In an era of the Arrowverse, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the like, it’s hard to remember a time when superheroes didn’t dominate television. Agents of Shield kicked off the current era, in a post-Avengers frenzy for Marvel to cross over into television. Before that, shows like Smallville had been hits, but in the grand scheme, very few superhero TV shows ever took off with the public. For every Batman or Wonder Woman, several failed superhero outings ended up on the ever-growing garbage heap of cancelled TV series.
Which brings us to today’s little expose. The shows detailed here all tried for superhero glory at different times in history, and but for the odd cult show, all of them eventually ended up forgotten. Some tried daring moves to attract audiences. Some tried spinning off from other shows. Others…well, who knows what the networks thought when they green-lit some of these stinkers! For that matter, the technical restrictions of the eras also hindered the ambition of the shows—had they hit the air today more polished, they might have caught on. As it is, they’ve fallen into obscurity, which might be for the best.
Think you know superhero history? Take on our list of 15 Forgotten Superhero TV Shows!
Long before Beast Boy became a darling of the geek-o-sphere, another shape shifter vied for TV stardom. Manimal followed the adventures of Dr. Jonathan Chase—played by actor Simon MacCorkindale—a man who could change himself into any animal! For the most part though, Chase like to shift into a hawk or panther…largely due to budget and effects restrictions of the time. Armed with this secret power, Chase would aid his beautiful detective friend Brooke Mackenzie in solving cases and bringing criminals to justice.
Manimal ran eight episodes in 1983 on NBC before getting the ax. Critics of the time attacked the ridiculous premise, obvious budget restrictions and overall air of camp of the show. Creator Glen A. Larson had a strong pedigree of creating sci-fi shows for TV, having conceived Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider, both for NBC. Manimal, however, went down in history as one of the worst shows to ever air, a dubious honor it still holds among critics today.
14. The Man With The Power
Once upon a time, networks used to air TV movies as a way of kicking off a new series, and to promote it with grand fanfare. That still happens on occasion today—the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries being just one example. In 1977, NBC tried to do just that with a weird sci-fi take on the superhero genre called The Man With The Power.
Not to be confused with the Outer Limits episode of the same name, the telefilm The Man With The Power followed the adventures of a man who learned his father was an alien, which imbued him with telekinesis. Mild mannered school teacher Eric Smith discovered his abilities while trying to rescue a turtle from some train tracks (seriously). Throughout the film, Eric learns to use his powers for good, and gains contact with his father’s alien homeworld. After protecting an Indian princess (played by Persis Khambatta of Star Trek: The Motion Picture) from an assassination attempt, the US government enlisted Smith as a secret agent. The creative team behind the film had hoped to produce a show in the vein of The Six Million Dollar Man. Unfortunately, audiences found the premise too ridiculous, and the series never got to a second episode.