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Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Bronco' S2 DVD: Classic Reconstruction Era Neo Western

Bronco: The Complete Second Season
An important disclaimer regarding the 20-episode 5-disc Warner Archive release of the 1959-60 second season of the classic Western series "Bronco" is that you will find yourself singing "Bronco, Bronco" in the style of the catchy theme song. 

It is equally important to note that both the writing and the acting in this season are better than the still wonderfully entertaining first season of "Bronco," which Unreal TV reviewed a few months ago. The plots extend nicely beyond standard Western stories, and the noticeably more relaxed acting of star Ty Hardin in his role as the titular Bronco Layne is less like that of a adult film performer.

On a related note, scenes in which nothing apparently comes between Hardin and his very tight Wranglers makes one wonder if the connection between four-legged horses and the titular character that prompts the nickname of the latter truly relates to his lifelong ability to work with the former.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Archive, of scenes in an S2 episode clearly shows that this season is worth checking out for reasons that include the aforementioned enhancements. Hardin shows great charm and humor, and "Gilligan's Island" fans get a glimpse of the terrific performance by Alan Hale, Jr. in this outing.

The S2 season premiere episode emits an uber-awesome vibe of legendary (and Unreal TV reviewed) '50s Western series "Maverick." This one has Bronco unwittingly set up a wealthy man who is his new best friend as the victim of a particularly clever female card sharp. Circumstances dictate that Bronco both capture and outwit the femme fatale.

Another "Maverick" style episode has drifter Bronco dragged into a nefarious plot by accepting a job to escort a body on a train trip; our hero subsequently being arrested for a theft that occurs during that journey requires playing 19th century detective.

Bronco also figuratively dons his deerstalker cap in the season finale; crimes that seem to be the work of outlaws who previously are seen with hangman's nooses around their necks require finding an explanation. The solution is not particularly apparent early in the episode but the dire circumstances in which poor dopey Bronco subsequently finds himself are obvious to anyone who has watched or read any mystery.

It is less of a mystery that the apparent appeal of a whodunit episode seemingly prompts other S2 episodes that has Bronco solving crimes; examples include finding the true culprit while striving to see that an accused murderer (played by Edgar Buchanan of "Petticoat Junction") is not killed before obtaining a fair trial regarding the offense, identifying the murderer of a man facing a threat from a vengeful individual from his past, and going undercover in a criminal haven that is similar to the community of Black Crater in the Unreal TV reviewed  Russ Tamblyn film "The Young Guns."

Another episode very cooly ties in Bronco's past as a Confederate officer during the Civil War by having him face the wrath of a former Union (and current United States) military officer whom Bronco dupes into facilitating a sabotage raid during the war. The flashback scenes of the events that prompt the desire for revenge provide a great glimpse into the occasionally mentioned past of our hero. Further, Bronco leaves no doubt regarding his being a man of honor in his present.

More traditional Western storylines have Bronco getting involved in a range war between cattlemen and sheep farmers (but surprisingly supporting the latter), finding himself in a literal Mexican standoff, and (again) literally getting caught in the crossfire between two feuding families.

The "Hatfields" style story includes an intriguing nature versus nurture element and genuine universal drama and humor. This outing further offers a moral regarding the serious unintended consequences that youthful pranks can cause. Another bonus in this one is a guest star appearance by a particularly dreamy Troy Donahue, who appears in a different role in an S1 episode.

The discussed episodes and the remaining ones clearly demonstrate that "Bronco" the series and the man have wide appeal that only improve after their first season adventures.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Bronco" is welcome to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.