Family based comedies in the 1950's typically featured normal, almost picture perfect nuclear families. Heading into the 1960's this would change radically, as all kinds of whacky permutations of the family unit began to appear on television. The decade would see programs like Bewitched (1964-72), The Addams Family (1964-66), The Munsters (1964-66), and I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70), become hits. But ahead of this group of eclectic shows, was My Favorite Martian (1963-1966).
Created by Jack Chertok, the program was about a Martian scientist, whose spacecraft crash lands on Earth. Marooned, the dazed alien is discovered by Tim O'Hara (Bill Bixby), a newspaper reporter, who takes him into live in his home, under the pretense that the alien is his "Uncle Martin O'Hara". Compared to earthmen, the Martian has strange and unusual powers, including the ability to become invisible, read minds, and levitate objects using his right index finger.
The tone of the program is mostly light-hearted and innocuous as Tim and Uncle Martin learn to live together, and help each other deal with various situations, usually in a humorous way. Reoccurring themes include Tim's romantic adventures, Martin's issues with various Earthly customs and agencies, situations related to Tim's job, Martin's various illnesses and maladies, that often have strange consequences, and Martin's attempts to repair his spacecraft and return home. Semi-regular characters include Pamela Britton as Mrs. Lorelei Brown, Tim's landlady who lives next door, and J. Pat O'Malley as Tim's boss at the newspaper, Mr. Burns. Britton is quite charming, as the ultra-friendly, but slightly daffy neighbor with a heart of gold.
The show features a nice mix of character actors from the period, including a number of budding starlet types, intended to capture the fancy of the handsome Tim O'Hara. Bill Bixby is almost always charming, the kind of guy almost any girl would be interested in, either as a friend or lover. The multitalented Ray Walston, brings just the right amount of mirth to the role, so as to not come off as completely ridiculous. It takes some skill to carry off what is essentially a gag, and Walston does it quite well. Together, Bixby and Walston make a marvelous team.
My Favorite Martian has a relatively low key, adult approach. Although often subjected to stress, Tim and Martin don't do much yelling, or running around like maniacs. They have some bad moments, but are very much a team working for a common goal. This would become more evident in the second season when Bill Brennan (Allan Hewitt), a police detective, joined the cast as Mrs. Brown's boyfriend. The suspicious Brennan, would be a constant threat to Martin and Tim.
The program also featured some special effects and camera tricks, that would later become quite common in programs like Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie. Another cool aspect was the music, including George Greeley's catchy and unorthodox theme, and the strange science fiction inspired sound effects, produced by a device known as the electro-theremin.
Back in the early 60's, the television season was an extremely long grind, and there are 37 black and white episodes in season one. With so many programs, producing high quality stories, particularly in an experimental series such as this, was a major challenge. While most of the episodes are fun and entertaining, it is not unexpected that there are also a few that miss the mark. Although quite silly at times, My Favorite Martian remains a very enjoyable show about a very special friendship. Image quality of the DVD's is soft at times, but not too bad for a program of this age.
The versatile Bixby would later star in the television series The Courtship Of Eddie's Father (1969-72), and also as David Banner in The Incredible Hulk (1978-82). Bixby appeared in several Hulk movies, and also became a director mostly working in television. He was only 59 at the time of his untimely passing due to cancer in 1993, when he was working as a director on the TV series Blossom.