While many of the very earliest television shows were short-lived and obscure, a lot of people have probably heard of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! In some context. It first started out as a comic, which some might remember regularly reading in the newspaper. This was usually just a single-panel daily comic with usually three or more amazing facts printed on it accompanied by pictures. The comic was a popular one, and the creator, LeRoy Robert Ripley, was ambitious enough to make it into a television series.
This early television series fell in the documentary genre, and aired on the NBC channel starting in 1949. Unfortunately, Robert L. Ripley, who was both the creator and the host, passed away shortly after completing the 13th episode of the series. The rest of the episodes were hosted by his friends, with Robert St. John taking over the episodes of the second season until the show’s end in October 1950.
While this show also didn’t see a very long run, it has since become part of a large franchise that’s based on Ripley’s efforts. Ripley was an entrepreneur, cartoonist, and even an amateur anthropologist who was fascinated by strange, unusual occurrences. His newspaper feature and radio show was already popular before the TV series. After the initial episodes were over, the show was twice revived for a number of years.
The subjects covered in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoons and series dealt with all sorts of occurrences. They might mention amazing feats in the world of sports, or interesting facts about exotic places. The popularity of this concept was furthered by the fact that Ripley included facts that were sent in by reader, along with relevant photographs. He would depict the photos through his drawing and mention the small-town trivia, giving his readers a thrill at seeing their contribution in print.
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The TV series was a pretty bold move for any producer at the time. By 1948, the cartoon series of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Was 20 years old. The radio show was also fairly popular, but had ended by then. With World War II going on, television wasn’t really a medium that everyone had access to. This is why planning a television series was so risky. Unfortunately, Ripley didn’t get to live out this dream, succumbing to a heart attack and other health problems in May 1949.
After the TV series ended, the concept of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! found new life in radio, TV, museums, a book series, and various comic books. The full Ripley collection consists of no less than 30,000 artifacts, 20,000 photos, and 100,000 plus cartoon panels. There are also more than 80 attractions under the Ripley Entertainment company, with over 12 million guests attending each year. Posters, games, collectibles, and other items all make up the franchise of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
With this popularity, it should be no surprise that the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Series was revamped in 1982, by ABC and hosted mostly by Jack Palance. This series ran until 1986. The same concept was again revived in a series on the TBS channel in 2000 and lasted until 2003. Dean Cain was the host during this time. There was even a Filipino version of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in 2008, with the host being Chris Tiu. The Travel Channel then picked up the series again in 2019, with the host being Bruce Campbell. The animated series began in 1999, and might be of interest to those who enjoy classic cartoons.
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! the series that’s ongoing today is also interesting, but some viewers state that it’s very different from the original. The modern version focuses more on human stunts, such as how many cinder blocks can someone lift with their earlobes or how far they can contort their body. The original show was all about strange phenomena, odd activities, and unusual historical facts. For now, it seems like the most popular revival of this show was the one hosted by Jack Palance. Since we can’t seem to find many episodes from the original run, the next best thing might be to view this revival.
Overall, this show also seems like a clean, interesting option to enjoy with kids and adults alike. Some conscientious parents might want to view the episode before showing them to their children, just to make sure that there’s nothing that can disturb a sensitive child. Some strange depictions might seem scary for certain kids, so it’s best to stay on the safe side.
Overall, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! was a television series that will probably delight those who love finding out about strange things in the world. Even the book based on the concept will probably delight both parents and their offspring. The facts or speculations that it presented are both enjoyable and thought-provoking. People interested in sci-fi, biology, general science, or just general knowledge will do well to look up every version of the TV series and watch it. While there might not be many episodes available from the original run, there are quite a few full-length episodes from the revivals now up on YouTube. There are several glowing reviews about the show as well, so give it a go if the concept seems interesting.