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8 time-travel television shows that time forgot

Image: Everett Collection

Time travel has been shown so many different ways in movies and television. It can work just as well in serious dramas as it can in outrageous comedies. It is often used as a way to learn from our past or explore different futuristic scenarios.

Here are eight different shows that all featured time travel in some capacity and are now trapped in the dark void of forgotten TV history. Or maybe they just haven’t been thought about in a while.

1

Captain Z-Ro (1951-1956)

Image: Everett Collection

“Somewhere in a remote, uncharted region of the planet called Earth stands the laboratory of Captain Z-Ro.” The title flashes onscreen and we know we’re in for an entertaining yet educational retro-futuristic adventure. Captain Z-Ro was a children’s program that originally aired on KRON-TV in San Francisco and KTTV in Los Angeles from 1951 to 1953. The show went national from 1955 to 1956. It was created by and starred Roy Steffens who later worked as an art director on shows like The Bionic Woman and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. The plot of each episode revolved around Captain Z-Ro and his teenage sidekick, Jet, going back in time to learn something about history or to fix something that had gone wrong. They met everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Blackbeard to Genghis Khan. However, the real highlight of the show were the sets and costumes. Look at that helmet!

2

It’s About Time (1966-1967)

Image: Everett Collection

This science fiction comedy series was about two astronauts who travel faster than the speed of light and land back on earth thousands of years in the past. It was created by Sherwood Schwartz, known for Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Unlike his other successes, however, It’s About Time only lasted one season. The astronauts (played by Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney) meet a cave-family and try to adapt to their new pre-historic life. The show steadily lost viewers as it went on and was retooled in January of 1967. The second half of the season saw the cave-family traveling with the astronauts back to the 1960s. While more familiar to the audience, the new setting didn’t help viewership and the show was not renewed for a second season.

3

The Lost Saucer (1975-1976)

Sid and Marty Krofft are known for their many outlandish and creative TV shows. The Lost Saucer is no exception. It involves two androids (including Jim Nabors!) from another planet (and also the year 2369) who take along a young boy and his babysitter after briefly landing on Earth. While trying to repair the damaged ship, the foursome encounters many different times both in the future and the past. The episodes usually had some sort of social commentary, like one where a future society has grown lazy because robots do all the work or another where people’s names have been replaced with numbers. Oh, and there’s also a Dorse, a half-dog, half-horse hybrid that’s really just a man in a furry dog suit with a fake horse head.

4

The Fantastic Journey (1977)

Image: Everett Collection

Considering it ran for only ten of a planned thirteen episodes in February 1977, you’d be forgiven for not remembering The Fantastic Journey. The show follows passengers on a ship that get transported to a mysterious island after sailing into the Bermuda triangle. On the island, they encounter, Varian, a man from the 23rd century who teaches them about their surroundings. He explains that people from the past, present and future get trapped on the island in different "time zones" which can only be explored via invisible gateways that teleport characters from one zone to the next. Sound a bit convoluted? Viewers thought so, too. The series was canceled before the last few episodes were even filmed.

5

Time Express (1979)

Image: Everett Collection

This extremely short-lived CBS series followed the format of popular shows The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Each episode followed guest stars as they boarded a train that could take them back in time. Their hosts for this journey were Jason and Margaret Winters played by real life couple Vincent Price and Carol Browne. The rest of the train crew rounded out the main cast. The show was created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who previously had a hand in creating Charlie’s Angels and Mannix. The success of those previous efforts was not replicated, however. Time Express only aired four episodes.

6

The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-1981)

Did you know Henry Winkler, Ron Howard and Donny Most all starred in a time-traveling Happy Days spin-off? If that doesn’t ring any bells, it’s probably because the show was a Saturday morning Hannah-Barbera cartoon. In it, Fonzie and the gang, including an anthropomorphic dog named Mr. Cool, meet a girl from the future. After fixing her time machine, the group gets trapped jumping between different time periods. The opening sequence for the show was narrated by Wolfman Jack, the famous gravely-voiced radio DJ. The series ran for two seasons with a total of 24 episodes. 

7

Voyagers! (1982-1983)

This early-Eighties fantasy series followed the adventures of Phineas Bogg and his kid sidekick, Jeffrey. Phineas used a wrist-watched sized device called an Omni to travel through history, making sure everything unfolded as it should. Phineas Bogg was played by Jon-Erik Hexum, who later died in a tragic accident on the set of his show Cover Up. Each episode of Voyagers! ended with a voice-over of Jeffrey encouraging kids to learn more about history by visiting their local library. Though well received, Voyagers! was canceled by NBC and replaced by a news program to compete with 60 Minutes.

8

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1992)

This seven-episode series was based on the 1989 movie starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but it was also a replacement for an animated Bill and Ted television show originally produced by Hannah-Barbera. Fox ended the animated version in 1991 and recast the lead roles for a live-action series that aired in the summer of 1992. The premise of the show was the same as the movies: two slackers use a phone booth to travel through time and learn about history. Unfortunately, the show didn’t see the same success as the movies and was canceled after two months.

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