The success of shows like Bewitched and The Munsters were the likely reason (well, that and rampant drug use) for many “high concept” television series being green-lit during the 1970s. Nothing succeeds like success… and that’s how Quark came about.
In this case, the success was Get Smart, a star vehicle for Don Adams which had spoofed the spy craze of the 1960s. Get Smart was created by two people, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and it developed into a serious moneymaker for all involved.
By 1977, Mel Brooks had abandoned television to create movies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but his old partner Buck Henry was still working in the medium… and Henry had an idea for a new hit series.
Science fiction (or, perhaps more accurate, space opera) had become popular following the successful moon landing. Henry felt that the time was right for a new science fiction epic. Unfortunately for Henry, he decided the way to go with science fiction was to spoof it, in the way that had worked with Get Smart years prior.
This was the inspiration for Quark, a show which debuted as a pilot on NBC during the summer of 1977… just as Star Wars was released. The show featured the adventures of an intergalactic sanitation patrol crew. It included Captain Quark, a pair of beautiful clones, a robot, and an alien, as Henry attempted to toss every imaginable trope and stereotype into the mix.
While the reaction to Quark was tepid (at best), Star Wars became a phenomenon. The network brass commissioned more episodes to discover if it could be their next hit, banking on Buck Henry’s vision.
It lasted only 7 more episodes before being sent away forever, to the relief of most television viewers. At least it cleared the way for the vastly superior Red Dwarf.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite science fiction show?