Space Patrol is a science fiction adventure series set in the 30th century that was originally aimed at juvenile audiences of the early 1950s via television, radio, and comic books. It soon developed a sizable adult audience, and by 1954 the program consistently ranked in the top 10 shows broadcast on a Saturday.
The Space Patrol television show began broadcasting March 9, 1950, as a Monday-through-Friday 15-minute show on a local Los Angeles station, KECA. On December 30, 1950, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) added a half-hour version of the program to its Saturday schedule. It became an overnight sensation, and the new weekly show and the 15-minute shows continued concurrently on a local basis. It was seen via kinescope syndication in other cities. A 1953 30-minute episode was the subject of the first U.S. experimental 3D television broadcast on April 29 in Los Angeles on ABC affiliate KECA-TV.
The series made history by being the first regular live West Coast morning network program beamed to the East Coast. At the time, it took an intricate network of cable and relay stations to accomplish this enormous task.
The ABC television Space Patrol broadcasts became one of the nation's first mass media phenomena, and an ABC radio companion series was developed. The radio program was also popular and ran from September 18, 1950 until March 19, 1955 producing 129 thirty-minute episodes.
The televised Space Patrol aired continuously until July 2, 1954; after a short break, it reappeared on September 4, 1954, before finally disappearing from the air on February 26, 1955. 210 half-hour shows and close to 900 15-minute shows were made over Space Patrol's 5-year run. The sponsors included Purina/Ralston and Nestles. Very few of them survived.
The stories followed the 30th-century adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry (Ed Kemmer) of the United Planets Space Patrol and his young sidekick Cadet Happy (Lyn Osborn), as they faced interplanetary villains with diabolical schemes. As was common at the time, some of these villains had Russian- or German-sounding accents. Cmdr. Corry and his allies were aided by such sci-fi gadgets as ray guns, "miniature space-o-phones" and "atomolights". Most episodes carried such pulp-magazine titles as "Revolt of the Space Rats" and "The Menace of Planet X". Originally, the Space Patrol's purpose was that of "clearing the space lanes" but it evolved into an intergalactic space police and military force charged with keeping the peace. The show was originally pitched as a cop show in outer space. Latter day comparisons between Space Patrol and the later Star Trek film and television series were inevitable.
The show was targeted to children, but attracted a sizable adult audience. Many episodes featured commercial tie-in merchandise, like toys and mail-order premiums, that were advertised during commercial breaks. Many of the ads for corporate sponsor Ralston Purina's Chex cereals used the show's space opera motif in their pitches. A unique feature of the TV and radio adventures was that the premium of the month was often worked into the story action. This permitted young viewers to feel that they were participating in the radio or televised adventures. Space Patrol's best known premium was a "Name the Planet" contest wherein the winner was awarded the program's Terra IV spaceship. The prize was a giant trailer in the shape of the series' space craft. One of the many "Name the Planet" commercials may be viewed online.
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