Ray Walston played Uncle Martin in "My Favorite Martian."

Ray Walston played Uncle Martin in "My Favorite Martian." Credit: Warner Bros.

“Mars,” an ambitious drama-documentary about the first manned landing on that planet, premieres Nov. 14 on the National Geographic Channel. While we’re watching, our thoughts will surely drift to TV’s most famous denizen of the Red Planet: Uncle Martin (Ray Walston) on the popular, surreal sitcom “My Favorite Martian” (1963-66). The show was about a Martian whose spacecraft crashed outside of Los Angeles. Unable to return home, he was taken in by Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby), a newspaper reporter who passed the alien off as his uncle. It was an easy ruse since Uncle Martin looked just like any other Earthling — if you didn’t count the antennae hidden inside his forehead. Here are five things to know:

1. The show received generally enthusiastic reviews (“It will appeal to young and old alike,” said The Atlanta Journal; “A clever and well-written fantasy,” opined The Denver Post.)

2. The CBS show aired Sunday nights at 7:30, leading into the extremely popular “Ed Sullivan Show” and placed 10th in the Nielsen ratings in its first season.

3. Uncle Martin’s Martian name was Exigius 12½.

4. When Martin raised his antennae (which were actually operated by remote control), he became invisible.

5. The show inspired a 1973-75 Saturday-morning cartoon (“My Favorite Martians”) and a 1999 movie bomb starring Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Martin and Jeff Daniels as Tim.

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