Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wild Wild West (TV)

I never watched THE WILD WILD WEST during its first-run years, 1965-1969. However, from a young age I knew that my father liked to watch it. He did not have too many shows that he really liked that I knew about. The Avengers with Patrick Macnee and Star Trek and Mission:Impossible were others he shared with me. He was also a big fan of Jack Webb's shows Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency, but I never got into those. By the time I started watching TV and choosing shows I wanted to watch in earnest, however, he was staying later at the office and then not watching a lot with us. Anyway, even now the first thing I think of when I think of WILD WILD WEST is that it was one of my father's favorite shows.
My father grew up with Western movies and Western TV shows much more than my brother and I did; we were definitely fans of spies and super-heroes, not cowboys. Yet this show had a little bit of everything, so I don't know why I didn't care for it when I was a kid. I tried it a few years ago and really started to like it. Then it came on one of the nostalgia cable stations and I programmed it into my DVR to watch. I especially like the interplay between Robert Conrad as Jim West and Ross Martin as his partner, Artemus Gordon. In the course of the four years the actors seemed to get used to each other and to their characters, so that by the second and third year they seemed to really be friends. In a later episode, for example, when one of the characters thinks the other is dead, there is genuine grieving. There was an affection between them that I don't recall seeing very often between male leads, such as on Emergency or Adam-12. In the past year I finally watched the first season and saw their friendship start to develop, which was also fun.
Sure, some of the episodes were just stupid, but mostly they were straight-forward investigative stories where Jim goes in head-first and Artemus comes in undercover later (or was there already). Together they catch the bad guy or stop the mad scientist or save the President (Grant, at this point in history). It was fun, and done well.  
Another cool thing about the show as that at the end of each "act" the screen would freeze and then the main character in the scene would be animated into the matrix shown above. It was cool, and for most of its run each closing screen would be the unique screen from that particular episode. By the way, it took somebody to point it out to me, but the underlying color scheme is that of the US flag. Once it was pointed out to me I can't not see it.

It's said that THE WILD WILD WEST was cancelled in 1969 because the networks were cracking down on violence on television.   Luckily for all of us, cancelling this great show solved everyone's problems and world peace has been just around the corner ever since. 

If you have never seen this show and ever have a chance to watch this weird Western-spy-sci fi-comedy-drama, you should. You might just like it. When the movie came out I had no interest in seeing it because 1. Robert Conrad said it was awful and 2. as much as I like Will Smith, him as a Secret Service agent in 1876 is just stupid. Stick to the TV version.

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