Scuba diving’s been around for a few years now and a lot of it is thanks to vintage diving TV shows. The underwater world was huge in the '50s and '60s and inspired a generation to get in the water and swim downwards. After the '70s and '80s the diving shows dried up a bit but today we’re going to be looking back at The Coolest Scuba Diving TV Shows and there have been a few…
Sea Hunt is the daddy of all scuba diving television shows. Filmed in black and white from 1958 to 1961 Sea Hunt had four seasons that followed Lloyd Bridges as former US Navy Frogman Mike Nelson. Nelson was a freelance scuba diver for hire and found himself in all sorts of adventures. As an expert diver, Nelson did a lot of search and recovery dives rescuing trapped divers, scientific analysis and he even recovered a nuclear bomb.
Continuity was it’s strongest selling point at times, I remember watching one episode where Nelson enters the water with twin cylinders, swims to a wreck on triple cylinders and then cuts into the wreck on a single cylinder. What Sea Hunt did do is introduce a new audience to scuba diving as an adventurous hobby more than a scientific method.
A few similar shows like Assignment Underwater tried riding the wave of scuba diving adventures but didn’t last all that long.
Jacques Cousteau was the first to bring scuba diving to the public in colour. The non-fictional documentary showed the world all sorts of underwater life that many had never seen before. Debuting in 1966 Cousteau and his crew sailed the Calypso around the world exploring and looking for new species and testing experimental diving techniques for ten years up until 1976.
While fascinating to watch the Undersea World can be a little hard to watch in this modern age as some of their techniques were quite barbaric and character stereotypes insensitive to today’s standards. But you can still watch the pioneering aquanauts from the early stages of diving and how they did things back in the day.
Diver Dan was a kids TV show in 1960 and followed the titular diver and puppet fish in their adventures. Diver Dan and the mermaid Miss Minerva interacted with the talking fish and two antagonists; Baron Barracuda and his dumb sidekick trigger, who always has a cigarette in his mouth. By filming through an aquarium with real fish inside the filmmakers produced the effect of Dan and the puppet fish being underwater.
The evil fish Barron Barracuda has a super strong Dracula impression going on and wears a monocle so you know he’s legit evil. Simple humour, diver Dan is quite funny to watch today and arguably better than a lot of kids programs. The narrator started and ended the show with a song that could sometimes get quite dark, at the end of the episode in which Dan gets caught by an octopus and then blinded by ink ends with the little song: The secret weapon turns out to be an ink so black that no one can see, Diver Dan must fight in the deepest gloom or else the ocean will become his tomb.
Some say Diver Dan influenced Spongebob Squarepants with their fish design and a few hidden easter eggs in the show.
SeaLab 2020 was an animated show that followed a team of underwater scientists and aquatic friends living in the underwater research centre SeaLab. Commanded by Captain Michael Murphy, Sealab was home to 250 men women and children and was dedicated to the exploration of the seas and the protection of marine life. The expected complications troubled the crew in day to day life such as underwater earthquakes and giant squid attack.
The show only aired 13 episodes and is a bit of a cross between Scooby Doo and the Undersea World. But right before we reach the year 2020 we're still quite far from the tech they're using. Also don't confuse Sealab 2020 with it's spinoff show Sealab 2021 where Adult Swim dubbed and edited episodes into another comedy show.
Descending is a more modern show from 2012 that followed Scott Wilson and Ellis Emmett diving around the world. They were previously involved in a couple of other travel documentaries; Don’t Forget Your Passport and Departures, but Descending was all about diving around the world.
For 13 episodes the crew visited a new place to dive every episode and has some fantastic visuals and looked at the top side of diving remote locations as well as the underwater side of things. It didn’t last very long but was well edited and had amazing annotations so it’s definitely worth a look.