"From out of the clear blue of the Western sky . . .comes Sky King!"
Sky King was a modern-day (at the time) cowboy show with a twist -- the cowboy was an airplane pilot living on a ranch in Arizona, who used his small plane to chase down the bad guys or rescue the good guys. Based on an earlier radio series, the Sky King TV show debuted on NBC in 1951, later moved to ABC, and remained on the air in reruns until 1966.
Schuyler (Skyler?) or "Sky" King, the show's starring character, lived on the Flying Crown Ranch with his teenage neice Penny and nephew Clipper, who were also licensed pilots. Penny, who seemed a little older than Clipper, was an accomplished enough pilot that Sky King sometimes let her fly his plane, the Songbird.
Another regular character on the show was Mitch the sheriff. Mitch was a good friend of Sky's, and he was always coming to Sky for help in dealing with criminals.
Sky King was designed for kids but also attracted a loyal adult audience. As on other cowboy shows or family-oriented dramatic series of the day, like The Lone Ranger, Lassie, or The Adventures of Superman, the supporting cast on Sky King would often find themselves in danger, and the show's star would fly/run/ride to the rescue just in the nick of time to save them from imminent death. Penny in particular seemed to be always falling into the hands of bank robbers, spies, or other bad guys.
Like most TV cowboy heroes of the time, Sky never killed the bad guys, he just disarmed them and handed them over to the authorities. But he didn't hesitate to punch them in the jaw if they gave him any trouble.
Though plot lines on the show were often formulaic, the writing and acting was better than average. In particular, actor Kirby Grant, who played Sky King, had a naturalistic and easy style that enhanced the show's dramatic appeal. Even the villains were portrayed as intelligent and believable, rather than one-dimensional buffoons.
The Songbird, Sky King's two-engine Cessna, was featured prominently on the show, appearing in both the opening and closing credits and figuring as an important element in every story. Many episodes included shots of spectacular low-level flying as the desert flashed by in the background.
In addition to its focus on aviation, the show also made use of other cutting-edge 1950's technological devices, like geiger counters, metal detectors, and tape recorders. Looking back on Sky King now, the show seemed to be heralding the end of the cold war and the beginning of the "new frontier" of America's space age.
If you're a dedicated Sky King fan (or looking for the ultimate fan gift), consider buying the definitive Sky King DVD collection: Sky King Official Box Set, All 72 Episodes with Book. There are 4 episodes of the show on Sky King Vol. 1 TV Series. If you're interested in reading about the show, Sky King is one of the TV series discussed in Hollywood's West: The American Frontier in Film, Television, and History (Hardcover).
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