Before there was E.T., Alf and Mork from Ork, there was My Favorite Martian.
Uncle Martin was a rare breed — a friendly alien with no desire to rule the human race. He simply wants to observe in the same way we watch ants do what they do in a see-thru ant farm.
Martin (Ray Walston) takes up residence with a young journalist named Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby). While they’re not exactly The Odd Couple, living with a man from Mars does take some getting used to. It’s nice when he can get the vacuum cleaner to run by itself but not so good when he accidentally turns a neighbor into a painting.
Like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, many of the My Favorite Martian plots are based on Martin’s “magic” and Tim’s attempts to explain or hide these events from everyone else. But the real magic of this show lies in the relationship between Uncle Martin and Tim. Ray Walston and Bill Bixby have a wonderful on-screen chemistry and it’s easy to buy in to Tim’s deep affection and attachment to this odd visitor who has turned his life upside down.
Walston’s portrayal walks the perfect line between human and alien. He’s not so different that we can’t relate but he’s just different enough to keep us engaged. And it’s hard to argue with his commentary on the human condition.
Ready to re-experience the fun? MPI Media just released My Favorite Martian: The Complete Collection on DVD. You get all 107 episodes; uncut and digitally remastered. The first two black and white seasons are crisp and clean and the color third season pops off the screen.
To sweeten the deal, MPI has included an incredible collection of rare bonus features that left me both delighted and amazed.
First, we get a glimpse of TV history with two lost series pilots from My Favorite Martian producer Jack Chertok; The Reluctant Eye and The Man in the Square Suit.
Next we have the 60’s version of product placement; Kelloggs commercials with Bixby and Walston hawking cereals in character. Adorable.
Walston also appears in a lengthy commercial called “A Typical Day with Aluminum”. It’s hard to imagine that aluminum was so revolutionary that its benefits had to be advertised but here it is as proof.
One of my favorite special features is Ray Walston’s appearance on a Halloween episode of I’ve Got a Secret. Every year, the show used an unusual technique to light up a jack-o-lantern. In this 1965 episode, Ray uses two “high-tech” gadgets including a switch that responds to sound and conductive paint.
Last year, I was introduced to Bare Conductive, a startup that sells reasonably priced “electric paint”. The paint Walston uses on the game show is insanely expensive as it’s made out of gold and platinum. The product was designed by NASA so they could create very lightweight circuit boards for spaceships. (I bet Uncle Martin had some of that in his ship!) The panel was impressed and so was I. Thanks MPI for digging out this wonderful link to the past.
The very best special feature in this box set is a series of home movies from the set. This is early 8mm footage, so no sound but you can see that Ray Walston was recording a separate audio track while playing “finish that Shakespeare” quote with pal Bixby. Sadly, the audio is missing.
In its place is a commentary track by box set Executive Producer Peter Greenwood. I knew Greenwood back when I was writing a series of articles about Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants, so it was a real kick to “see” him turn up on this DVD release.
The home movies show you what life was like on the set of a TV series in the sixties. Not too different from how it is today except that back then, crew members tended to be older and there were a lot of suits and ties. Even without sound, you can see that the three leads were genuinely fond of each other and that makes me love the show all the more.
My Favorite Martian: The Complete Collection is a must-have for classic TV fans and anyone who enjoys fantasy sitcoms. (3rd Rock from the Sun fans – you have to check this out.)
My Favorite Martian is a smart comedy with a mid-century modern look that still feels fresh today. This one belongs in your TV on DVD collection. Get it now for 36% off the listed price at Amazon.