The New People ran for seventeen episodes in 1969-70 on ABC. An Aaron Spelling production, the series focuses on a group of rebellious lefty college students who have been causing problems for the State Department during a cultural exchange trip to Southeast Asia. They’ve been ordered home, but their plane crash lands on a deserted South Pacific island.
The island had been the site of clandestine testing by the Atomic Energy Commission so there are already buildings and food there (sounding familiar yet?). Thought dead by their families and the government, these made-for-TV hippies decide to create their own world, free from the societal problems and the older generation’s corrupt authority figures back home. But will they succeed or will it get all Lord of the Flies meets Wild in the Streets???
You might be tempted to write this off as goofy-sounding, but the first episode of The New People was written by none other than Rod Serling not long after he turned out his classic script for Planet of The Apes. Although the idea for the series was created by Larry Gordon and Aaron Spelling, Serling—a bleeding heart liberal if ever there was one—had an influential hand in its development.
The New People was one of television’s first real attempts—and a sincere one at that—to appeal to the countercultural zeitgeist of the day. The series aired opposite Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and Here’s Lucy and so was almost guaranteed a swift cancellation. Tyne Daly, Richard Dreyfuss and Billy Dee Williams made appearances on The New People before they became famous and the theme music was recorded by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
An ABC promo for The New People:
The Rod Serling penned debut episode: