“They call him Flipper, Flipper,
Faster than lightning…”

Film and television producer Ivan Tors had a strong affinity for nature, especially the marine variety. As a result, he produced a string of marine-themed shows like The Aquanauts. However, the most famous and popular of these productions was the hit show Flipper. It was strongly reminiscent of Lassie, but replaced that show’s dog character with a more water-friendly dolphin.

The show was a television adaptation of a feature film, also titled Flipper. Brian Kelly led the cast as Porter Ricks, a widower who was the main Ranger at Coral Key Park in Florida. He watched over the marine life and the visitors at this nature refuge with the help of his two sons, fifteen-year-old Sandy and ten-year-old Bud. The family was befriended and assisted by the show’s title attraction, a highly-intelligent dolphin named Flipper.

Stories were usually built around Flipper and the two kids, usually Bud. The kids would try to help people or animals in danger, sometimes getting in danger themselves. But the day would always be saved near the end of the episode by Ranger Ricks with a little help from Flipper.

Also featured early in the show was a character named Hap Collins, an old sailor with plenty of tales to tell about his seagoing past. A pretty oceanographer named Ulla Norstrand was featured regularly throughout the second season.

The show ended in September of 1967 after three successful seasons, but Flipper remains a regular fixture in syndicated television, continuing to attract viewers new and old with its combination of on-the-water thrills and positive family-oriented values. Its ongoing popularity resulted in a new feature film in 1996, starring Elijah Wood and Paul Hogan.

Dogs may still hold the distinction of being a boy’s best friend, but Flipper showed that aquatic acquaintances could be just as loyal and diligent. Besides, when it came to swimming, Lassie and her pathetic dog-paddling couldn’t hold a candle to the lightning-fast speed of Flipper. Sometimes a dolphin is just better equipped for the job.

If you grew up watching Flipper save the day, we hope you’ll take a moment to share some of your memories of this classic TV show in our comments section below.

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