Irwin Allen packed up and moved to Warner Bros. studios where his first project, "Flood" utilized three cast members from SFR: Martin Milner, Cameron Mitchell and Eric Olsen.
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