September 16, 2023



(NBC, September 9-December 23, 1972)
Air Programs International, Five Arrows Films



Alastair Duncan – Phileas Fogg
Ross Higgins – Jean Passepartout
Max Osbiston – Mr. Fix
Owen Weingott – Lord Maze


      Around the World in Eighty Days is an adventure novel written by Jules Verne and first published in 1872 as serialized installments in the French newspaper Le Temps. Events such as the first transcontinental railroad in America, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the linking of railways in India fascinated Verne on what that could mean for global travel. No longer relegated to globe-trotting adventurers, it would soon be possible that the common person could circumnavigate the world on a whim. And that was what kicked his story off.

The 1873 collected publication.

      The novel follows wealthy English gentleman Phileas Fogg who argued with members of his club that the opening of a new railway section in India made it possible to get around the world in 80 days. He's challenged to prove that, with the wager being half his fortune: £20,000 (or roughly £1.9 million in today’s money, time of writing). With his remaining money and valet, Jean Passepartout, Fogg sets out to win the wager.

Phileas Fogg's path.

            Of course, the journey wasn’t smooth. Fogg and Passepartout encountered numerous obstacles both natural and man-made along the way; starting with the fact that the newspaper article that inspired the whole thing ended up being wrong, and that the connecting track in India hadn’t yet been built. They gained a new traveling companion in Aouda, who was set to be sacrificed against her will by fire. They also had a shadow: Scotland Yard detective Fix, who believed Fogg was a bank robber whose description he matched and was determined to arrest him either on British territory or back in London. Ultimately, Fogg did get arrested and subsequently released when it was learned that the actual culprit had already been caught. Believing he missed the deadline, Fogg was resigned to living in poverty until Passepartout reminded him that they were actually ahead of schedule, basically thanks to time zones chipping away time from their journey as went against the sunrise. Fogg won the bet and the love of Aouda, and split the money with Passepartout and Fix.

Game board illustrating Nellie Bly's journey in 1889.

      Around the World became one of Verne’s most acclaimed works. Following the book’s publication, many attempts had been made to follow Fogg’s fictional path and either match or beat his record. Rival reporters Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland both attempted it in 1889 for their respective newspapers; achieving it within 72 days and 76 ½ days, respectively. Theater critic and historian James Willis Sayre used only public transportation in 1903 to make it in just over 54 days. Jumping ahead, media executive Sir Nicholas Coleridge did it within 78 days in 1984, while Monty Python member Michael Palin did it as part of a travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 17 hours short of 80 days in 1988. In 2009 twelve celebrities did a relay version of the journey for the BBC’s Children in Need charity drive; and in 2017 cyclist Mark Beaumont did it by bicycle in just over 78 days.

            As with other enduring works of literature, Around the World has been adapted, expanded upon, or parodied numerous times across various media; including stage plays as early as 1874, films as early as 1919, television films, games and more. One of those was an Australian animated series that aired in 1972; the first Australian-produced cartoon to be aired on American network television.

Fogg, Passepartout and Toto.

            Around the World in Eighty Days was a very loose adaptation of the novel. While the protagonist was still Phileas Fogg (Alastair Duncan), his motivations for the journey were much different. This version was in love with a woman named Belinda Maze (Janet Waldo) and wanted to marry her. But her uncle, Lord Maze (Owen Weingott), was against a commoner becoming her husband. Maze proposed a wager: if he could successfully travel the world in 80 days, he would allow him to marry Belinda. If he failed, he would never see her again. A pot of £20,000 was thrown in for good measure (and as a nod to the original plotline).

Mr. Fix being chastised by Lord Maze.

            Fogg accepted this proposal and set out with his French valet, Jean Passepartout (Ross Higgins), and Passepartout’s pet monkey, Toto (even the Australians weren’t above the animal sidekick trope prevalent in that era). They would employ all manner of transportation native to the 19th century including balloons, trains, animals and ships. However, Maze planned to win this bet and hired a saboteur, Mr. Fix (Max Osbiston), to interfere and impede Fogg’s journey by any means necessary.

The random collection of stuff Fogg asked for coming in handy as makeshift transport.

