It’s About Time

The theme song to It’s About Time is more memorable than the show itself. The sitcom premiered on CBS in September 1966. Originally, it followed the adventures of two astronauts thrown back in time to the Stone Age where they befriend a family of cave people. Low ratings led to retooling: the astronauts and cave people return to the 20th Century. The ratings didn’t improve and CBS cancelled the series after a single season.

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Big Names Return to Television

The 1966-1967 season saw several big names return to TV: The Milton Berle Show on ABC; The Garry Moore Show on CBS; and It’s About Time, also on CBS. The latter was a sitcom co-starring Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross.

Coca, best known for appearing on Your Show of Shows from 1950-1954, had two failed NBC sitcoms under her belt (The Imogene Coca Show from 1954-1955 and Grindl from 1963-1964). Ross was famous for his “Ooh! Ooh!” catch phrase and for roles on The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You?. The two would play prehistoric cave people on It’s About Time.

It’s About Time had a simple premise: two astronauts travel back in time and find themselves in a prehistoric world filled with cave people and dinosaurs. Sherwood Schwartz created the series. His other CBS sitcom, Gilligan’s Island, began its third season in the fall of 1966. As was the case with Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz co-wrote the theme song for It’s About Time.

The series was given the Sunday 7:30-8PM time slot when CBS released its 1966-1967 schedule in February 1966 [1]. It would follow Lassie and precede The Ed Sullivan Show. CBS president John T. Reynolds explained “we needed slapstick that would appeal to youngsters in that time spot–we want to lead into ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ with a big audience and a show with big family appeal” [2]. Its competition would consist of the second half of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on ABC and the first half of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on NBC.

About Two Men in the Strangest Place

The series premiere introduces astronauts Mac (played by Frank Aletter) and Hec (played by Jack Mullany). Mac is the captain of the space capsule Scorpio and Hec his bumbling second-in-command. The two set down on what they believe is another planet, step outside and almost immediately spot some cavemen and a dinosaur. Mac theorizes that, per Einstein’s theory, after their capsule passed the speed of light it entered the dimension of time. In other words, they broke the time barrier.

Image from an episode of It's About Time showing Jack Mullany (as Hec) and Frank Aletter (as Mac)

Jack Mullany as Hec and Frank Aletter as Mac

The two save a young caveman named Breer (played by Pat Cardi) but Breer’s tribe captures them. Mac and Hec explain their spacesuits and odd behavior by saying they come from another tribe located on “the other side of the hill.” The two soon meet Breer’s family: father Gronk (played by Ross), mother Shad (played by Coca) and sister Mlor (played by Mary Grace).

(Coca’s character was named Shag in the pilot episode. It was changed to Shad in subsequent episodes but she was credited as Shag in the opening credits for the first 20 episodes.)

Unfortunately for Mac and Hec, their capsule is damaged. Until they can repair it, they’ll have to live with the cave people. The leader of Gronk’s tribe is Boss (played by Cliff Norton). Boss initially thinks the two are evil spirits. He has a strong but dumb henchman named Clon (played by Mike Mazurzsky) who carries a big club and likes to hit things.

In the third episode, Boss forces Mac and Hec to undergo an initiation to become part of the tribe: they need to return from the jungle with a dinosaur tooth. Although they succeed, that doesn’t stop Boss from continually trying to sacrifice the two or blame them for any problems facing the tribe.

Modern Men in Prehistoric Times

Mac and Hec soon begin introducing modern technology to the cave people. In one episode, they fashion a crude door for Gronk’s cave, allowing him to become controller of night and day. In other episodes, Boss condemns Mac and Hec to death for using a camera and flying a model airplane.

The astronauts also attempt to teach the cave people 20th Century social customs. In the pilot, after they tried to explain the concept of birthdays, the cave people pulled apart their capsule to make presents. In another episode, Hec makes a mess of things in another episode when he tells Shad how women are treated with kindness and respect where he comes from. This impresses Shad and the other cave women and they decide to stop letting their husbands drag them around.


