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Friday, May 23, 2014

'Maverick' S5 DVD: Bartastic Adventures Complete Run of Awesome Western Comedy

Maverick: The Complete Fifth Season
Watching the episodes in the Warner Archive DVD release of the fifth and final season of the classic 1957-62 Western series "Maverick" brings to mind comments of Aaron Sorkin in response to folks not watching the horribly maligned series "Sports Night" out of a dislike of sports.

Sorkin notes that "Sports" is a sitcom that just happens to be set at the office of a group that produces a sports news show. Similarly, "Maverick" is a highly entertaining anthology dramedy that just happens to be set in the west of yore.

The simple premise of "Maverick," which has one of the best ever theme songs, is that the titular character is a professional gambler/conman who generally travels to a new town each week in search of a poker game. Said event often results in either a reversal or enhancement of fortune.

Either way, these circumstances result in Mr. Maverick finding himself involved in a dilemma from which he often uses his wits (but rarely his six-shooter) to extricate himself before riding off into the sunset.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from the "Maverick" season premiere is an excellent example of the wit and charm of the series. It also establishes the particularly lighthearted tone of these final episodes.

Folks who either are familiar with the fourth season of "Maverick" (or at least have read the Unreal TV review of the DVD release of that season) know that the series alternates between the adventures of brothers Bret (played by James Garner) and Bart (played by Jack Kelly) for most of its run until Garner leaving the show in the middle of that season opens the door for Roger Moore to step in as cousin Maverick, Beau Maverick.

As an aside, Unreal TV coverage of the "Maverick" franchise will wrap up with a review of the DVD release of the uber-awesome early '80s series "Bret Maverick" in early June 2014.

The fifth season of "Maverick" also has parallels with another Archive title that Unreal TV plans for a June 2014 review.

Kelly carries the entire series in 13 new episodes that ABC intersperses with "Bret" reruns from prior seasons. History repeats itself in 1985 when syndicated new episodes of the cartoon series "The Jetsons" are interspersed with "classic" episodes from the 1962-63 ABC prime-time lineup. the upcoming review covers the final 10 episodes that comprise the third season of "The Jetsons."

Kelly gets his solo season off to a great start with an adventure that has him chasing conman Pearly Gates to recover money out of which he cheats Bart; this leads to clever inter-related cons that involve a seemingly innocent femme fatale. This theme of an evil temptress is particularly prominent in these final outings.

An amusingly modern story has Maverick seeking to outmaneuver an unethical investor who is using underhanded means in an effort to manipulate the price of a stock in a gold mining venture in order to profit and to avoid potential penalties that extend beyond financial losses. A reference to insider information being advantageous is particularly amusing from a 2014 perspective.

The award for "Episode of the Year" must go to one in which Jim Backus of "Gilligan's Island" plays Joe Wheelwright, who is the wealthy owner of the enormous Subrosa Ranch. This obvious (and hilarious) parody of the competing NBC Western "Bonanza" has Joe coercing Maverick into meeting and escorting three women whom Joe has hired a marriage broker to bring out west to marry Joe's three sons, whose names include Small Paul and Moose.

Having the actor who plays Paul look very much like "Bonanza" actor Michael Landon is particularly funny.

The ensuing mayhem relates to nefarious schemes that stem from the three "ladies" and their marriage broker not being made-to-order. The self-serving efforts of Maverick to remedy that situation introduce elements of the Shakespearean play "The Taming of the Shrew" (and the more modern musical "Kiss Me Kate.")

This season (and the series) wraps up with another multi-con episode; this one centers around an effort to sabotage a demonstration of the speed of a style of train. Guest characters who participate in this send-off include real-life old west figures Doc Holliday, who appears in several fifth season episodes, and Diamond Jim Brady. Also, as is typical for episodes from these seasons, a scheming dame makes a bad situation worse for our hero.

This episode provides Bart (and the series) a great send off until both reappear many years later.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Maverick" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.