The program was
broadcast live, in "living color" from Channel 5,
WMAQ-TV's studios, then in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. It aired
noon to 12:30, Monday through Friday, part of a 1-hour block of live
programming, and was followed by a program called BINGO AT HOME done in
the adjacent studio. BINGO AT HOME was hosted by television
Mike Douglas -- yes, THAT Mike Douglas. The BINGO AT HOME show had
studio audience made up of the moms who brought their kids to COMMANDER
(The reason was that the COMMANDER 5 studio was so small, it could not
seat parents, so they sat in the BINGO AT HOME studio and watched
our show on the color monitors.) In fact, since the same 2 color
were shared by both shows, during the final COMMANDER 5 commercial
the cameras were rolled into the BINGO AT HOME studio and the final
segment of COMMANDER 5 was done with Commander and Billy against a
flat. [Then, during the first commercial of BINGO AT HOME, all the
joined their moms, leaving the COMMANDER 5 set and sitting in the BINGO
HOME studio audience.]
Anyway, the COMMANDER 5 show started
with an announcer: "Stand by! Stand
by for Commander 5! With Spaceman 3rd Class Stubby! And
aboard the ISS-5!" (I am virtually sure this is the exact
phrasing, as it
was repeated each day.) By the way, "ISS-5" stood for
Space Station 5", no doubt designated "5" because of
Channel 5, ergo
There were two other regular members of the cast, but they were puppets.
One was Max the Martian, a very limited-motion stiff puppet about 16
inches high. He lived in what was called on the show an
Energizer." The idea was
that, being from Mars, Max had to continually
get a breath of Mars atmosphere and couldn't last very long in the
ordinary studio air. Max spoke in English, in a high falsetto,
not unlike Mickey Mouse, and was voiced by Billy Gibbons (when he was
offstage, not on the set proper) and alternatively voiced by the actor
played Commander 5 (ditto, when that actor was offstage.) Because
that, Max did not make appearances when both Stubby and the Commander
in the ISS-5 control room. Max functioned a little like the
Froggy the Gremlin did on the ANDY'S GANG show, really being the
trouble-maker who seemed to always talk Stubby into doing something bad.
The other puppet character was Max's "son" Eggbert. Eggbert
was an egg(!)
and never did hatch during the run of the show. Eggbert also lived
Ethos Engerizer device, and made most of his appearances sans Max.
way, the Ethos Energizer was oval in shape, about 2 feet high by 1 foot
wide, was mounted on the wall on the right side of the set at eye level.
It had a blue glitter curtain that opened from the center whenever Max
Eggbert made an appearance. Prior to the curtain opening (or
a CO2 fire extinguisher gave off a blast of white smoke and noise.
extinguisher was not seen, of course, being mounted inside the
so only the smoke was visible.
Mounted right in the
center of the control room set was a TV-like device,
a large blue screen that resembled one of our modern-day large-screen
It was called the Cosmipanascope. With this device, Commander or
could tune in and view whatever they wanted. Usually, they used it
what was happening in space, outside of the space station, through a
blue-screen "chroma-key" special effect.
Regarding the actor who portrayed Commander 5, I remember him wearing
mask, and I always thought the show was striving for some sort of
identity ala THE LONE RANGER or (TV's version of) COMMANDO CODY.
Actually, I always thought that Commander 5 somewhat resembled Judd
Holdren, who portrayed COMMANDO CODY in the TV filmed adventures from
early 1950's. I don't think the actor WAS Holdren, but I will tell
about a joke that popped up a couple of times during the run of
5. Occasionally Stubby would call the Commander "Commando" and
would smile and say, "Oh, no, Stubby, I'm a COMMANDER, not a
But Commander 5 had brown hair and my understanding is that Judd Holdren
had black hair, so I can't imagine the two were the same.
A note from The Video Veteran...
above description comes from the fond memories of one Andy Bendel, who
graciously shared those memories with me. Thanks Andy!