With the advent of cable and the loss of free TV from the airwaves most everywhere, you really do not see many “rabbit ears” – antennae – on Martians anymore in the funny books or on TV/film.
But oh, they are there! How do I know? I used to know a Martian back in the 1960s. Actually two: Uncle Martin and Andromeda. Martin had two antennae and Andromeda had one. (Some birth thing, the family doesn’t like to talk about it, ya know.)
Was the very, very young Byron Brewer already tuned into TV sci-fi by this time in his yoot? Well, hell yeah! But that is not why I watched My Favorite Martian. No, it is because it was only, as a future Spock would say, logical. You see, it followed Lassie!
So let’s jump in the Wayback Machine and return to the days of JFK, the Beatles and we really could believe in men from Mars.
My Favorite Martianwas a TV sitcom that aired on CBS from Sept. 29, 1963, to May 1, 1966for 107 episodes (75 in black and white, 32 in color). The show starred Ray Walston as Uncle Martin (the Martian) and the future David Bruce Banner of The Incredible Hulk, Bill Bixby as Tim O'Hara.
In the beginning, a very human-looking ET in a one-man spaceship crash-lands near LA. The ship's pilot is, in fact, an anthropologist from Mars and is now stranded on Earth. Tim O'Hara, a young newspaper reporter for The Los Angeles Sun, is on his way home from Edwards Air Force Base (where he had gone to report on the flight of the X-15) back to Los Angeleswhen he spots the spaceship coming down. The X-15 nearly hit the Martian's spaceship and caused it to crash.
Tim takes the Martian in as his roommate and passes him off as his Uncle Martin. Uncle Martin refuses to reveal any of his Martian traits to people other than Tim, to avoid publicity (or panic), and Tim agrees to keep Martin's identity a secret (that’s a newsman??) while the Martian attempts to repair his ship.
Uncle Martin has various unusual powers: he can raise two retractable antennae (see?) from his head and become invisible; he is telepathic and can read and influence minds; he can levitate objects with the motion of his finger; he can communicate with animals; freeze people or objects; and he can also speed himself (and other people) up to do work.
Ostensibly an inventor by trade, Martin also builds several advanced devices, such as a time travel machine (probably read Fantastic Four) that transports Tim and the Martian back to medieval Englandand other times and places. Another device he builds is a "molecular separator" that can take apart the molecules of a physical object or rearrange them (a squirrel was made into a human). Another device can take memories and store them in pill form (this was the ‘60s!) to "relearn" them later. Other devices create temporary duplicates, or levitate Martin and others without the need of his finger.
Tim and Uncle Martin live in a garage apartment owned by a congenial but scatterbrained landlady, Mrs. Lorelei Brown, who often shows up when not wanted. She and Martin have an awkward romance from time to time but Martin never gets serious for fear of going home to Mars. She later dates a vain, cold-hearted cop, Detective Bill Brennan, who dislikes Martin and is highly suspicious of him.
The first two seasons were filmed in black-and-white but the final season was shot in color, resulting in minor changes in the set and the format of the show. In addition to the extraterrestrial powers indicated in the first two seasons, Martin was able to do much more in the final season, such as stimulating facial hair to provide him and Tim with a quick disguise, and levitating with his nose (a humorous throw-back to another popular television series at the time, Bewitched). Brennan's boss, the police chief, was involved in many episodes in the third season, generally as a device to humiliate the overzealous detective.
In its first season, My Favorite Martian did extremely well in the Nielsen ratings ranking at #10. However, by the end of the second season, the show had dipped to #24. Still, the series was doing well enough to be renewed for a third season.
Martin O'Hara's real name is Exigius 12½. Revealed in "We Love You, Mrs. Pringle," it was heard again when his real nephew, Andromeda, crash-landed on Earth in the show's third season. Andromeda, originally devised to bring younger viewers to the aging show, disappeared without explanation after this single episode and was never referred to again. Andromeda was, however, a regular on the later animated series My Favorite Martians. Andromeda had a single antenna, which Martin explained was because his baby antennae had fallen out and only one adult antenna had come in so far.
Ironically this is the reason for the series’ cancellation. In an interview with Starlog magazine, Ray Walston said that when CBS heard Andromeda would be a regular in the fourth season they soon announced the series' cancellation.
Walston was so witty as the Martian, and it actually is a better sitcom of the era than most of those based on such gimmicks. And again, apart from I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, this was a sitcom based on sci-fi comedy rather than magic.
And yes, when young Byron Brewer started first grade, he did go to Miss Manheir’s room with some homemade antennae on his head. Try as I might, I could not disappear, though.