Imogene Coca as Shad and Joe E. Ross as Gronk

Likewise, Mac and Hec telling the cave people about democracy and electing a new leader doesn’t go over very well.

An enemy tribe, known as the Painted Ones, appear in a few episodes. In one, Mac and Hec try to get the two tribes to settle their differences by pitting champions against one another. Gronk is the champion for his tribe yet somehow manages to come out on top.

Critics Loathe It’s About Time

Television Magazine presented its annual “Consensus” analysis of new TV show reviews in its November 1966 issue. None of the 24 TV critics surveyed gave It’s About Time a “Good” review and only two were “Indifferent.” The remaining 22 critics gave it “Bad” reviews. [3]. That’s about as close to universal disdain as a TV series can get.

Bob Brock of the Dallas Times Herald admitted he liked the first episode. After viewing additional episodes he revised his opinion because “now it is apparent that it is going nowhere, storywise.” Some critics felt Imogene Coca’s talents were wasted. Dick Burgheim of Time wrote “it is enough to make a laugh track cry to see Imogene Coca squandered in this series as a cavewife.”

Image from an episode of It's About Time showing Cliff Norton (as Boss) and Mike Mazurki (as Clon)

Cliff Norton as Boss and Mike Mazurki as Clon

Others blamed CBS for even putting the show on the air. The Boston Record American‘s Anthony La Camera wrote “it’s not easy to fathom how a major network would dare foist the likes of It’s About Time upon a patient public.” And Rex Polier of the Philadelphia Bulletin argued “the network executive responsible for this ought to be made to go before a televised Senate hearing and apologize to the people of the United States.”

C.J. Skreen of the Seattle Times stated simply “this has to be the rock bottom of the TV slag heap.” According to Jack Gould of The New York Times, It’s About Time made Gilligan’s Island look good [4]. The Chicago Tribune‘s Clay Gowran also made the Gilligan’s Island comparison. He called It’s About Time “a tired, second-rate comedy, unfortunately involving some first-rate people” [5].

Perhaps Hal Humphrey of The Los Angeles Times summed the series up best for critics when he declared it “an arrogant insult to everyone over age 5” [6].

Viewers Tune In, Viewers Tune Out

It’s About Time made its debut on September 11th, 1966. Despite the overwhelming critical opposition to It’s About Time, viewers were initially intrigued by the new series. It wasn’t a Top 10 hit but it drew an audience. The first Nielsen report for the 1966-1967 season covered the two weeks ending September 25th, which included the second and third episodes of It’s About Time. Those two episodes averaged an 18.3 Nielsen rating, tying with ABC’s new Iron Horse for 39th out of 106 programs [7].

Out of the 34 new shows introduced in September 1966, 39th placed It’s About Time ahead of 23 of them. Only two new CBS programs–Family Affair and Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats–ranked better in that first Nielsen report. The series handily beat its competition. ABC’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ranked 64th with a 16.3 rating while NBC’s Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ranked 69th with a 15.2 rating [8].

The second Nielsen report of the season painted a very different picture. It covered the two weeks ending October 9th, which included the fourth and fifth episodes of It’s About Time. Those episodes averaged a 15.1 Nielsen, ranking 74th [9].

CBS may or may not have worried about the negative reviews. It was very concerned about the low ratings. So was Sherwood Schwartz.

Schwartz Overhauls Sitcom

“It is difficult to analyze your own product,” Schwartz explained, “but I tried to view the show with a cold eye. Why did it start well, then taper down in the ratings?” [10].

Schwartz came to three conclusions: 1) the series used up the prehistoric storylines in its first three episodes and after that became repetitive; 2) featured a boring set consisting of caves and trees and dirt; and 3) due to the prehistoric English spoken by the cave people the series wasn’t easy to listen to [11].

