Friday, March 20, 2009

Semi-National Classic TV Month presents: The Wild, Wild West

This is the first in a six (or seven...whatever I'm feeling like) part series honoring some of my favorites in classic TV.

Hey, terribly sorry guys that I have not posted yet in March! My poor lungs were dying of sickness (I have asthma)! But, now I'm feeling much better and am ready to type. I may have to extend this Semi-National holiday that I have declared into April, considering all I am hoping to cover.

Anyways, first up in my writings is the super cool-nothing like it-James Bond if he somehow happened to be transported back to the 1870's-TV show: The Wild, Wild West! (Or as is it known to us fans...simply Wild, Wild West...;-D.)

Watch the The famous opening credits.

Wild, Wild West (1965-69) is a completely stupendous show starring the amazing Robert Conrad (as James West) and the brilliant Ross Martin (as Artemus Gordon). It has been described as James Bond on horseback and it is a fitting analogy. Except James T. West is WAY cooler than James Bond (there, I said it).

This show is so amazing I can barely express my love for it. I have seen every single episode many times and my family owns all four seasons.

The premise of the show is this: [Captain] James T. West is secret service agent who gets his orders straight from President Grant. He travels around on a private train (the Wanderer 1) with his fellow agent Artemus Gordon. They fight crazy villains, stop fiendish plots to take over the world, and generally keep the peace throughout the country (and around the world)...all for the service of their country and President. And they do this all, with cool gadgets and an unending sense of humor. Oh, they also have two homing pigeons named Henrietta and Annabella.

Artie and Jim

A couple things you might want to know about the characters:

Jim is the "ultimate" suave ladies man. And he always gets his girl (except for a few instances, which cause Artie no end of joy). He also carries about a trillion hidden weapons on his person (in one episode, after knocking out Jim and discovering all the hidden gadgets, one villain comments, "It's a wonder he doesn't clank when he walks"). Jim also is a masterly fighter, taking on five or ten men easily.

Artie is genius-like. He invents all of Jim's gadgets and often times tests chemicals and such to find out info they need. More importantly he is a master of disguises (seriously Ross Martin was BRILLIANT)! He can be anything and anyone, with his many costumes, fake hair pieces, and clever accents. Artie isn't necessarily the greatest fighter (often finding himself knocked-out when it comes to blows) but he doesn't need it. He has too many invented gadgets and weapons to fool around with physical fighting. Although, he's always there if Jim needs him...usually with a new gadget...he hopes works.

Dr. Miguelito Loveless is the one villain Jim and Artie cannot conquer. He is a recurring enemy throughout the seasons. He is the little man with the rage against the universe. Dr. Loveless is a dwarf-sized man, who also happens to be a genius. He has a twisted little mind, that is strangely capable of gentleness. When we first meet him, all he wants is Baja California...back (he claims his ancestors used to own it), so he can start a retreat and school for children. Soon he abandons the children idea...he just wants the land. And finally after being outwitted too many times, all he wants is to see Jim and Artie...DEAD! We watch his downward spiral throughout the ten episodes he appears in. In this all Michael Dunn is masterful in portraying him. He is layered and complex. Always has a new plan and an outrageous invention, coupled with massive wit (only undermined when Jim and Artie ignore him...that always infuriates him...and J&A know that). And plus Dr. Loveless can NEVER die. It's a proven fact.

Stats on the show:

Ran from 1965-69.

Was nominated for three Emmys. Won one (for Agnes Moorehead's performance in "The Night of the Vicious Valentine").

Was canceled after four seasons, NOT because of bad ratings (quite the contrary)! CBS was forced to cancel it after being pressured about too much violence on TV (LOL, this show is NOT that violent)!

My stats:

Favorite character(s): James West, Artemus Gordon, and Dr. Loveless

Favorite season: Season 1

Favorite episodes: Hahaha, I am going to split this into seasons for you, because I have many favorites:

Feel free to skip this's rather long!

Season 1:

The Night of the Inferno
This episode is the pilot...and boy, is it a great pilot! It has twists and turns never thought possible. And you have one of the few ladies that can handle and stand up to Mr. West...Suzanne Pleshette.

The Night of the Deadly Bed
I love this episode. It has a great prop in the "deadly bed" and a delightful leading lady (Barbara Luna) who successfully knocks Jim out...quite a feat, considering he can take on ten men at once and still win.

The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth
The first appearance of Dr. Loveless. He has plan about blowing San Francisco...or something minuscule like that (minuscule in Loveless' terms). He is joined by his sometime companions: Voltaire and Antoinette.

