Friday, June 22, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: My Secret Identity --
"It's All In a Day's Work For Ultraman"

My Secret Identity was about a prepubescent comic book nerd who ends up getting superpowers. Can you guess why I loved it as kid?

A Canadian-produced series that aired in syndication in the US in the late '80s and early '90s, the show was a half-hour adventure/comedy created by Brian Levant, who would go on to direct a variety of family fare such as the two Flintstones flicks in the '90s, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Jingle All the Way, though it's probably most known today for giving actor Jerry O'Connell his first starring gig after playing pudgy sidekick Vern in 1986's Stand By Me.

The premise was straightforward: O'Connell is average teen Andrew Clement, whose encounter with a ray beam invented by wacky scientist neighbor Dr. Benjamin Jeffcoate (Derek McGrath, top-billed over O'Connell) leaves him impervious to pain, possessed of superspeed, and with the ability to float in the air. Being the comic fan he is, Andrew promptly adopts the superhero handle Ultraman, and sets about righting various wrongs (which, given the premise and budget, doesn't really amount to much in the way of superheroing).

Check out part one of the first ep after the jump below:

The first time I heard about this series was via an article in Scholastic News, a kiddie newspaper we used to get at the school I attended in Saudi Arabia, which appeared right around the time of its debut. They started showing it on Saudi TV shortly thereafter, and boy-howdy did it hit the spot with me. It was practically made to order. And while I hadn't thought about it in more than twenty years, just watching the video above and hearing that theme music just transported me right back to my formative years.

Unable to fly unaided, Andrew would propel himself through the air by spritzling two aerosol cans in the direction he wanted to go (though this conceit was eventually dropped). His powers would also vacillate, with invulnerability eventually being swapped out for super strength. My Secret Identity wasn't exceptionally ambitious, but the one thing you can say about it is that it was earnest. And with a show like this, that can be enough.

Premiering in fall of '88, My Secret Identity ran for three seasons before ending in May of 1991. During that time, we got to watch O'Connell complete his metamorphosis from an awkward adolescent into a handsome young adult. No doubt cognizant of this fact, the show's producers eventually ditched the comic book stuff (and the Ultraman alias) in favor of a style that favored the young actor's emerging teen idol appeal. Thus, for the final season, the intro was rejiggered to highlight this new approach:

As far as I'm aware, My Secret Identity hasn't been rerun in the States in the two decades since its cancellation, nor does a DVD release appear to be in the offing anytime soon. While star Derek McGrath has kept busy in the interim in Canadian productions such as the just-ended Little Mosque on the Prairie, O'Connell has gone on to a successful career headlining productions such as Fox's Sliders and NBC's upcoming Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane. He's also married to Rebecca Romijin, so I'd say that qualifies as winning at life.

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