21 March 2007

The Wild, Wild West: The Complete Second Season

When I was a kid, growing up in Chicago, Sunday morning was for watching classic TV shows on WGN. There was Rawhide, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and my personal favorite, The Wild Wild West. That show -and possibly the classic series, The Avengers - saw me through the worst of times, and more or less, confirmed my sexuality.

While I always thought Robert Conrad as suave secret service agent James West was a prick, he was hot looking. That tight, compact little body (and shirtless as much as possible) shoe-horned into those tight pants. But it was the late, great Ross Martin I admired. As Atremus Gordon, Martin always looked like he was having fun, especially when he got to dress up in various disguises.

Anyway, I watched the show as much as possible, enjoying the brilliant idea of slapping together the two staples of the mid 1960's, James Bond and the TV Western. The show was pretty wild, even for its times -even though Conrad would later say that if you watched 10 episodes of the series, you’ve seen them all. It’s early season episodes were somewhat straight laced western fair, but like the daytime TV soap Dark Shadows, once it embraced the science fiction side of its plots, the show took off. Sadly, it was cancelled after four seasons, but not because of ratings, but because of the violence (which it was, as West got beat up every week)

The show disappeared from TV for a while, only to show up on the cable channel TNT during the late 1990's, where it ran for a few years. Last year, the show’s first season was released on DVD. Out of the 28 episodes, I think I saw all of them, but it was great to see them uncut for the first time, and in glorious black & white.

Season two came out this week, and it was the first season aired in color. The show also got a boost with its guest stars that season, including Boris Karloff, John Astin, Carroll O’Connor, Victor Bono (who was also in the pilot episode) and legendary actress Ida Lupino. Michael Dunn also returned for several guest shots as West and Gordon’s nemesis, Doctor Loveless. Plus, future Superman director Richard Donner got his start on TV and directed an episode that guest-starred Sammy David, Jr. and Peter Lawford, that led him to the silver screen, thanks to Davis, Jr. and Lawford.

A great series, I my opinion. And I’m hoping that they also release the two TV movie remakes done in the 1979 (The Wild, Wild West Revisited) and 1980 (More Wild, Wild West). They were once out on video, but I don’t think they were ever issued on DVD.

Plus, the theme music rocked. Classic all around.

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