Following the immense popularity of Star Trek in syndication, the appearance of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on prime time, and a little movie you may have heard about called Star Wars, science fiction as a genre was enjoying immense popularity in the late 1970’s. Buck Henry, after seeing the proliferation of “Space Operas,” as they were sometimes known, noticed that a great many of them substituted futuristic sets and occasionally laughable special effects for well-drawn elements of plot and character. Being a sharp-witted writer, Henry decided to focus in on Star Trek, using it at as a basis for an absurd new situation comedy calledQuark, which premiered in February of 1978 on NBC.
The series starred Richard Benjamin as Adam Quark, the captain of a garbage space scow that literally breezed through the galaxy looking for interstellar trash. Of course, along their garbage hauling detail, Quark and his bizarre crew often got into non-refuse related situations by accident.
The ship’s crew included Gene/Jean, a he-she with a full set of male and female chromosomes whose female side often emerged when Quark needed her-him for a fight, first officer Ficus, a personified vegetable with a Spock-like mentality, Betty I and Betty II, one of whom was a clone of the other, though neither would admit it (played by the Doublemint girls) and Andy the Robot, a dysfunctional mechanical being that was stitched together with used parts.
Rounding out the cast were Conrad Janis (of Mork & Mindy fame) as Quark’s bald supervisor, Otto Palindrome, and Palindrome’s boss, The Head, who literally was a massive, pumpkin-sized head floating in space.
The plots often followed some of the stories from Star Trek and Star Wars with all the sophistication of a Sid & Marty Krofft production. One episode had Quark fighting the evil Gorgons by invading their planet-sized doomsday vehicle (a “death star,” if you will) with the help of the mysterious “Source”… as in “may the Source be with you.”
Now, if you were a geeky kid with better to do than watch The Love Boatand Fantasy Island on Saturday nights (as if there were anything better to do), chances are you were glued to the set with your whole sci-fi-loving family watching Quark each week for a brief period in 1978. That is, if your TV was getting a reception, which was not necessarily the case in North America that particular year.
The winter of 1977-78 was particularly harsh. The Midwest was gripped by a seemingly endless gauntlet of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures that did much to interrupt television service over an expansive area of the United States.
Some have theorized that this did not help the case for Quark, which premiered in an icy February and never really saw the thaw of spring. By the time winter had lifted its grasp on the television sets of the Midwest it was too late. The damage had been done—Quark was cancelled.
|2/24/78 – 4/14/78 NBC|
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