Johnny Jupiter

Johnny Jupiter is the name of two early American television programs featuring a combination of live action and hand puppets. The first version aired on the DuMont Television Network from March to June 1953. The second version aired on ABC from September 1953 to May 1954.

Johnny Jupiter
GenreChildren's
Created byMartin Stone
Written byHorton Foote
Jerome Coopersmith
StarringVaughn Taylor
Cliff Hall
Pat Peardon
Wright King
Voices ofCarl Harms
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
Production
Production location(s)New York City, New York, U.S.
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time24 mins.
Release
Original networkDuMont Television Network
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseMarch 21 (1953-03-21) 
June 13, 1953 (1953-06-13)

DuMont version

The original version, broadcast live on the DuMont Television Network Saturday evenings for 30 minutes, from March 21 to June 13, 1953, starred Vaughn Taylor as an elderly janitor, Ernest P. Duckweather, cleaning-up after midnight in a TV studio. Tinkering with a TV set, he somehow made contact with the planet Jupiter, and two of its inhabitants, Johnny Jupiter and his colleague B-12, both of whom were hand puppets voiced by series writer Jerome Coopersmith and Carl Harms. The often sharp humor of the series was based on Duckweather trying to explain and justify earth customs to the natives of Jupiter, who could view them on their own TV sets.

As an example, the program covered the US fad for 3-D movies, which came and went rapidly in 1953. The Jovian natives explain that their own movies were originally in 3-D but rapidly evolved to 7-D before dropping to 1-D, which is the format all Jovians prefer today.

Episode status

Very few kinescopes of the DuMont version of Johnny Jupiter have survived.

ABC version

Johnny Jupiter
GenreScience fiction
StarringWright King
Voices ofGil Mack
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Production
Producer(s)Jerome Coopersmith
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 mins.
Release
Original networkABC
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 5, 1953 (1953-09-05) 
May 29, 1954 (1954-05-29)

Another weekly 30-minute version of the series, filmed and sponsored by M&M's Candies, appeared on ABC from September 5, 1953, to May 29, 1954. The concept was completely different from the DuMont version of the series. Wright King, as Duckweather, was now an eager young employee of a TV repair shop; most of each episode consisted of live-action situation comedy involving Duckweather, his boss Horatio Frisby, the boss's daughter Katherine, and one or more guest-stars.

The puppets appeared only when Duckweather needed help or advice; the magic TV set now brought in three Jovian hand puppets: Johnny Jupiter; a cube-headed robot, Major Domo; and a cylinder-headed, glasses-wearing Reject the Robot, all voiced by Gil Mack. On at least one episode Reject's brother Defect appeared (Except for Johnny, the natives of Jupiter were apparently now all robots). The solution to Duckweather's problem generally involved beaming the bumbling Reject to earth, where he was played by new puppeteer Gene (aka Phil) London wearing a large prop robot suit.

Apart from the robot suit, the new series was not geared towards children. The series was canceled after one 39-episode season. In this second series, Jerry Coopersmith was producer and script editor only.

Episode status

Copies of the ABC version of the program have survived and have been released on DVD.

See also

Bibliography

  • David Weinstein, The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004) ISBN 1-59213-245-6
  • Alex McNeil, Total Television, Fourth edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1980) ISBN 0-14-024916-8
  • Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, Third edition (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964) ISBN 0-345-31864-1
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