Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Dojo Classic - Have Bruce Will Travel

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is a big-time fun TV experience. I was a big fan when it ran in 1993 for its one and only season. For those who might not know, it's a weird western, a hip blend of science fiction and western motifs with a sarcastic wit that infuses the whole affair. It's full of rich and inviting characters, and some really excellent action by traditional TV standards.

The premise is pretty straightforward. Brisco County Sr.. is a famous bounty hunter who has at long last captured his arch-nemesis John Bly as well as all twelve members of his gang. While they are being taken to justice aboard a train, there is an attack and all thirteen villains escape killing County in the process. His son Brisco County Jr., a Harvard lawyer who has been adventuring in the West himself in recent years shows up to take on the mantle of his dad and to bring the killers to justice at long last. He's assisted by Socrates Poole a lawyer and representative of the rich men and robber barons who hired Brisco, and by Lord Bowler a competing bounty hunter who eventually becomes his partner.

And that's just the Western part of the story. It seems that there is also a mysterious object called "The Orb" which can give great power to people who can unleash it, and John Bly wants that power for mysterious reasons of his own. There's Professor Wickwire who is an inventor with his eye in the future and who dreams up all manner of odd devices to aid and bedevil Brisco in his quest. And there's Dixie Cousins, a saloon singer who comes to love Brisco and be loved by him, a gorgeous woman who sizzles the screen when she appears.

This show was a heady brew of modern sensibility brought to a classic format, the TV Western. Brisco is played by Bruce Campbell, Lord Bowler by Julius Carey, Dixie by Kelly Rutherford, Professor Wickwire by John Astin, and Bly by Billy Drago. There are all manner of great guest stars and continuing characters. My favorite is a hilarious gunman named Pete Hutter who has a fetish for his gun and a wonderful vocabulary, as well as a curious knack of returning from the grave. Also there is Aaron Viva, a sheriff who might remind many of a certain King of Memphis.

The show was developed to be a new take on the classic movie serial and features cliffhangers in each episode. The story of the Orb creates an ongoing tale that weaves through the series and is highlighted in several episodes. Really as I watched the series again over the last few weeks, I was struck by just how much stuff they fit into twenty-seven episodes. The show is lively vivid and the episodes swing by at a wonderful pace. There are very very few weak episodes and no clunkers in this series.

You will find a complete viewing experience with most mysteries solved and frankly a great deal of resolution brought to most of the characters. Once the Orb story wraps up, a bit of the energy from the show dwindles, but it's still funny. On some of the commentary there was talk what a second season would've been, and frankly it seemed sort of lame to me. What we have is one golden season of an exquisite TV show, an extended mini-series really and it's all of the story that I really need. Watching this collection is very satisfying. Highly recommended. 

I read some rumor online that new adventures of an older and perhaps evenwiser Brisco might be on the horizon. I hope so. 

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