I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Oh, How Bad Can It Possibly Be: ARK II


by Alex Schab
April 10, 2014

As I grow older, the amount of bad TV I see continues to increase, regardless of any efforts I make to stop it. Seriously. It's such a sure thing that it could very well be a math equation, albeit one that my nearly-failing-Algebra II mind could not possibly understand. As such, I've done what made the most sense to me, and have come to regard bad TV as a medieval castle, divided up into tiers separating the bad from the abysmal. 

At the bottom, possibly sleeping in mud hovels and squabbling over filth, lives the worthless programing, shows like the recent reboot of Charlie's Angels and others not even worth mentioning. These could probably be divided even further, Dante's Inferno style, but even thinking of some of these shows on a critical level is giving them way too much credit.

The next level is inhabited by flawed works, whether they be good shows that jumped the shark, great ideas that never took off or shows like Lost, which somehow managed to fall into both categories. This middle level filled with failed dreams is probably about as depressing as a trip to Detroit and, as such, is obviously not worth a visit. So why make the trip to this land at all?

Why, the top tier, of course! There you can find things like Dark Shadows, Home Improvement and really bad episodes of Jersey Shore shows so terrible that they actually manage to transcend their awfulness and enter into a whole new world of glory.

It is on this top tier that we find ARK II. Made in 1976 by Filmation Associates, ARK II was a 15 episode television show set in the 25th century on an Earth that had apparently been ruined by pollution and waste. I say “apparently” because a lot of the sets look a bit too much like southern California to really pass for “wasteland,” an error largely attributable to the fact that it was filmed in southern California.

Each episode begins with a narrator describing how Earth's civilizations have crumbled, and how the efforts of scientists like the ones living in the glorified motor home they call “ARK II” are the last hope for man kind. Just who are these scientists? Well, there's the man of the RV, Jonah, played by Terry Lester, who looks as though he was recently rejected from a Woodstock movie. Beside him we have Ruth, played by Jean Marie Hon (in what was arguably her first and last big role), and Samuel, the youngest team member, played by José Flores. There's also Adam, a chimpanzee capable of speaking in what sounds like burps, played by a monkey whose real name is Moochie. I like to think of Adam as the comic relief of the series, but I'm not entirely certain he was meant to be – a fact which I suppose says a lot.

Each episode sees these four companions cruise around in the ARK II, attempting to use their knowledge to help people. In the debut episode, we get our first taste of what this entails: aiding a man named Fagon and his tribe of pickpocket kids (in a bizarrely out of place Oliver Twist allusion) as they deal with a tribe of warriors. Using their scientific skill and hysterically horrendous acting, the team manages to defuse a tense situation and destroy some canisters of poison gas.

And that's about all there is to be said for a show that I feel comfortable in declaring the worst I've ever seen (and I've seen The Girls Next Door). And yet, through some strange combination of camp and luck, it manages to pull itself out of the mire and into a position of bad TV royalty. Whether it's for the intended reasons or not, this show demands and deserves to be watched. 

Sources:

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0127989/

Alex Schab is a freelance writer living somewhere between the woods and the suburbs of Massachusetts. This means he spends way too many lonely nights consuming media and beer. Follow him on Twitter (@Schab) as he tries to wrestle some meaning into his life.