Friday, November 19, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Camera

"The Night of the Camera" 
Written by  Marvin J. Chomsky
Directed by Ken Pettus
Synopsis: To take down an opium-smuggling ring, Jim West and Jeremy Pike join forces with Bosley Cranston, a seemingly timid secret service agent who possesses an extraordinary skill.

Trey: Our astute readers will notice not mention of Artemus Gordon in this episode. That's because he isn't in it! Ross Martin had a heart attack shortly after filming "Fire and Brimstone," and had to be replaced for several episodes.

Jim: Charles Aidman is here, in this case, as Jeremy Pike. Aidman does an admirable job, but he's a bit too much of an Artemus clone for my tastes. I'm going to say that's less a failing on Aidman's part, and is more likely the result of Martin's sudden absence from the show. The writers obviously didn't have time to create a new character, so he's just playing the role as it was written for Martin. I will say Aidman rises to the challenge of portraying the various disguises the script calls for quite well. My biggest criticism is that Aidman's delivery of some lines is a bit flatter than how Martin would deliver them. Martin just knows how to hit certain words harder for a more dynamic reading. 

Trey: I agree that Pike is very much an "Artie clone" in terms of personality. I might quibble that Pike seems a little more action-oriented, but Gordon's proclivity for action is pretty high by Season 4, so any real difference just may be down to slightly different approaches to scenes by the actors. 

Funnily enough, the next episode aired actually gives more an an intro for Pike, because it was actually the first in production order with him in it. Why they chose to show them in a different order, I don't know.

I wonder if the purpose of adding Bosley was to distract from Pike being a "new guy?" Also maybe to distract from a very bland, pedestrian villain.

Jim: The wonderful Pat Paulson is Bosley Cranston, that timid secret service agent with the photographic memory.  He was a regular guest on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Love American Style, he's perhaps most famous for his many satirical runs for President of the United States over several decades.

Trey: Well, they should have found a way to work a Presidential race reference into this episode! I mean, this was November 1968 (post-election).

Jim: A missed opportunity! Am I mistaken, or is this our third episode in a row that starts in San Francisco?

Trey: I think you're right. That should make you happy!

Jim: It doesn't do much here. All in all, this is a pretty standard episode made somewhat better with the addition of Paulson's character and a bit of humor here and there.

Trey: The "we have to work with a bumbling guy, but hey, he turns out more competent than we expect" is such a stock plot element for classic tv and film. Admittedly, I can't immediately recall an example off the top of my head, but I know I have seen it!

Jim: I can think of episodes of McHale's Navy, Car 54, and The Andy Griffith Show with variations on that theme.

Trey: I knew I could count on you!

Jim: I'm there for your classic tv trivia needs.

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