Cool TV IX

8 August, 2011
Rat Fink

I don’t remember how I got to the Steampunkary site last night, but there you are. And of course, I can’t think of steampunk without thinking of one of my favorite shows from my youth: The Wild, Wild West. I thought Robert Conrad was completely dreamy. Well, that, and the sci-fi flavor made it exciting, and sometimes bizarre. Proof: one episode depicted Jim West (Conrad) having a dream. He went to a waterfront bar to meet a tipster. While there, he’s shot by a mermaid with a blowgun, and wakes up on a ship that’s sunk by an exploding dragon. When he returns, the bar doesn’t exist and he can’t prove anything. Talk about trying to convince the asylum you’re not crazy.

West’s faithful sidekick, Artemus Gordon, was the comic relief, and the pair had the glamorous job of spying on bad guys for president Ulysses Grant during the Civil War. By all comparisons, it was a 19th-century cocktail of James Bond and Batman & Robin, complete with fancy techno-gadgets (fancy for the 1860s, anyway), plenty of criminals gettin’ what’s comin’ to ’em, and West getting the girl. There was always a flavor of the week.

Some neat-o facts, many of which I did not know:

  • Ross Martin, who played Artemus Gordon, was born in Poland and raised in New York City, speaking Yiddish, Polish and Russian. He could lapse into any dialect at the drop of a hat. At the time of his death in 1981 (he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing tennis), he and Conrad were planning a revival of the WWW series. That would have been fantastic.
  • The show was a treasure trove of awesome guest stars: Suzanne Pleshette, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ricardo Montalban, Robert Duvall, Ed Asner and Boris Karloff (of all people). I imagine it was like the Simpsons of its time: everyone wanted a guest spot, just to say they’d done one.
  • The show, which ran from ’65-’69, was not canceled due to poor ratings. Rather, it was pulled because of its violence (unfortunately, necessary to the plot). Network brass felt squeamish about putting so much killing on TV when there was so much killing going on in the war. Hmm. Imagine that. Choosing humanity over profit. Psh.
  • The beautiful black locomotive car the pair used as their lair/mode of transportation in the pilot was also the Hooterville Cannonball in CBS’s hillbilly comedy, Petticoat Junction. Ha, love it.
  • As you know, all TV series episodes have titles. In WWW, the title of each of the 104 episodes began with the words, “The Night Of…”

I also loved the opening animated sequence and theme song.

One thing’s for sure. The movie ain’t the series. Ick. And yes, I’m one of those die-hards who just couldn’t make the jump from Robert Conrad to Will Smith. No comparison in my old, musty book.

Hey, is it Monday already? Yipes. Time to pound feet on the basement floor. Yay.

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BoomR
BoomR
8 August, 2011 9:33 am

That was one of my absolute FAVORITE shows growing up! That & the original Star Trek. I’m a sci-fi nut deluxe, and I’m with you on this one! What a cool mix of the gun-slinging old west + sci-fi all rolled into one. From what I am hearing & reading, the folks who produced Aliens & Cowboys could have taken a lesson or 100 from WWW producers!!

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BoomR
BoomR
8 August, 2011 9:44 am

PS…I could SWEAR in that opening animated sequence, there used to be a version where when the woman pulls the knife out of her bee-hive ‘doo, the cowboy gave her a round-about punch & knocked her on her butt. Or am I dreaming that??

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Kodye
Kodye
8 August, 2011 12:02 pm

I remember begging and pleading with my dad to take me to see Wild Wild West when the movie came out. Even at 9 years old I could tell what a heaping pile of doody that movie was.

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Suzanne
9 August, 2011 9:14 am

My mom used to love that show but I don’t remember watching it. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to and she wanted the TV all to herself. :)

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