The Night of the Dancing Death
Jim and Artie must rescue a gorgeous kidnapped princess before it's too late. Also Jim comes up against a most skilled fighter in a test for his life.

The Night That Terror Stalked the Town
On of my top five picks (of all seasons)! Dr. Loveless creates a body-double of Jim...code name Janus. It is really funny watching Artie try and figure it out, when they are both there. Also this episode marks the first mention of Artie's Great-Aunt Maude (forever in Artie's memory).

The Night of the Torture Chamber
Be wary of might not really be them, but actors posing as them. Artie gives a simply hilarious performance pretending to be a French painting expert.

The Night the Dragon Screamed
Jim and Artie rescue a Chinese Princess several times (she keeps getting taken away from them), as two different Opium smuggling gangs try to keep her off the boat to home.

The Night of the Grand Emir
HILARIOUS! This Emir likes being kidnapped. Jim and Artie must keep him safe, as they stumble unto an assassins club...for fun they kill.

The Night of the Puppeteer
A spectacular episode about puppets and puppeteers. One never truly knows which is which. And maybe the most human among us is not really human...

The Night of the Two-Legged Buffalo
Nick Adams gives a shattering performance as an extremely flamboyant South Seas prince on a visit to America. Simply wonderful episode.

The Night of the Burning Diamond
A fascinating episode. About speed and just how fast one can go. Artie has a wonderful costume in this one too.

Season 2:

The Night of the Eccentrics
Another one of those "assassins clubesque" episodes. A great cast of motley villains.

The Night of the Raven
Dr. Loveless is back. With a plan to shrink the rest of the world shorter than him, no less!

The Night of the Flying Pie Plate
A green-skinned lady steps out of a spaceship...would you believe her? Jim has ways of finding out though. And Artie is plenty busy doing some jewel analyzing.

The Night of the Green Terror
Dr. Loveless thinks himself Robin Hood and has succeeded in getting an entire forest killed off. The tag scene is AMAZING. I don't want to give away any spoilers though.

The Night of the Man-Eating House
An incredible and fascinating episode about a house that is alive.

The Night of the Skulls
Jim kills Artie! But, who's that presiding over Artie's funeral?

The Night of the Gypsy Peril
Jim has met another female match in the form of a headstrong gypsy. Who NEEDS an elephant for her circus.

The Night of the Vicious Valentine
One of my other top five episodes. It also won Agnes Moorehead an Emmy for acting. A delicious episode about a matchmaker gone wrong.

The Night of the Surreal McCoy
Another Dr. Loveless. 'Nuff said.

The Night of the Wolf
Ooh, a great and spooky episode. Joseph Campanella is superb.

Season 3:

The Night Dr. Loveless Died
Don't worry I already told you he couldn't die!

The Night of Jack O' Diamonds
A delightful episode with Frank Silvera switching back and forth between sides. At the end one is not really sure if he's on Jim & Artie's side or not. Great banter between always.

The Night of Montezuma's Hordes
A bizarre, but strangely enjoyable episode. You will have to see it to believe it.

The Night of the Turncoat
Jim isn't on the side of the law anymore. He's gone bad and resigned.

The Night of the Amnesiac
Jim has amnesia and can't remember who he is or anything.

The Night of the Simian Terror
One of the better episodes. Just how far will a prominent family go to cover up the skeletons in the closet?

Season 4:

The Night of the Doomsday Formula
OMG, This episode has Artie's funniest costume ever. I laugh out loud every time I watch.

The Night of the Gruesome Games
An old billionaire delights in playing twisted and deadly parlor games with his famous guests.

The Night of the Sabatini Death
This one was included simply because it has a hilarious Gilligan's Island inside joke (both Alan Hale and Jim Backus appear in this).

The Night of the Diva
Artie has an amazing costume and the divas...are well...divas!

The Night of Bleak Island
A great whodunit, with Hitchcock's main character actor John Williams along for the ride.

The Night of the Plague
The final episode broadcast. It has deliciously annoying brat that one loves to hate in it!

Those were some of my favorites, but really you should check out every episode as they are all magnificent!

Some Great Quotes, but really you should watch the show! The banter between Jim and Artie is legendary. This is just small sample...and not even the best:

Jim: It wasn't your money.
Lydia: It was... until you made me give it back.

[As Jim moves levers up and down]
Artie: Did it ever occur to you that red might mean danger? For instance, red for fire, fire of explosion?
Jim: What would they want to explode?
Artie: People who fool around with their levers.

