Monday, April 13, 2015

HONDO (1967): TV's Unlikeliest Syndication Success?



HONDO (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Kathie Browne as Angie Dow, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, Michael Pate as Chief Vittoro, Buddy Foster as Johnny Dow, William Bryant as Colonel Crook. Produced by Andrew J. Fenady.

Warner Archive Instant is a true reservoir of television history, with the likes of DAKTARI, 77 SUNSET STRIP and SURFSIDE SIX among the 1960's hits available.  The service also offers a wealth of prime time's unsung--shows like MAYA, LUCAN and THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS, all largely unseen since network cancellation.

One of WA's one season wonders is a little less obscure than the others.  Premiering on September 8, 1967, it vanished from prime time for good by New Year's Eve that year.  But in between HONDO's brief life in ABC's Friday night lineup forty-eight years ago and its current Roku return, the hour-long western became perhaps the most unlikely syndication success story of all.


In adapting the 1953 John Wayne vehicle for series TV, producer Andrew J. Fenady (THE REBEL) fleshed out Hondo Lane's backstory.  Like his big screen counterpart, he's half Apache and once lived with the tribe. However, TV's Hondo had also taken an Apache bride, and after his wife Destarte was killed in a Cavalry raid, the embittered Lane sought revenge against those he held responsible--the U.S. Army.  Hondo joined the Confederates and wreaked havoc on Union forces in Texas and Arkansas.  ("He spent more time behind our lines than he did his own", a General observes.)  The Civil War now over, the still agonizing Hondo travels the southwest, often drunk, disorderly and arrested despite being a man of few words.  Lane's only companion is his equally scruffy and independent dog Sam.


It is when Lane drifts into Arizona territory that his old adversary Colonel Crook offers an olive branch, and a job with the cavalry.  Lane reluctantly agrees to operate out of Captain Richards' Fort Lowell and assist in peace talks with his former father-in-law who is now Apache Chief--Vittoro (Michael Pate, reprising his film role).  Fenady also renamed the Lowes (now the Dows) and moved Angie and her son from a ranch to Fort Lowell's general store.  Hondo rescues them from renegades in the pilot episode; Mrs. Dow's abusive husband is ungrateful, but (SPOILER ALERT!) the storekeeper's greed costs him his life by episode's end.  A mutual attraction between widower Lane and widow Dow is obvious, though both are still healing. 


The task of stepping into John Wayne's shoes went to sturdy Ralph Taeger.  Never the most expressive performer, Taeger's understated approach made him very well cast as the brooding, unpoised Hondo Lane.  Taeger's stoicism was countered amusingly by Noah Beery's animated take on Buffalo Baker.  Baker had been played by burly Ward Bond in the film; for the HONDO series, Fenady sought to make Buffalo more of a traditional sidekick.  The physical contrast between 6'3" Taeger and 5'11" Beery assisted this goal as effectively as their respective acting styles.


The series setup isn't without problems--Hondo's CSA past would be off-putting if a viewer missed the pilot (and explanation for it).  Still, it enhances the redemption theme, and the premise of gruff loner Lane seeking closure with his past while trying to prevent present (and future) bloodshed lent itself to interesting scenarios.  In addition to dealing with the opener's renegades, Hondo and Sam would meet bandits, land grabbers, vigilantes and con men.  Would Taeger's third try at headlining a series (after ACAPULCO and KLONDIKE) be the charm for the actor?

Hey, Gary Clarke DOES look a little like Stuntman Mike!
Not in 1967--at least, not on Friday nights at 8:30 ET.  CBS' GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. was a ratings juggernaut (3rd overall) and NBC's STAR TREK already had a loyal following established in its second.  With few viewers left over for the freshman ABC entry, HONDO premiered at 74th place in the Nielsens and never rose above a 27 share for the hour, resulting in a quick hook from the network after only 17 shows.

Could HONDO have succeeded under different circumstances?  In an era that saw the less interesting (IMO) IRON HORSE and LANCER renewed for Sophomore seasons, it certainly seems possible.

Nevertheless, no time slot change came, and the struggling network (ABC had only four of Nielsen's top 30 in '67) put HONDO in mothballs instead, where it largely remained for the next two decades.


Enter the cable explosion of the Eighties.  Ted Turner acquired MGM's television library for the launch of his TNT channel on October 3, 1988.  Shortly after its premiere, TNT began a three hour block of short-lived classic western series on Saturday mornings, with THE TRAVELS OF JAMIE McPHEETERS (starring Charles Bronson and a preteen Kurt Russell) and HOW THE WEST WAS WON (with James Arness post-GUNSMOKE) joining HONDO.