Image from an episode of It's About Time showing Pat Cardi (as Breer) and Mary Grace (as Mlor)

Pat Cardi as Breer and Mary Grace as Mlor

What did Schwartz decide to do once he determined what was wrong with the series? Simple. He reversed the concept. Mac and Hec would return to the present day and bring Gronk and his family along with them. It perfectly solved all of the issues Schwartz felt the series was facing, adding more variety to episodes, better and more colorful sets, and everyone would speak modern English other except for Gronk and his family [12].

Schwartz explained the perils the cave people would face in the 20th Century:

Their knowledge would extend only to what they had experienced in the Stone Age and they’d have to identify new things in terms of familiar ones. A lamp, for instance, to them would probably be a small sun. Take the Shade and bulb off a floor lamp and it would become some new kind of spear.

Anything that moves to them obviously is alive because they’ve never known otherwise. They might attack a compact car because they think they can have it or dinner. They sit on a chair believing it to be a rock. If it has a cushion, it is a soft rock. If they accidentally turn on a vacuum cleaner and it chased them around the room, they’d kill it. [13].

It’s About Time was pre-empted on January 15th, 1967. The episode scheduled for that date ultimately aired on April 2nd, 1967 as the last first-run episode of the series. It saw Mlor stow away on the space capsule as Mac and Hec try to blast off. She doesn’t want to marry Brak–the son of Boss–which infuriates Boss. He tries to execute everyone involved.

About Cave People in the Strangest Place

During the January 22nd episode (“20th Century Here We Come”), Mac and Hec discover the diamond Gronk gave them to repair their space capsule has been stolen from an idol. The only way to save Gronk and his family from retribution is to bring them along when they finally successfully blast off and return to the present day. The episode marked the final appearances of Boss and Clon. It introduced Alan DeWitt as Mr. Tyler, manager of the apartment building where Mac and Hec lived, as well as Frank Wilcox as General Morley, their commanding officer.

Image from an episode of It's About Time showing Alan DeWitt as Mr. Tyler

Alan DeWitt as Mr. Tyler

With the setting shifted to the 20th Century, the roles are now reversed. Mac and Hec are in their time period while Gronk, Shad, Mlor, and Breer are confused and out of place. The cave people are fearful of some normal, everyday objects but mystified by others. They don’t understand the concept of money but after being taught to sign their names Gronk and Shad begin signing up for anything and everything. Mac and Hec are left to pick up the pieces while also trying to convince General Morley they really did go back in time.

In one episode, Breer must attend school where he doesn’t fit in. In another, the family performs on a variety show as the Cave Family Swingers, to disastrous results. In the final episode produced–but not the final episode aired–Mac and Hec try to pass the cave people off as a family from Nordania in order to explain their strange behavior to Mr. Tyler. Ultimately, Mac and Hec must come clean. Thankfully, Gronk and his family are allowed to stay in the building.

It’s About Time Runs Out Of Time

Despite the retooling, CBS still wasn’t happy with the performance of It’s About Time. As a result, in late February 1967 the network announced it was cancelling the series [14]. Repeats were aired throughout the summer, with the final repeat airing on August 27th, 1967.

Gold Key released a single tie-in comic book with a cover date of January 1967. Also, Aladdin sold a metal lunchbox and thermos in 1967.

It’s About Time never aired in syndication until September 2015, when the show debuted on digital specialty network Antenna TV. It remained on the Antenna TV schedule until January 2018.

ClassicFlix released It’s About Time on DVD in June 2017. Included as a bonus feature is a brand new interview with Pat Cardi, who played Breer.

Theme Song Lyrics

For many people who watched It’s About Time during its original network run, the theme song is the one thing that stuck with them through the decades. Sherwood Schwartz co-wrote to theme(s) with George Wyle and Gerald Fried. Like the theme song to Gilligan’s Island, which Schwartz also co-wrote, the opening theme song to It’s About Time succinctly explains the premise of the series. Likewise, both closing themes entice viewers to tune in each week.

As part of the mid-season revamp, the opening and closing theme songs were altered to fit the new situation.

