Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Ripley's Believe It or Not began its life in 1919 as a newspaper feature collecting oddities and bizarre bits of arcana from around the world and throughout history. As "curated" by cartoonist Robert Ripley, the Believe It or Not brand proved so popular that it eventually expanded into books, radio, films, and eventually TV. The first such television venture premiered on NBC in 1949, and was hosted by Ripley himself for its first thirteen eps (before he succumbed to a heart attack). While that show folded after its second year, Believe It or Not came back to television in the 1980s for the version that I'm certain most of my readers are familiar with. Here, check out the intro:


I used to love watching reruns of Believe It or Not when it aired in Saudi Arabia, but I think my clearest memory of the show is its eerie theme music composed by Henry Mancini. Seriously, watching that vid above still gives me the creeps! Debuting on ABC in 1982, this particular iteration of Ripley's came as part of a wave of "reality" TV fare (like That's Incredible!, which began airing two years prior), trafficking in the Reagan era equivalent of viral vids. Each episode was built around four or five segments, depicting some manner of human oddity (from the natural to supernatural) all punctuated by the walking, talking human oddity that was host Jack Palance. Observe:


This Believe It or Not aired from '82 to '86, before fading away. The next time I saw Palance was in 1989's Batman, and then winning an Oscar for 1991's City Slickers. (He passed away in 2006.) While reruns of the Palance Ripley's showed up occasionally on Sci-Fi Channel during in the '90s, it now resides permanently in Nostalgia-ville with people like me. The show itself was revived on cable for a 2000 version hosted by Dean Cain (post-Superman, pre-Right Wing Tool), which I've never seen. While I don't doubt the Ripley brand is forever, my fondness will always be for the '80s version. Believe it or not.

You can watch a complete episode of the series below, this one from its final season:

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Airwolf
Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Fall Guy
Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Untouchables

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