[after extracting information from her computer]
Emma Valentine: Your ideal mate, Mr. West, is a combination of Aphrodite, Helen of Troy and Lola Montez. Oh, Mr. West, I'm afraid it can't be done.
Jim: Well, frankly I like to do my own shopping anyway.

Jim: Artie, if you keep stealing my girlfriends you're going to end up dead again.

Jim: Artie you couldn't be quiet, not even at your own funeral, could you?
Artie: Well, somebody had to tell the truth.

Jim: Bombs are like women, gentlemen: you should never let them know you don't trust them.

Count Manzeppi: Mr. West! You have succeeded in making me lose my temper!
Jim: Is that bad?
Count Manzeppi: For you it will be highly traumatic.

Jim: Did I hear big mouth correctly?
Artie: Yup. They're going to hang you and take me with them. No hard feelings, Jim.
Jim: I resent that.

Artie: I didn't know you liked toys.
Jim: Toys, no-dolls, yes.

Jim: Where are we roughly?
Artie: I'd say about five minutes away from dying of thirst or alkali poisoing.

Dr. Loveless: You, Mr. Gordon. You didn't play fair! You cheated.
Artie: A weakness. So sue me!

Jim's famous suit-coat. You too can own it for only $8,000.

Oh, and check out this thread in the TCM forum. There are some great insights by many people. I am ILoveRayMilland.

Thanks for reading and sorry about the wordiness! Join me next time for a (hopefully) much shorter post about another classic TV show!


Apple said...

Hi! I love love love it!! One thing, the pic you have of Jim wrapped in the hands isn't from Vicious Valentine but from TNOT Eccentrics. It is a Manzeppi Creation. In Vicious Valentine he is seated in a plush chair with a hug. Great blog entry on MY favorite show...have you been to Robert Conrad just signed up as a member in the forums there.

Artiespet said...

I love your take on some of the episodes. I'm glad you chose this show to post about now that you feel better. It really is a great show isn't it? I love Artemus Gordon and his many gadgest and gizmos and his disguises it really brought something special to the show. As did Ross Martin! There is no other actor quite like him and there never will be.

Millie said...

Apple, thanks for the correction! You are absolutely right. One's mind wanders at two in the morning (when this was actually posted ;-).

Thank you so much. This is an amazing show. I will have to check out that forum.

Millie said...

Artiespet: Thank you! Artemus was special! The episodes without him just weren't the same, my family got seriously depressed watching them (when the fourth season came out earlier this year). My mom refused to watch the ones without Ross Martin.

I love seeing Ross Martin pop up in other shows and films. My little brother and I were recently watching "The Great Race" and were overjoyed to see Ross Martin appear in a role as a dastardly Russian villain. It was just like he was wearing a costume in WWW.

DKoren said...

Great post!

I LOVE this show!! I grew up watching it. Those still have to be the best opening credits and theme song ever. Artemus Gordon is my favorite of the two guys. I just adore Ross Martin. Not that Robert Conrad isn't wonderful too, :-D! Love the crazy brawling fist fights. And I always wanted their train. This show was filled with tons of great guest stars. I only own the first season on DVD at the moment, but intend to get the rest at some point (I have most of the eps on VHS).

Millie said...

Definitely amazing!

Ross is amazing. Although, I can never decide who I like better, because both were necessary to the show. When Ross was gone the show was flat. And obviously we couldn't have Robert gone (I mean it is Wild Wild WEST...;-D).

You should definitely get the rest of the seasons. Although, sadly there are no special features and none of those super-cool Robert Conrad intros.

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Friston Ho'okano said...

I love this TV show. Thanks for featuring this show in your blog. The opening credits and music brings me back to the 60's when I was a small kid. I was born in 1962 and this show used to be a favorite of mine and my dad's. I loved it when the end of a scene gave reason to fill in the boxes from the opening credits. So clever. But, the costuming, great characters, and gizmos was something that I loved - even as a kid of 5 or 6 years old! I grew up with this show in addition to Star Trek (which often had actors/actresses guest star "cross over"...which was hilarious and confusing to a young kid like me!). Thank you for the great memories. I'm going to purchase the collection and start watching it again. I think too this is the reason why I embrace the Steampunk genre.

--Friston :)

Anonymous said...

The WILD,WILD WEST! My Heroes on TV were James Kirk and James West...and still are! LOVE the Golden Age of TV: 1960 to 1969.

Anonymous said...

Loved the show. talked to Robert Conrad recently on his Internet radio show. went to CBD studio Raford lot anniversary public event. I own a clown costume that Ross Martin wore in an eps. YES, I love the show. Nothing today can compare.


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