Here are the lyrics to both versions of the opening theme song:

Opening Theme Lyrics (Version 1)

It’s about time, it’s about space,
About two men in the strangest place.
It’s about time, it’s about flight.
Traveling faster than the speed of light.
Here is their tale, of the brave crew.
As through the barrier of time they flew.
Past the fighting Minute Men.
Past an armored knight.
Past a Roman warrior.
To this ancient site.

It’s about caves, cavemen too.
About a time when the Earth was new.
Wait’ll they see what is in sight.
Is it good luck or is it good night?
It’s about two astronauts.
It’s about their fate.
It’s about a woman,
And her prehistoric mate.
And now, It’s About Time!

Opening Theme Lyrics (Version 2)

It’s about time, it’s about space.
About cave people in the strangest place.
It’s about time, it’s about flight.
Traveling faster than the speed of light.
About cave people and the brave crew,
As through the barrier of time they flew.
Past the Roman Senator.
Past an armored knight.
Past the fighting Minute Man.
To this modern site.

It’s about time for you and me
To meet these people from a million B.C.
It’s about two astronauts
And how they educate.
A prehistoric woman,
And her prehistoric mate.
And now, It’s About Time!

Here are the lyrics to both versions of the closing theme song:

Closing Theme Song Lyrics (Version 1)

It’s about time, it’s about space,
About two men in the strangest place.
They will be here right on this spot,
No matter if they like it or not.
How will they live in this primitive state?
Will help ever come before it is too late?

Will they ever get away?
Watch each week and see.
Will they be returning to,
The 20th century?
It’s about time for our goodbyes,
To all these prehistoric gals and guys.
It’s About Time!

Closing Theme Song Lyrics (Version 2)

It’s about time, it’s about space.
About cave people in the strangest place.
They will be here with all of us.
Dodging a taxi, a car, a bus.
Where will they go, what will they do?
In this strange place where everything is new.

Will they manage to survive?
Watch each week and see.
Will they get accustomed,
To the 20th Century?
It’s about time for our goodbyes,
To all our prehistoric gals and guys.
It’s About Time!

Some younger viewers made up their own version of the theme, playfully changing the lyrics to “It’s about time to slap your face!” or “It’s about time I slapped your face!”

Support Television Obscurities

Works Cited:
1 Adams, Val. “30 New TV Shows to Appear in Fall: Garry Moore and Miss Coca Will Return to C.B.S.” New York Times. 22 Feb. 1966: 36.
2 Mosby, Wade. “The Shag and Gronk Show.” Milwaukee Journal TV Screen. 19 Jun. 1966: 3.
3 Unless otherwise stated, all review segments excerpted from the November 1966 issue of Television Magazine (“Consensus,” Page 64).
4 Gould, Jack. “TV: Garry Moore Returns With His Variety Show.” New York Times. 12 Sep. 1966: 91.
5 Gowran, Clay. “Stone Age Humor Is Same Old Thing.” Chicago Tribune. 12 Sep. 1966: C20.
6 “Critics’ views of hits, misses.” Broadcasting. 19 Sep. 1966: 62.
7 “The ratings: a photo finish.” Broadcasting. 17 Oct. 1966: 68.
8 Ibid.
9 Gowran, Clay. “Nielsen Shows New Series Still Slipping.” Chicago Tribune. 25 Oct. 1966: B7.
10 Thomas, Bob. “It’s About Time Undergoing Changes.” Ocala-Star Banner [Ocala, FL]. Associated Press. 28 Dec. 1967: 24.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
13 “Two Astronauts Flee Stone Age, Return with a Prehistoric Family.” Schenectady Gazette TV Section. 21 Jan. 1967: 7.
14 Gent, George. “Marshal Dillon Gunned Down in C.B.S. Fall Line-up.” New York Times. 23 Feb. 1967: 71.

