Sea Hunt is an American action adventure television series that aired in syndication from 1958 to 1961 and was popular for decades afterwards. The series originally aired for four seasons, with 155 episodes produced. It stars Lloyd Bridges as former United States Navy frogman Mike Nelson, and was produced by Ivan Tors.
|Created by||Ivan Tors|
|Developed by||Ivan Tors|
|Narrated by||Lloyd Bridges|
|Theme music composer||David Rose|
(as "Ray Llewellyn")
|Opening theme||"The Sea Hunt Theme"|
|Ending theme||"The Sea Hunt Theme"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||155|
|Executive producer(s)||Frederick Ziv|
|Producer(s)||Herbert L. Strock|
|Cinematography||Monroe P. Askins|
Harold V. McKenzie
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Ziv Television Programs|
|Distributor||Ziv Television Programs|
Ziv-United Artists Television
Peter Rodgers Organization
|Picture format||Black and white|
|Original release||January 4, 1958 –|
September 23, 1961
Series executive producer Ivan Tors conceived the idea for Sea Hunt while working on the 1958 film Underwater Warrior. Tors tried in vain to sell the series to all three major networks, but each network passed on the show because they felt a series set underwater could not be sustained. Tors then decided to sell the series into the first-run syndication market. Tors teamed up with Ziv Television Programs and was able to sell the show to over 100 syndicated markets before the series debuted in January 1958.
Lloyd Bridges was soon cast as lead character Mike Nelson. Sea Hunt was intended as a comeback vehicle for Bridges due to his brief blacklisting from acting. Bridges was blacklisted after admitting to the House Un-American Activities Committee that he had been a member of the Actors' Laboratory Theatre, a group that was tied to the Communist Party.
After winning the role, Bridges was given a crash course in scuba diving by Zale Parry and Courtney Brown. Brown served as his underwater stunt double. Bridges was also educated in the art of scuba equipment by Brad Pinkernell on the beach in Southern California from 1956 to 1957. It was at a chance meeting when Pinkernell was coming out of the ocean with his scuba gear on. Over the course of the show's run, Bridges got more involved in the underwater stunt work, graduating from close-ups in the earliest episodes, to doing all but the most dangerous stunts by the end of the series' run.
Mike Nelson (Bridges) is a free-lance scuba diver who has various adventures. Nelson, a former U.S. Navy frogman (having left the service about four years before the series began), is a well-known expert on diving who is often called on for difficult or dangerous projects. Traveling on his boat the Argonaut, Nelson outmaneuvers villains, salvages everything from a bicycle to a nuclear missile, rescues children trapped in a flooded cave, and even a dog. In the pilot episode, Mike rescues a downed Navy pilot from his sunken jet. Since no dialogue was possible during the underwater sequences, Bridges provided voice-over narration for all the installments. Nelson also educated non-diving characters (and the audience) in various aspects of diving and the underwater world.
The series made frequent references to Marineland of the Pacific, which provided facilities, resources and technical advice to the production company.
At the end of each episode, Bridges would appear as himself to deliver a brief comment. These comments sometimes included a plea to viewers to understand and protect the marine environment, along with gems of wisdom from Bridges's own experiences.
The series served as a stepping stone for some of Hollywood's most notable actors, including Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Dern, Robert Conrad, Ross Martin, Robert Clarke, Larry Hagman, Larry Pennell, Ken Curtis (these two last actors later of Ripcord fame; Curtis would gain greater fame as Festus, in the long-running Western, Gunsmoke), Jack Nicholson (seen in the last episode of this series), and Bridges' own sons, Beau and Jeff. The Mexican character actor Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. appeared five times playing different roles on this show.
Underwater sequences were often created during post-production from individual scenes shot at many different locations. Locations included studio tanks as well as various underwater sites located in California, Florida, and eventually the Bahamas. Much stock footage was shot and later mixed with episode-specific character footage. Filming locations included:
- Marineland of the Pacific (Park operated 1954–1987)
- the front side of Catalina Island
- Paradise Cove west of Malibu
- Silver Springs, Florida
- Cypress Gardens, Florida
- Tarpon Springs, Florida
- Grand Bahama Island
On-land location shots were filmed throughout Los Angeles, in central Florida, Nassau, or on a sound stage.
Famous divers such as Zale Parry and Albert Tillman were involved in production of the show, as was Jon Lindbergh, son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Parry was joined in 1960 by 18-year-old Wende Wagner as female underwater stunt double. Pioneering underwater cinematographer Lamar Boren, who also worked on other Ivan Tors productions (such as the motion picture and TV series versions of Flipper, and three James Bond films—Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and The Spy Who Loved Me—shot nearly all of the underwater footage for the series. John Lamb, who went on to shoot the underwater sequences for both the movie and TV versions of Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, also filmed some episodes. Stunt diver Ricou Browning is credited at the show's end credit runs with coordination of the underwater action sequences during the second season. Browning was also the actor who performed in costume as the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The boat used in the series was named after the mythological Greek heroes who sailed with Jason on the quest of the Golden Fleece, the Argonaut. While several cabin cruisers were utilized in filming, one notable model was the Trojan Express custom built by Trojan Yachts in 1960 with mahogany planking and teak decks and trim, measuring 33 feet long and 12 feet wide. Diving equipment was supplied by Voit and Sportsways/Waterlung, wetsuits were made by a small Los Angeles shop, Dive N' Surf, which was the genesis for the company that became known as Body Glove.
During the first nine months of its debut, Sea Hunt came in #1 in the ratings. The show attracted half of the viewing audience in 50 major cities, and averaged 59 percent of audiences in New York City. Producer Ivan Tors later estimated that 40 million people viewed the series weekly.
In a bizarre twist, Princeton University students in 1971-72 formed "The Royal Huntation Society of Princeton," devoted to nightly viewing of reruns, punctuated by outbursts of joy whenever Bridges ended a sentence with a "huh" -- as in, "I won't be gone long, you'll be ok, huh?"
Despite its solid ratings, Sea Hunt was canceled in 1961 due to the dwindling first-run syndication market. The series ran for a total of 155 episodes. Another story has it that Lloyd Bridges was becoming disenchanted with the story lines.
Sea Hunt went into reruns in 1961, and has aired on various channels since. The series currently airs on weekdays on This TV and Light TV, two classic television and movie networks carried on digital subchannels of local stations around the country.
1987 revival series
A revival series starring Ron Ely and Kimber Sissons appeared in syndication in 1987. Ely had starred in a companion undersea adventure series called The Aquanauts during the run of the original series. For budgetary reasons, land scenes from this second series were filmed in Canada (specifically Victoria, British Columbia), despite the stories being set in Florida. Underwater scenes were filmed in tropical locations.
The Underwater Videographer Podcast presented a Sea Hunt 50th Anniversary podcast in December 2007. Appearing on the podcast were author Eric Hanauer, who interviewed Lloyd Bridges shortly before he died, actress Susan Silo, who guest starred in the "Cougar" episode, and Jeff Bridges, who shared memories of his father and Sea Hunt.
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