Godzilla on TV
My friend Eric Hillis over at The Movie Waffler recently asked me to do an article on the history of the Godzilla movie franchise. Being a godzilla fan for most of my life I was more than happy to oblige. I know this is a blog about genre television but, I figured some of my readers may be interested in Godzilla as well and to make this post on topic for Fantastic Television, I thought I would give a brief run down of the four (yes, really) television series that Godzilla appears in. I’ll state up front, for the record, that I have never actually seen any of these myself but three of them are definitely on my “to do” list. Two of the series are Japanese and two American and I think I’ll go in chronological order just for convenience. The first series wasn’t actually a Godzilla series but, he Ghidorah and Gigan all appeared in it. The series is known in the US as Zone Fighter and ran for 26 half hour episodes in 1973. The series is sort of Toho’s answer to Ultraman. A family of aliens whose planet was destroyed by other aliens is hiding out on Earth. The oldest brother is Zone Fighter who, like Ultraman, grows to giant size to fight invading alien monsters. Being a Toho production it is fairly obvious why Godzilla shows up in five of the episodes (Ghidorah shows up in two and Gigan in one). The series has only been released in Japan on DVD but, does not include English subtitles. The second series, which is the only one I have no desire to see, even though I had ample opportunity to when it aired in America, is Godzilla the animated series. This was a joint project between Hanna-Barbera and Toho and somehow they managed to come up with an even more annoying character than Minya in the form of Godzooky. This character alone is what kept me from watching the series back when it originally aired back in 1978 and continues to do so today. This show ran for two seasons at a total of 26 half hour episodes. Going back to Japan again, in 1997 we had Godzilla Island. A friend of mine named Dave Van Cleef who had moved to Japan first told me about this series. This was another live action show that had a couple of unique features. It used action figures as puppets for the series and, it ran in three minute segments for a bunch of episodes. Like Zone Fighter, this series is only available on DVD in Japan. Finally, returning back to America, we have Godzilla: the series from 1998 which ran for two seasons of 40 half hour episodes. While this series was based on the Emmerich and Devlin movie, it is actually supposed to be pretty good. In fact, all the people who have told me about said it was better than the movie. Mill Creek just released the complete series on DVD. Oh yeah, to jump back to the HB/Toho animated Godzilla for a second, mysteriously, only the first 13 episodes series are available on Netflix streaming and have also been released on DVD for whatever reason. If you want to read my article on the history of the movie franchise it is available here.
As a postscript to this, my wife Diane reminded me of two appearances that, while not Godzilla himself, were other monsters created by modifying Godzilla suits. Both appeared in Ultra series. What most people are unaware of is that Ultraman was the follow-up series to an earlier anthology series called Ultra Q which is conveniently available on DVD in the US from Shout Factory. The first episode of this series features a kaiju named Gomess that was built on the Godzilla suit from Mothra vs. Godzilla. The kaiju proved popular enough that he was considered for a second episode but, Toho needed the suit back for Invasion of the Astro Monsters so the plans where scrapped. The success of Ultra Q lead directly to the first Ultraman series. In episode 10 of that series we see the monster Jirass who is again Godzilla but with a frilled lizard mane attached. Ultraman strips the frill off of Jirass at one point just in case some of the viewers didn’t notice.