Originally Published May 8th, 2004
Last Updated April 22nd, 2018

35 Replies to “It’s About Time”

  1. Wow, you got that right.
    I’m 46, and I just barreeelyyy remember this show.
    My older brothers changed the lyrics just to have some fun.
    They said:
    It’s about time,
    It’s about space,
    It’s about time to slap your face.
    They were kidding, though. We got along pretty good!

    1. Mydad use to sing this to me when I asked him what time it was. Being a child of the 80s I had no idea what he was talking about.. lol He also added the slap your face lyrics into it.

  2. I have had this song in my head for years and was sure there was a show to it, just couldn’t remember it, and no one knew what I was talking about. But it was fun going down memory lane, to see and remember.

  3. Wow, my brothers and I remember this show (thought it was two different shows). It’s great that you’ve posted this. Thanks. I’ve had the first three lines of the opening theme in my head for years. Thanks!

  4. I remember this show. I was 9 at the time. It was cool when they switched to earth. My memory wasn’t very good though. I could have sworn this went on for more than one season. All of my friends at the time used to watch it. Not sure why the ratings were bad. Probably because back then the ratings did not include kids.

  5. Loved the show – memory lacking the pertinant details – the only part of the theme song I could remember was the slap your face version my older brother and cousin recited (with my face playing the pivitol role).
    Thank god for the internet! and for you folks that put this together.
    I agree that marketers did not view kids as market share – me and all my 9yo friends watched this show. I had small jobs and spent money on creepy crawlers, mountain dew and 3 muskateer bars – and I wore Keds!

  6. Wow! What a walk down memory lane. I have always remembered the first couple of lines of the theme and remembered Joe E. Ross in the role. However, I did not remember it was all the way back to ’66-’67. I had thought I watched it in the ’70’s. I do remember that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  7. Is this show available anywhere on DVD? I used to love this show when I was a kid. Is it available anywhere?

  8. I’d forgotten about this show and the catchy theme song. Actually, I thought the show was very funny and there certainly weren’t alot of TV programs in those days to enjoy, especially living in the country and only having a TV antenna to pull in stations (when the weather was good).

  9. Sherwood Schwartz’s theme songs were always better than the shows themselves. But this one, as I remember, was not as bad as it’s been made out to be. I watched it pretty regularly the one season it was on. I remember that the cavemen, after they came back to present-day Earth, recorded a rock song (pun intended) named “Dinosaur Stew,” which became a big hit (on the show, that is).

  10. Thank you to whoever put this together and the website. There are a number of jingles and TV opens that are in my head and this is one of them. I would have pegged the series’ airing to being later than 66/67 and having aired for longer than one season…..but, what do I know? I was only six at the time and watched it in black and white.

  11. I remember this show being a lot of fun. I think Imogene Coca & Joe Ross were perfect for the parts and not wasted at all. I have been able to watch several episodes on You Tube and I find the show even better than I remember (especially compared to what passes for comedy these days). Its About Time is part of the Golden Era of TV that was clever and fun. I would buy it on DVD if it came out.

  12. I was in second grade during the run of this show and evidently was the target audience for a lot of the shows of that time – i.e., Mr. Fantastic, Captain Nice, Batman, It’s About Time, etc. It’s funny now, but I would get upset when my shows all of a sudden weren’t coming on any more, most of all Star Trek. I’m shocked, amazed and pleased that episodes of obscure shows (at least clips) are available again. Joe E. Ross was priceless!

  13. I was in elementary school in Southern California when the show aired, and on the playground the “slap” version was quite popular and included an actual slap in the face! To the uninitiated anyway. After that if someone walked up to you and started singing “It’s about time” you knew to step away from them.

  14. I watched TIME when I was 7, and it was how I knew who Imogene Coca was, being too young to have seen SHOW OF SHOWS. GILLIGAN’S ISLAND did what looked like a parody of TIME as a dream sequence, even using the “Other side of hill” line.

