Follow TV Tropes


Series / Shazam! (1974)

Go To
Captain Marvel and his alter ego Billy Batson, keeping it real in The '70s.

"Chosen from among all others by the Immortal Elders — Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury — Billy Batson and his mentor travel the highways and byways of the land on a never-ending mission: to right wrongs, to develop understanding, and to seek justice for all! In time of dire need, young Billy has been granted the power by the Immortals to summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word!"

Based upon the Fawcett/DC comic book character Captain Marvel, Shazam! was Filmation's first foray into live-action children's programming in The '70s. The program ran three seasons on CBS and was considered successful enough to launch a spin-off, Isis.

It's probably noteworthy that Filmation also produced The Kid Super Power Hour, which featured animated adventures of Captain Marvel (not a continuation of this series, although it did keep the show's theme music as the Marvel Family's Leitmotif) as well as the extended Marvel family.

The character of Captain Marvel is also the main hero of a 1941 Film Serial, a 2019 movie and its 2023 sequel (in which Billy Batson's actor from the 1974 series, Michael Gray, has a cameo).

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The wizard Shazam does not appear in this series nor is he mentioned in the Opening Narration's back story (instead, the six Immortal Elders speak with and confer their various powers to Billy directly). This makes the magic word "SHAZAM!" totally dependent on the initials of the Elders.
    • None of Captain Marvel's Rogues Gallery appeared in the show, most likely due to licensing and to keep the violence to a minimum. Instead, Cap would help out normal people with various problems usually caused by their own poor choices.
    • The rest of the Marvel Family has no appearances in the live-action show.
  • Adventure Towns: Every episode
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: "Debbie"
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: A staple of children's shows at the time. But you knew that, right? And Knowing Is... well, you know.
  • Art Shift: In an otherwise live-action show, the Elders are animated. Minimally, of course.
  • Be Yourself: "The Sound Of A Different Drummer"
  • Big Brother Instinct: Danny in "The Brothers"
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: As per the opening "Billy has been granted the power by the Immortals to summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word! SHAZAM!"
  • The Chosen One: Every episode opens with the narration "Chosen from among all others by the Immortal Elders Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury Billy Batson and his mentor travel the highways and byways of the land..."
  • The Chooser of the One: The Immortal Elders Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury picked Billy Batson.
  • Clear My Name: "The Past Is Not Forever", "Double Trouble"
  • Coconut Superpowers: Being a low-budget 1970's children's live-action show, this was a given.
  • Conflict Ball: In "The Treasure", the series panders to the then common stereotype of the young Native American character who was disdainful of white authority by having young Native American Johnny refuse to call the police to deal with some looters on his land even though that is the simplest and most obvious solution to the problem.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Most episodes open with Billy being summoned by the Elders so they can talk to him using vague platitudes that foreshadow the conflict of the episode's plot. So many problems could have been dealt with more quickly if the Elders were just more direct in their conversation. This is even lampshaded in the series when Billy is especially confused by one of their advice sessions only to have Solomon reply "It is not our intention that you understand everything clearly now, only that you will use this knowledge when you need it." and then summarily ends their communication when Billy starts to seek more clarification.
  • Crossover: After Isis debuted, she and Cap would occasionally appear in each other's series.
  • Crossover Cosmology: A given with Shazam!, what with the presence of Solomon amongst the otherwise Greco-Roman Immortals; but it also crops up in "Bitter Herbs" which features a Jewish family (hi, Solomon!) in a presumably predominantly Christian town. And let's not forget Isis, whose powers derive from the Egyptian pantheon.
  • Drives Like Crazy: In "The Joyriders", a kid drives a stolen car the wrong way down a one-way street and responds to his friends' objections with "I know what I'm doing!" Almost immediately thereafter, he barely avoids a head-on collision with Mentor's RV... by cutting across a small corner lot.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "The Lure Of The Lost" / "The Road Back"
  • Expy: Mentor for Uncle Dudley.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: "Goodbye, Packy" features a girl who has raised a wolf pup like a pet dog. She thinks she can go on treating it like a dog, even after it starts getting into the neighbors' henhouse and grows more and more uncontrollable. As Zeus points out, "Nature never breaks her own laws."
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Mentor, on more than one occasion, says that this actually is his name.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Inverted in "Out Of Focus", when Captain Marvel asks Andrea Thomas to leave a dangerous (and crowded) area to phone some phantom authorities, so that she can disappear and transform into Isis.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Well, not an Initiation Ceremony so much as an Initiation Dare, but happens in "The Brain".
  • Latex Perfection: "Double Trouble"
  • Magitek: The Winnebago that Mentor and Billy drive around in contains a plastic dome covered with lights that flash with "beep-boop" sound effects whenever the Elders want to talk to Billy. This leads him to waving his hand over the dome and deliver the following incantation:
    Billy: Oh Elders, fleet and strong and wise... appear before my seeking eyes.
  • Medium Blending: The Elders are represented as six cartoon figures that Billy stands in front of and speaks to.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Fittingly enough, "The Braggart"
  • My Greatest Failure: In "Little Boy Lost", this is given as the presumed reason Little Howard is The Speechless: his guilt over a botched prank that seriously injured a friend.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "The Lure Of The Lost", a girl flushes a bag of drugs down the kitchen sink. In her defense, she honestly thinks she's helping, by removing a temptation for her brother (who is a reluctant drug dealer), but her action also destroys evidence against the drug ring's leader. She does get called out on it, although mildly since she already realizes her mistake.
  • No Badge? No Problem!: The local police of whatever Adventure Town we're in have an odd habit of sharing information with Billy and Mentor (and, more understandably, Captain Marvel). Most noticable in "Speak No Evil", wherein the avuncular sheriff actively seeks the two out in order to impart pertinent information on matters that, technically speaking, should not concern them and which they should not be privy to.
  • Opening Narration: As was common in kid's TV series at the time, each episode opens with the exact same narration that lays out the fundamental premise of the show.
  • Plot Hole: In "The Past Is Not Forever", it is explicitly established that a gas station worker held the only key to the station; and this is why, when the place is robbed with no evidence of forced entry, everyone believes he was guilty. Later, a rival street thug confesses to having framed the worker; but it's never explained how he pulled off the "no forced entry" robbery especially since the episode belabors the point that the worker had the only key.
  • Plug 'n' Play Friends: For a change, this trope describes the main characters themselves. Billy and Mentor just seem to have a way with people, making folks (especialy teens) feel comfortable discussing private matters with a couple of dudes they've only just met.
  • Police Are Useless: In "The Gang's All Here", the police refuse to arrest Vinnie (the Bad Guy Of The Week) for assaulting another kid, because he hasn't actually done it yet. Fair enough. Except that Vinnie, who is well known to be nursing a massive grudge against this other kid, has embarked upon a very public campaign of harrassment and intimidation — all after having already been arrested for framing the other kid for robbery. Are there no laws about being on good behavior whilst released on bail? Apparently bail really does equal freedom.
  • Secret Identity:
    • The general implication of the show is that no one, except Mentor, should know Billy and Captain Marvel are the same person. But, being a kid's show, it doesn't hold to that requirement very strictly. The RV that Mentor and Billy drive around in has Captain Marvel's logo on the front which advertises that they are connected to him in some way especially given that Captain Marvel always appears where Billy and Mentor happen to be.
    • In two episodes, Billy was forced to reveal his Secret Identity by transforming in front of someone. In both cases, the need to respond immediately to the crisis at hand, leaves him unable to duck away first.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Mentor, obviously, for Captain Marvel, and later for Isis as well. And Marvel and Isis for each other, of course.
    • Chad the blind kid from "The Brothers" and Adam the Native American grandfather in "The Treasure" both become this when Captain Marvel must manifest himself in front of them.
  • Series-Relevant Age-Up: Billy goes from a 10-year-old to a teenager in this series.
  • '70s Hair: Billy's carrying around one huge coif, while Jackson Bostwick's Captain Marvel (mk.I) rocks the Seventies Shag.
  • Sigil Spam: Mentor's Winnebago has Captain Marvel's "lightning bolt" insignia plastered on the front rather prominently.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Mentor does this in "The Lure Of The Lost".
  • Stock Footage: It's Filmation. Duh.
  • The Speechless: Little Howard in "Little Boy Lost".
  • Stout Strength: John Davey (Captain Marvel mk.II) is a little more... er, well-rounded than Jackson Bostwick.
  • Tap on the Head: Happens to Mentor (off-screen) in "The Boy Who Said 'No'".
  • Theme Music Power-Up: When Billy becomes Captain Marvel, his leitmotif invariably kicks in from the moment he says "SHAZAM!" He also gets a Theme Music Power Up whenever he appears on Isis.
  • Timmy in a Well:
    • Actually, Daddy In A Well; Little Howard's dad in "Little Boy Lost", with The Speechless Howard taking on the role of Lassie. Well, at least Howard does indeed have the human intelligence necessary to seek out help even if he doesn't speak.
    • Played shamelessly straight in "Ripcord", with a boy hanging off a cliff and his dog running for help... directly to Billy and Mentor (who, at this point in the episode, are complete strangers).
  • Title, Please!: Like many early live-action kid shows (and the majority of Filmation's shows in partiular), the episode titles weren't known until a later VCR or DVD release.
  • Transformation Sequence: It's more drawn out than the instantaneous change that happens in the comics, but forgivable given that it's likely the most expensive special effect of the series. Because it was shot as a Billy-to-Captain Marvel transformation, the change back to Billy is almost always done off-screen. Only on four occurrences was it was shown on-screen, and it was clearly just the standard transformation shown in reverse (complete with the lightning jumping up from Billy at the end).
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: There is a dramatic version in which a boy incorrectly packs a parachute by himself without telling any adults about it. As a result, a skydiver takes the pack and takes off for a dive before the boy confesses. They are too late to stop the dive and everyone watches in horror knowing that his parachute won't open. Fortunately, Billy Batson transforms into Captain Marvel, and flies up to open the parachute pack himself.

Alternative Title(s): Shazam