“Beyond Westworld”: This 1980 CBS series was a failed first attempt at bringing “Westworld” to TV

By on January 6, 2017

HBO’s mega-popular Westworld series climaxed its first season with a mind-numbing 90-minute finale (“The Bicameral Mind”) a few weeks back, but the first time there was a TV show based on the 1973 Michael Crichton-penned movie — about a futuristic theme park populated by killer robots — it failed dramatically; only three of the five episodes produced for the mostly-forgotten 1980 CBS primetime series aired before “Beyond Westworld” was swiftly canceled.

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“Beyond Westworld” — nominated for two Emmys (Outstanding Achievement In Makeup, and Outstanding Art Direction For A Series) — was actually a spinoff of both Westworld and its 1976 theatrical sequel, Futureworld.

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Original writer-director Crichton wasn’t involved in the sequel’s production (which was distributed by American International Pictures instead of M-G-M, the company that produced the original film), and he also had nothing to do with the TV series either.

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“Beyond Westworld” was developed and produced for television by producer Lou Shaw, the co-creator of “Quincy, M.E.,” who thought it would be better if the robots were being controlled by an evil scientist, named Simon Quaid (played by James Wainwright), who intends to use them to conquer the world or replace it with one of his own design (insert his evil mwahahaha laugh here).

In addition to having a villain, there’s a hero here too, of course — John Moore (played by Jim McMullan), Security Chief of the Delos Corporation, the company that created the killer robots seen in the films — who gets some help from fellow agent Pam Williams (played by foxy Connie Selleca, whose character was added to the show after the pilot was shot).

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The five episodes that were filmed featured a pretty good list of guest stars, including Robert Alda, Rene Auberjonois, Denny Miller, Ronee Blakley, Christopher Connelly, Monte Markham, Michael Pataki and George Takei, among others.

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“Beyond Westworld” began it’s run on CBS on Wednesday nights at 8pm, beginning March 5, 1980 with the pilot episode (“Westworld Destroyed”), and continued for the next two Wednesdays with two more episodes (“My Brother’s Keeper”and “Sound of Terror) before the network pulled the plug on the show, which was being crushed in the ratings by NBC’s “Real People” and ABC’s “Eight is Enough”.

The remaining two episodes remained unseen until Warner Archive released a DVD with all five “Beyond Westworld” episodes in 2014.

Recently, Adi Robertson of The Verge blog found this fun clip — with “trippy wireframe graphics and the synth remix of Westworld‘s opening theme” — that was posted to Youtube by artist and animator Tom Gosling (who goes by the screen name MessyPandas), complete with era-appropriate graphics, music, and typography.

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Don’t expect the same level of quality from the 1980 CBS series, but since we’re going to have to wait until 2018 for the second season of HBO’s superior series “Westworld,” this may have to hold us for awhile.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.