HONDO had the fewest episodes of the three, and lacked the star power of the others (Taeger had long retired from Hollywood) but it was the show that caught on, attracting a cult following and remaining a staple of TNT's weekend (moving to Sunday mornings in the mid-1990's) for nearly a full decade.  Quite a feat with only 17 installments available.

How did HONDO secure such a loyal audience so many years later?  My thoughts:

Batjac business.  The original John Wayne feature was held out of circulation by his heirs for many years, rarely shown on television and unreleased on VHS until 1994, which only enhanced HONDO's status as a highly sought after Duke classic.  The film's scarcity was even central to the plot of two different MARRIED...WITH CHILDREN episodes, and that unavailability probably helped the HONDO series once it began airing for the first time in a generation.  Hondo Lane's adventures had an audience that remembered and missed the Wayne original, and that demographic was often in front of the TV for Saturday at the Westerns.


Sam.  Kids were also in front of the TV on Saturday mornings, and a live action series with a loyal dog featured on a weekly basis had to help attract the pre-teens.  Particularly when Sam was edgier than most.  Rough and tough like his owner, self-sufficient, but never far from the action, and not possessing the almost human powers of a Lassie that even older children would find silly.  Sam and Hondo's relationship also had more bite (i.e. as in the film, Hondo keeps telling Sam to find his own food!) than the often sappy human/animal bonds depicted in competing shows actually aimed at children.

Or, perhaps it's just because Marie Gomez guest starred once; a six percent chance of seeing her is enough, right? 

Marie Gomez in "Hondo and the Comancheros"
Regardless of the reason, television's Hondo Lane belatedly found a cult a generation ago, and he might even expand it during the age of Roku.  As you've probably guessed by now if you've read up until this point, the Horn Section will be taking you through each episode in the coming months. 

As mentioned above, HONDO: THE COMPLETE SERIES is streaming via Warner Archive Instant if you'd like to follow along as the episode guide unfolds.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Missing No Longer: THE QUIET GUN (1957) and BARQUERO (1970)

 
Quite an eventful month for Western fans.  Within a four week period, two long requested cult favorites will finally be surfacing on DVD and Blu-Ray.  As luck would have it, both films star two of the Golden Boot Awards' inaugural class: legendary badass Lee Van Cleef and the great Forrest Tucker, who needs no introduction here.

Tuck was still known for playing truculent villains and taciturn heroes when he starred in Fox's RegalScope feature THE QUIET GUN in 1957.  (Not for long; his image-changing roles in AUNTIE MAME and THE MUSIC MAN were only a year away.) While his Republic vehicles had bigger budgets and his British science fiction efforts (THE CRAWLING EYE) are better known, for my money THE QUIET GUN is Forrest Tucker's best leading role, period.


Tucker plays Rock River's Sheriff Brandon, a gruff but fair-minded man who, like Marshal Will Kane, upholds the law in a town that doesn't deserve his efforts.  Rock River is plagued by bigotry and corruption, and those two elements collide to take the lives of a city attorney and Brandon's estranged friend (Jim Davis).  It's up to the Sheriff to stand alone against vigilante justice and to investigate the sinister motives behind unwarranted harassment (for "moral" reasons, mind you) that resulted in tragedy.


THE QUIET GUN was adapted from the novel Law Man by Lauran Payne, whose OPEN RANGE MEN was filmed with much greater success at the box office some forty-six years later.  While THE QUIET GUN found little notice initially, its reputation has grown over the years.  Toby Roan calls THE QUIET GUN "maybe the best of the RegalScope Westerns" and DVD Talk's Adam Tyner and High-Def Digest's Matthew Hartman are among others sharing my enthusiasm for it.  Thanks to Olive Films, THE QUIET GUN is now out on both DVD and BluRay as of March 31.  Mara Corday and Kathleen Crowley also star.

Jim Davis and Mara Corday in THE QUIET GUN
If THE QUIET GUN isn't the DVD release that I've been waiting on the longest, the month's other new arrival almost certainly is: 1970's BARQUERO, which will be coming to us courtesy of Kino Lorber on April 28th.


