US tv series (1993-1994). Boam/Cuse Productions for Warner Bros. Series creators/executive producers Jeffrey Boam, Carlton Cuse. Coproduced by David Simkins, Paul Marks. Writers included Boam, Cuse, Simkins, Brad Kern, John McNamara, John Wirth. Directors included Kim Manners, Andy Tennant. Starred Bruce Campbell as Brisco, Julius Carry as Lord Bowler, Christian Clemenson as Socrates Poole. Recurring players included Billy Drago as John Bly, Kelly Rutherford as Dixie Cousins, John Pyper-Ferguson as Pete Hutter, John Astin as Professor Wickwire. Two-hour pilot September 1993, followed by 26 one-hour episodes.
Part Wild, Wild West, part Indiana Jones (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and part just plain strange, this Fox Network Western series followed a familiar pattern: despite being a solid hit with critics and sf fans, its rating were spectacularly low, and not even a landslide finish in TV Guide's 1994 "Save Our Shows" viewer poll persuaded network executives to renew it for a second season.
The convoluted premise featured popular horror-film star Campbell as Brisco County, Jr, the Harvard-educated son of a noted bounty hunter. Drawn to 1890s San Francisco following the murder of his father, Brisco Jr learns that notorious outlaw John Bly has larger schemes in mind. Turning bounty hunter himself to track down Bly, he comes across a glowing orb with mysterious powers, in which Bly is also interested. Much of the show's run was spent pursuing Bly and his associates, while other episodes paid homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and television's The Avengers (1961-1969).
Quirky, sly humour was the show's hallmark: a train is stopped by the Wile E Coyote gimmick of painting a lifelike mural onto a boulder blocking the track; Brisco's horse Comet races prototype motorcycles and cracks a safe ("He's not so smart; took him two tries!"); and one episode featured a Blackbeard-like pirate who is relocated to the Nevada desert. Recurring plots and characters were a major part of the show's appeal, with Drago's silkily dangerous Bly ultimately revealed as a Time Traveller, and eccentric outlaws the order of the day. The clever writing, energetic performances and excellent production values may not have made the series a ratings success, but reruns and taped episodes are worth seeking out. [JCB]
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