  15. What the hell do television critics know, anyway? This show was funnier than all but a few sitcoms that have aired since the turn of the century. Again, a simpler and more innocent time where writers didn’t feel the need to insult us with scatological and sexual gross-out “humor”. What a cesspool the modern sitcom has become. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  16. I’m sure I never watched this show when I was a child, but I knew the two-line verse “It’s about time, it’s about space / It’s about time to slap your face” from hearing it on the playground. I’m amazed that — decades before the Internet social media sites — children across the country began repeating a changed version of a TV theme song. Did the ditty spread from one source, or did hundreds of minds come up the “slap your face” rhymn?

  17. Funny – both my wife and I recall the first three lines of the opening tune, yet we have no recollection at all of watching the show. I must have watched it, though, because CBS was the only channel we (barely) received, and I certainly remember Lassie and Ed Sullivan. Interesting article here, and thanks for writing it. We found it by googling the tune lyrics to see where they came from.

  18. The show currently airs on Antenna TV, on Frontier UVerse and AT&T UVerse. I’ve been recorded it and watching at my convenience. I remembered the song as well.. Oooh ooh ooh ooh

  19. This is one show I have heard of, but have never seen…I was just a year old when it was on. I believe “Time” would have had a better one on the network if they had scheduled it on Mondays between “Gilligan” and “The Lucy Show” as a comedy block…At that time Sunday was not known as a night for comedy, as it has come to be in recent years with the Fox network. Another well remembered pre-emption for the show was on February 12,1967, when CBS televised its last “hosted” broadcast of “The Wizard of Oz ” (the celebrity host segments were dropped when “Oz” went to NBC in April 1968). This is a Sherwood Schwartz production which is lesser known than “Gilligan” or the Brady franchise….a few years later, Imogene Coca would make her famous “Brady Bunch” cameo as eccentric Aunt Jenny, which is how she is known to most modern audiences.

  20. I remember the show — and the theme song — from its CBS run when I was a teenager. It’s perfect for a diginet like Antenna TV. I requested that they get the right to and show PISTOLS AND PETTICOATS….another fun CBS one-season wonder, starring Ann Sheridan. We’ll see if that ever happens.

  21. I think it’s funny that the main character played by Joe E. Ross was named “Gronk”, up here in New England that’s our nickname for Rob Gronkowski, our mega talented T.E. for the New England Patriots!

  22. In the ‘80s Shad changed her name to Aunt Edna who had a nasty dog and they both died on the way to Wally World.

  23. Well, I just finished watching all of the series on DVD. Fact is, the critics were right. They really ran out of plots after a few episodes, repeating over and over the “kill the astronauts” theme after they offended some superstitious belief, and the reboot really had one comic theme: the two astronauts inexplicably left the cave people alone in the apartment and they got into trouble.

    So, why did I watch it? So I could say I had, I think, and to try to recapture a youthful experience. I am about the same age as Pat Cardi, and remember seeing it before watching Ed Sullivan. The most memorable part was, indeed, the song. This was an interesting experience.

    I’ll head back to high quality PBS/BBC productions now, like Father Brown, and great classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show. Thanks for the background information.

  24. The theme song just popped into my head this morning on my way to work so I looked up the lyrics to it on Google and found this sight. I asked a co-worker if he remembered the theme song which cannot be forgotten-ever! He was, unfortunately, a little too young at that age to have seen the show or heard the song to remember it. I don’t recall the slap your face version. I really liked Mr. Terrific and that big pill he had to swallow in order to get his powers. And I believe I am the only one who liked My Mother the Car!

  25. I’m 68 and I still sing: It’s about time, it’s about space. It’s about people and the human race. Never heard about slap your face.

    1. I also remember the line after “It’s about time, it’s about space” as ending with “… the human race”. If that is not correct, why do I remember it that way?

  26. I still watch the TV show it’s about time I want to know if they made a model kit of the space capsule or the spaceship please send some pictures let me know if they made a model kit my telephone number is 203-306-8015 my name is Robert Henry

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