The Original Grizzly Adams TV Series
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams TV series ran on NBC from January 1977 to 1980. Its theme song, 'Maybe' by Tom Pace reached number one in Europe for nine weeks, and opened each episode with these words:
"Deep inside the forest there's a door into another land. Here is our life and home. We are staying here forever in the beauty of this place, all alone. We keep on hoping. Maybe there's a world where we don't have to run. Maybe there's a time we'll call our own, living free in harmony and majesty. Take me home. Take me home." (Go to the 'Audio' link to hear 'Maybe.')
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams was initially a feature film released by Schick Sunn Classic in 1974. It profiled the wilderness life of James Capen Adams, a mid-1800's mountain man who left civilization after being falsely accused murder. In the hills Adams rescued a grizzly bear cub he named ‘Ben’ that he went on to raise, as he lived his fugitive life among other wild animals. The story was loosely based on the real historical character known as John ‘Grizzly’ Adams (1812-1860) a former Boston shoemaker who became a great frontiersman and bear tamer after migrating to the west coast. Sunn's 'family friendly' version of Adams’ story captured its audience. Amazingly, the $140,000 film brought in more than $65 million at the box office, and the NBC hit TV series starring Dan Haggerty as Adams, Denver Pyle as Mad Jack, and Don Shanks as Nakoma soon followed. Producer/creator Chuck Sellier said he wasn't so surprised by the success of the new franchise after people from a nationwide survey conveyed it was a movie they wanted to see.
In the 1970s audience testing had become a major point of controversy in the industry. For example, All In The Family tested very poorly with audiences before it aired. Grizzly Adams' star, Dan Haggerty wasn't all that crazy about the testing methodology himself. "People change, the testing didn't always hold up," he commented. "I would have liked more growth, more pizzazz. Wouldn't it have been logical for Adams to fall in love with something other than a bear?"
Perhaps, but the audience itself fell in love with the bear, a 500 pound female grizzly named Bozo that in real life, former animal trainer, Haggerty developed a great bond with.
As the formula worked, the only element missing from the process was the unneeded historical accuracy. Sure, the real Grizzly Adams had been a sharp witted frontiersman whose hunting skills enabled him to provide food and clothing to his fellow white man as well as the different Native American Indian tribes he befriended during the 1850s. (The hunter's way of life was acceptable then.) An expert bear trainer and showman, the real Adams continues to be widely revered for his incredible mountain-man skills and wilderness survival attributes, who also raised and cared for a variety of animals he caught, and as a business venture he would sometimes sell them to circuses. He traveled with a menagerie of tamed animals, and he was the first to ever assemble a living wildlife display (to include his own grizzly bear friends) in the United States when he opened his 'Mountaineer Museum' in San Francisco in 1856. Eventually he even went on to work for P.T. Barnum. Still, series star, Dan Haggerty remains most famously recalled as ‘Grizzly Adams throughout the world today.