            Around the World in Eighty Days debuted on NBC on September 9, 1972. Each episode followed a similar structure: Fogg announced their intended location; Fogg asked Passepartout to pack a bag with a seemingly random collection of items that actually end up serving a purpose in the episode; Fogg delivered a proverb to Passepartout that would also help in their success by episode’s end; Fix had a full discussion with himself about how he planned to stop Fogg; Fogg and Passepartout followed their itinerary and along the way Fogg would explain the history of their visited locations; Fix was hot on their heels, usually in a disguise that they failed to see through at first (typically that of the driver of whatever transport they were taking); and the episode ended with Fogg exclaiming “Good show, Passepartout!” The series was approached with a more comedic slant than the book; particularly in the ridiculous plans Fix kept coming up with that backfired on him, or Passepartout’s overreactions to various situations as they arose (as well as constantly declaring “Fix tricks!” when things went wrong). Occasionally, Maze would take a hand in trying to derail Fogg himself. Belinda would also send Fogg support, information she overheard about Maze’s schemes (some of which was falsely planted by Maze with that expectation) and joined him occasionally along the way.

Fix up to his tricks posing as an engineer.

            The series was produced by Walter J. Hucker, a staff producer for Air Programs International, and entirely written by Chet Stover and directed by Leif Gram, respectively. The series’ music was composed by John Sangster, with the theme being a variation of the tune from “Mademoiselle from Armentières”. Around the World ran for a single season of 16 episodes, and although we never see them actually return to England, the final episode ended with them on their way. 40 years after its original airing, Visual Entertainment would release the complete series to DVDAdditionally, a statue of Mr. Fix was reportedly seen at the Zoo XII Months in Ukraine.


EPISODE GUIDE (note: the episodes don’t have official names and are named after the featured locations):
“London, Buckingham Palace” (9/9/72) – Fix tries to keep Fogg from his appointment with the Queen to secure a letter to leave London on his journey.
“Paris” (9/16/72) – Fix hijacks the boat and later the train Fogg plans to take to catch an airship out of Paris.
“Switzerland and the Alps” (9/23/72) – Fix attempts to frame Fogg for the destruction of a statue of William Tell.
“Rome” (9/30/72) – Fix plots to frame Fogg for stealing a painting from the museum via the fact he’s seemingly driving the only car in Rome.
“Naples, Pompei” (10/7/72) – Fix attempts to make Fogg a permanent resident of Pompei.
“Mediterranean Sea, Greek Islands” (10/14/72) – Maze arranges for Fogg to end up on the wrong ship.
“Greece, Athens” (10/21/72) – Maze plots to use inclement weather to trick Fogg into taking a not-so-shortcut to Athens.
“Egypt and the Pyramids” (10/28/72) – A dream makes Fix believe Fogg is searching for a magic carpet to help him get around the world quickly.
“Sinai and Petra” (11/4/72) – Fix causing them to miss their boat has Fogg taking the dangerous overland route and winding up in the lost city of Petra inhabited by bandits.
“Gaza, Damascus and Palmyra” (11/11/72) – Maze has fix kidnap Passepartout and bring him to Palmyra.
“Persia, Isfahan” (11/18/72) – Fix poses as a fortune-teller and gets an exhausted Fogg roped into a polo game where losing could prove fatal.
“India, Udaipur” (11/25/72) – Fogg gains a new travelling companion in a far-sighted elephant he helped with a custom pair of glasses.
“China sea, China” (12/2/72) – After being blown off course, Fogg helps a Chinese village get the money they need to pay their taxes and save their land.
“Japan, Tokyo, Mount Fuji” (12/9/72) – Maze has Fix frame Fogg for stealing a pearl in Japan while slowing him down with traps on Mount Fuji.
“United States, California, San Francisco” (12/16/72) – Fix enlists the aid of Native Americans and robbers to stop Fogg as he rides on the train carrying the transcontinental railroad golden spike.
“United States, Louisiana, New Orleans; England” (12/23/72) – Fix attempts to keep Passepartout from becoming King of Mardi Gras and ordering themselves a boat to England.

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