Captain Video

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Captain Video title card.JPG

Captain Video (full title: Captain Video and His Video Rangers) was a live-action TV program produced by the DuMont television network from 1949 until 1955. Due to the limitations of technology at the time, the entire show, like much television in The Fifties, was done live -- what the cameras saw went out to the viewers. At the time, the only way to record a television broadcast was in a kinescope -- a film taken of a TV set as it was playing the program.

The show followed the adventures of Captain Video -- an agent of good who was billed at the opening of each show as the "Master of Time and Space" and an "e-lec-tronic wizard" who helped maintain peace on Earth and abroad, aided by the Video Rangers.

Captain Video was the first science-fiction TV show, something that was perpetually at odds with its strapped production budget. It's still occasionally mentioned by humor writer Dave Barry, who was a huge fan as a kid, and especially loves to bring up Captain Video's communicator just being a regular phone, which he attempted to disguise by talking into the listening end like a microphone.

Tropes used in Captain Video include:
  • Eager Young Space Cadet: A forerunner and pace-setter for the standard of space cadet, Captain Video featured some scenes that were, in fact, supposed to be in space ships, in which the characters would wear crash helmets and goggles, since that's apparently all you need to survive in the depths of space if you have some kind of accident.
  • The Film of the Series: In fact, the only case where the film of the series was a serial. The serial ("Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere") is not lost and is available on DVD. The color tinting, however, is lost and had to be recreated for the DVD; unfortunately, they messed up and used color for all the other planet scenes instead of just for the outdoor scenes.
  • Missing Episode: Most of the series' episodes are gone, since the kinescopes were lost, destroyed or reprocessed to save money. Some of the surviving ones can be seen at the Internet Archive.
  • No Budget: This, and pretty much everything the fourth-ranked DuMont network put out in its ten years (1946-56) as a Struggling Broadcaster. The network tried to leverage its access to Broadway's theatre district as a source of talent, but ultimately went broke in 1956 as cities with only one or two VHF TV stations would affiliate those stations with stronger networks CBS and NBC, which were already well-established in prime-time radio.
  • The Other Darrin: The Captain was played by two actors during the run of the series, and a third for the film (mentioned above).
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Honeymooners: Ed Norton was one of the biggest fans of the show, as seen in the episode "TV or Not TV".
  • Stock Footage: One of the show's most bizarre features was the Video Ranger Broadcast, a Show Within a Show in which the viewers are treated to footage of people who are allegedly Captain Video's agents at work on various parts of the Earth. This footage was drawn from -- inexplicably -- cowboy films. These broadcasts would last several minutes before returning to the live-action events taking place in the DuMont studio.