Saturday, March 8, 2008

Poll Results, New Poll, and Upcoming Housekeeping...

The "Magnificent" Poll winner!

Well, the results of the latest poll were quite interesting… with the winner being "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines"! At first, it looked as if the "Great Race" would be a runaway winner, since after the first few days, the vote was about 5 to 1 in favor of it, but the "Magnificent Men" staged a steady comeback, adding a vote a day, and when it was all said and done, it won the polling, 6 to 5! A thank you to all who participated!

Next, a bit more esoteric, but I’ll go ahead and give it a "college" try. Although Steampunk wasn't exactly defined until about a little over a decade ago, and only recently seems to have emerged as a defined genre, the small screen has had a number of lesser known shows, that today could be considered Steampunk, therefore... this poll will be for the best TV Steampunk series, with the narratives courtesy of

The Wild Wild West

CBS had an instant hit on their hands when The Wild Wild West made its network debut on September 17, 1965. While many of the popular TV Westerns were running out of steam, series creator Michael Garrison ripped a page from the Ian Fleming/Sean Connery playbook and conceived The Wild Wild West as a "James Bond Western," energizing the genre by combining a traditional Western setting (primarily the San Francisco region in the 1870s) with the accoutrements of the spy genre. It was a foolproof formula, further refined by producer Fred Frieberger (who later produced the third and final season of Star Trek), and TWWW held its popular time-slot (7:30-8:30 on Friday nights) for its entire four-season run. Smart casting proved to be another source of audience appeal: While Robert Conrad fit nicely into his role (and tight-fitting costume) as macho Secret Service agent James West, doing his own challenging stunts and charming each episode's obligatory beautiful female guest star, Ross Martin proved an equally excellent choice to play West's skillful sidekick Artemus Gordon, a debonair dandy whose mastery of disguises and dialects would prove essential as they tackled dangerous crime-fighting assignments from President Ulysses S. Grant.

The series' unique appeal arose from its clever and frequently bizarre plots. Every episode title began with a variation of "The Night of..." (including the pilot, "The Night of the Inferno," with more unusual titles thereafter), and as Jim and Arte plotted strategies from the comfort of their tricked-out custom railroad car, their exploits frequently led them into realms of the occult, mad science, bizarre inventions, and villains so eccentrically twisted that they became instant favorites among the show's growing legion of fans. Best of them all was the nefarious Miguelito Loveless, first appearing in "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth" (original airdate 10/01/65) and played to perfection by dwarf actor Michael Dunn, a '60s TV regular familiar to Star Trek fans from his memorable role in the original series episode "Plato's Stepchildren." A gifted, intellectual renaissance man (like Ross Martin) with an angelic singing voice, Dunn was an overnight sensation, guest-starring in four of the first season's 28 episodes, with six more appearances in subsequent seasons. Dunn's gleeful malevolence (accompanied by his mute henchman Voltaire, played by giant actor Richard Kiel) was an essential addition to the series' sideshow esthetic; weirdness, humor, gorgeous women, and devious ingenuity (in plotting, action and gadgetry), became the trademarks that set TWWW apart from its more conventional TV Western competition. --Jeff Shannon

The Adventures of Briscoe County Junior

A science fiction-Western and comedy-drama with echoes of The Wild Wild West and Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.: The Complete Series is uniquely entertaining. Anchored by the comically heroic style of likable B-movie actor Bruce Campbell, Adventures lasted one television season in 1993-94. But it left behind a full 27 episodes (including two two-part stories) full of classic TV Western production values and a running storyline that resembles The X-Files after awhile.

Campbell plays Brisco County Jr., a bounty hunter and son of a legendary U.S. marshal (R. Lee Ermey) gunned down by the villainous John Bly (Billy Drago) and his band of misfits. The younger Brisco is hired by a consortium of businessmen to protect their interests from the likes of Bly, and while he's dedicated to that cause, Brisco is also determined to avenge his father's murder. Helping him do a little of both is a fussy attorney, Socrates Poole (Christian Clemenson); a rival bounty hunter, Lord Bowler (Julius Carry); a wacky inventor, Professor Wickwire (John Astin); and a sultry saloon singer, Dixie (Kelly Rutherford). Rockets, mysterious orbs, and superhuman strength are some of the delightfully out-of-their-element phenomena that find themselves alongside more conventional cowpoke ingredients, including a horse so smart he can chew the ropes binding Brisco's hands. For the most part, the stories stand alone. But as the season progresses, a lot of things get weirder, albeit in a good way: the truth about Bly and his connection to a golden orb everyone wants, for example, are certainly unexpected. But the show is always dazzling, often satiric ("Oy!" Dixie exclaims when Brisco outlines the steps involved in stopping a runaway wagon they're trapped within), yet heartening in an old-fashioned way. Special features include Campbell's reading of a chapter about the series in his autobiography. --Tom Keogh

The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne

In the genre of science fiction television that is known for lack of well-developed characters, "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" is delightful exception to the rule. The four regular characters, Phileas and Rebecca Fogg, Jules Verne, and Passepartout, wander the world of the 1860's in Phileas' fantastic dirigible the Aurora. Phileas, played by Michael Praed, is an ex-British Secret Service agent, an adventurer and a gambler, out to enjoy his pleasures but forever being diverted to aid his friends. His distant cousin Rebecca, played by Francesca Hunt, is a nineteenth-century Mrs. Peel, an agent extraordinaire who mixes strength and daring with warmth and vulnerability. Chris Demetral's Jules Verne is a young visionary, a blend of innocence and insight that forges a link with these people who recognize his extraordinary gifts.
Michel Courtemanche brings a wonderful blend of humor and intelligence to the inventive valet. It has humor, it has adventure, it has mystery, it has sexual tension (everyone is attracted to Rebecca, including Phileas and Jules), it has angst (watch for Phileas' reasons for quitting the secret service). It is science fiction with a refreshing nineteenth-century twist. There is a weakness in the early episodes in plot lines, but plots get better quickly. Stick with the series and it's a real treat. And kudos to Francesca Hunt's Rebecca, the strongest and most appealing female character on television today.


As a footnote, I shall be making some notable modifications to the blog content, especially concerning weblinks, many of which have gone to the great beyond, and other new ones that deserve mention - so please stand by for change!

1 comment:

Corgi said...

As much as I love WWW, Jules Verne is definitely the more classically steampunk, and was deliberately designed that way, instead of the sort of inadvertent 'oh yeah, it is, isn't it?' status of WWW. It's a matter of intent, really.

Tanarian Davies
Harborside and Brigadoon