Thursday, January 20, 2022

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Janus

"The Night of the Janus"
Written by  Leonard Katzman and Paul Playdon
Directed by Irving J Moore
Synopsis: The murder of a secret service agent points to a traitor in the organization. Jim West and Jeremy Pike must uncover the traitor's identity at the service academy. A sheet of music left by the dead agent is their only clue.

Trey: Jeremy Pike is back for one last go! And there's traitor in the service is an idea you and I had talked about, so it's interesting to see they did that. 

Jim: The real star of this episode was the secret service training school. I almost wish this idea had been introduced earlier in the series as sort of a western version of MI6. Combined with the plan to rob the mint, this made for one of the more enjoyable episodes this season.

Trey: It's solid, but I'm not quite as sold on the setting. The training academy seems a bit advanced to me, based on what we've seen of the secret service in previous episodes. I guess it makes sense if you think about they also have to have a place to make and distribute those gadgets--which we get to see here, too! Setting it all in Denver is a bit of a surprise, but I guess if most of the threats are in the West, you need to be there, and maybe San Francisco is too far West.

Jim: Oh, you're fretting too much over realism in a show about a guy in a bright blue cowboy outfit! Didn't you like the musical mystery? The song lyrics and music box clue is one of those mystery gimmicks I always enjoy. 

Trey: It was a nice too, for sure.

Jim: It was fun to see Jack Carter as Alan Thorpe. Carter doesn't bring much to the role other than his own personality, but he rings the appropriate nostalgia bells. 

Trey: I had him pegged as the traitor fairly early on (I recognized his voice when West was trapped in the training room), but I think the episode does a pretty good with not being too obvious and keeping you guessing about the resolution. I like that we get to see West use some smarts and skills here!

Jim: I definitely agree! The booby trapped room was the perfect way to show us how West stacks up in the field of secret service work. 

Trey: As tough as they obstacle course is, I wonder how many agents die in training?

Jim: They are wearing matching red shirts. That can be bad in 60s TV!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Sabatini Death

"The Night of the Sabatini Death"
Written by  Shirl Hendryx
Directed by Charles R. Rondeau
Synopsis: A dying crime boss makes a last request of West: make sure a young, blind woman receives the gift he is bequeathing her. The request isn't as simple as it seems, and West and secret service chemist, Ned Brown, are soon caught up in a mystery regarding a stolen fortune hidden in a Missouri ghost town.

Trey: This is a pretty good episode, better I think than it might look on paper. It's another ghost town with hidden treasure like we've seen in at least two (maybe three!) other episodes before, with a touch of Agatha Christie mystery atmosphere to it, perhaps--and there isn't anything "weird" about it! The script is pretty good though, and the guest appearances by Alan Hale, jr. and Jim Backus do more than you would think to help it along.

Jim: There does seem to be something about this script that gives it a bit more sparkle than the previous "hidden treasure in a ghost town" scripts. It almost feels like it was written for another series, but adapted to Wild Wild West. I didn't recognize the episode's writer Shirl Hendryx from any previous television series. Upon looking Hendryx up, I was a bit surprised to see that while he had worked on many other television series, most of his work was limited to a single episode! The longest stint was seven episodes on the series Combat.

Trey: Hale's Ned Brown is the first of the Gordon replacements that seems pretty differentiated from Gordon. It's a shame he was only in one episode, but at least that is sort of written into the story.

Jim: I totally agree about the inclusion of Ned Brown. Alan Hale plays him pretty much like he plays a lot of his characters, but it works well. He's not a precision actor like William Schallert, but Hale has a lot of natural charm, and he makes a striking physical contrast to Conrad.

What did you think of the Gilligan's Island in-joke at the end of the episode? I liked it. It has some additional irony in that Gilligan's Island was canceled to make room for Gunsmoke.

Trey: It's 60s TV appropriate. It didn't bother me, at all. It got me thinking in a Wold-Newton frame of mind: Maybe Jonas Grumby is one of Ned Brown's descendants?

Jim: Next you'll be telling me that Gilligan's Island is the same as the island in Lost!

Trey: Now that you mention it...

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Winged Terror (part 2)

"The Night of the Winged Terror (Part 2)"
Written by  Marvin J. Chomsky
Directed by Ken Pettus
Synopsis: West and Harper race to stop Raven's plot to kill a Mexican official--but West has actually been brainwashed to carry out the deed! Harper must foil this plan and use his talent for disguise to infiltrate Raven's headquarters and save his partner.

Trey: This second part makes for an entertaining hour of television, but I feel like it's a little bit less accomplished than part 1. Mainly, this is in the fact that there's that "escape, capture, repeat" loop that tends to bother you more than me, but I'm not completely immune to getting tired of it. What makes it a bit egregious is it relies on our heroes acting dumb. West is so certain he hasn't been brainwashed with little reason. Ok, you could say that is part of the brainwashing, and Harper isn't fooled--but you've still got West beating around the push with putting his hands on Tycho (it wouldn't have matter, invisible screen and all, but West doesn't know that), and then Harper and West snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by setting off an explosion when the cabal has barely left the room!

Jim: Yes, this episode spins its wheels a bit. It's like the writer didn't know how to utilize the expanded format, so the fell back on their old standbys. Part of that might be the need to accommodate all the unnecessary second bananas that work under Tycho. Additionally, Tycho's plan never gets expanded in any meaningful way. In a James Bond movie, the villain's machinations are usually steps that build up to a master plan.  Here, they are all the same, and done to demonstrate Raven's power--for some reason. The final capture/escape combo with Tycho's glass shield was just stupid.

Overall, this was a disappointing follow up to the first installment, with Schallert's spots providing the most enjoyment to me.

Trey: There was dumb to go around to other characters, too. Tycho is pretty gullible for a guy supposedly as smart as he is. Then there's Laurette being so certain West is on her side after he had just been brainwashed by them.

Jim: Did you notice when Laurette is giving James the hard sell on Tycho, you can see the classic rock formation from the Star Trek episode "Arena" prominently in the background?

Trey: Yep, that's Vasquez Rocks.

Jim: I'm glad they selected Michele Carey to be the femme fatale in these episodes. She has a distinctive lilt to her voice that makes her delivery a pleasure to listen to. It was probably that voice that won her the role of Effie in another Robert Conrad series, A Man Called Sloane.

Trey: It feels a bit like Tycho was being positioned to be a replacement Loveless. His plots more resemble some other villains of the week, but he has the eccentric character and unusual physicality of a Loveless. 

Jim: Unfortunately, Christopher Cary doesn't have any of the personal charm or elegant elocution that Michael Dunn possesses. Tycho is more like one of those forgettable one off Batman villains that might show up between Joker and Catwoman episodes.

Trey: Ouch! 


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