Decades before space movies like “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” there was “My Favorite Martian,” the wacked out ’60s sitcom which was released in a DVD box set of the complete series by MPI Oct. 20. The plot of the series was about a Martian (Ray Walston) who crash lands on Earth and is rescued by newspaper reporter Tim O’Hara (played by Bill Bixby, later of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” and another sci-fi series, “The Incredible Hulk”).
You find a Martian and bring him to your apartment and like the old saying goes, comedy ensues. And it did on several levels. There’s the nosey landlady (Lorelei Brown, played by Pamela Britton, who co-starred with Edmond O’Brien in “D.O.A.”) who appears to have a thing for Uncle Martin, as Tim now calls him. And there are Martin’s unusual characteristics, like the power to become invisible, read minds or make things levitate. If nothing else, the ’60s special effects are as funny as anything in the show. But both Bixby and Walston’s great use of physical comedy was one of the best reasons to watch the series.
The box contains 15 discs with 107 episodes from the show’s three seasons, with the first seasons two in black-and-white and the third in color. The series’ guest stars include a wealth of familiar faces, among them Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”), Linda Evans (“The Big Valley”), Stafford Repp and Madge Blake (both from “Batman”), Richard Deacon (“Leave It To Beaver,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show”), Henry Gibson (“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”), Gavin MacLeod (“McHale’s Navy,” “The Love Boat,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Alan Hale Jr. (“Gilligan’s Island”) and Butch Patrick (“The Munsters”).
There are also a wealth of special features. Some of the better ones are the two separate audio segments of “Let’s Talk to Lucy,” a radio series where Lucille Ball interviews Bixby and Walston, the show’s original soundtrack music, on-the-set home movies including a test for the series’ move to color in the last season, and an archival look at newspaper comic strips inspired by the show.
“My Favorite Martian” was extremely popular in its day, debuting in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings its first season that began in 1963. It was only a couple of years ahead of the original “Star Trek” series and “2001: A Space Odyssey” when science fiction got a lot more serious. According to a biography of Walston, he took the role of Uncle Martin not entirely convinced the series would get on the air. It ended up making him a household name. Between both Bixby’s and Walston’s knack for the physical comedy in the series, it’s easy to see why.