BARQUERO was the very first film review here at the Horn Section, and I've revisited it since to sing the praises of Marie Gomez for Forgotten Films' Crushathon.  Tucker and Van Cleef co-starred for the first time in thirteen years, with billings reversed.  By 1970, it was Van Cleef who was playing tight-lipped leads, with BARQUERO being his triumphant return to American films after six star-making years in Italian westerns.


No surprise that the ultraviolent BARQUERO is heavily influenced by the films Van Cleef became famous for.  There's also an unmistakable WILD BUNCH vibe, and you'd be hard pressed to find more of a "guy movie" cast.   Formidable (if mentally unstable) opposition to Van Cleef is provided by Peckinpah's go-to actor, Warren Oates.  Oates' right-hand man is Sinbad himself, Kerwin Mathews.  Armando Silvestre and John Davis Chandler (another Peckinpah regular) are among Oates' mercenaries, and Mariette Hartley provides temptation for our antihero.


BARQUERO ended up being Forrest Tucker's final theatrical western, and the ant-eating, bearded Mountain Phil was one of his best supporting roles.  He's just as violent as the two leads, able to smile affably mere seconds after slicing a man's throat.  Director Gordon Douglas was a last-minute replacement for Robert Sparr, who was tragically killed in a plane crash while scouting Colorado locations for the film on August 28, 1969.  Cinematographer Gerald Finnerman was the sole survivor of that crash (spending several years in full metal body brace afterwards).


Despite the appeal of its cast, BARQUERO was even more neglected than THE QUIET GUN, as it was never even released on VHS in the U.S. before this month.  In fact, it was largely ignored altogether, until Showtime and Encore Westerns began airing it in the 2000's, earning the film its long-deserved cult following and eventual home video release.


I didn't see a single review written in 1970 that made note of BARQUERO as a Vietnam allegory.  Hartman has a another take, seeing an Old Testament theme in the proceedings.   Patrick Bromley at DVD Verdict and Ian Jane at DVD Talk have offered their reviews this week as well.  My 2006 review is here, and I have to say it's a proud moment for the Section to have our very first spotlighted film out on DVD and BluRay on April 28th.  If the print on MGM HD Channel is any indication, the release should look fantastic.

More Film and TV reviews to come, as always!

Friday, March 27, 2015

F TROOP Fridays: "Our Brave in F Troop" (1967)







F TROOP Fridays: Number Nine







F TROOP: "Our Brave in F Troop" (Season Two, Episode 64; Original Air Date: March 30, 1967) Starring Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Frank de Kova, Don Diamond, James Hampton, Bob Steele, Joe Brooks.  Guest Stars Cliff Arquette and Hal England.  Written by Austin and Irma Kalish.  Directed by Seymour Robbie.


This edition of F Troop Fridays doubles as The Horn Section's contribution to the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by Terence Towles Canote.  Terence's blog A Shroud of Thoughts is "dedicated to pop culture in all its forms".  I highly recommend you check it out; you're likely to become a regular visitor like I am.

For The Horn Section's contribution, we look at a classic episode that told the story of an ambitious and unconventional young officer who stood out in the 1860's with his distinctively long hair.  His rapid rise through the ranks astonished his fellow United States Cavalrymen.


No, NOT this guy:

His only appearance was in Old Ironpants.  I'm talking about THIS guy:



Without further ado, Our Brave in F Troop:

We fade in on the Hekawi camp, with Crazy Cat (Diamond) assisting Chief Wild Eagle (deKova) with the extraction of what appears to be a troublesome premolar.


Craze feels that this "modern" method has made ritual chants obsolete, but the old school Chief insists.  Either he's a proud guardian of tradition, or just stalling.  (My money's on the latter.)  Miraculously, the tooth stops hurting and Wild Eagle abandons the extraction (noting that "losing nerve" is better than "losing whole jaw").  The arrival of business partners O'Rourke (Tucker) and Agarn (Storch) buys the Chief a bit of time.


So much for the "miracle": the visitors are greeted with Wild Eagle's howl of pain.  The Chief's odontalgia has been active for several nights, keeping the entire tribe awake and slowing production for O'Rourke Enterprises.  In addition, a pint of saloon whiskey has been lost to Wild Eagle's effort to dull the aching.  The Sarge lets it slip that the army dentist will be arriving to treat the soldiers with an even more modernized method than Crazy Cat's, working with laughing gas--"a new painless method for pulling teeth".


A trip to the dentist that's painless--and free?  It's enough to have Wild Eagle interested in a temporary tour of duty.  Interested, Hell--he insists.

"O'Rourke not come through for Wild Eagle, Hekawis not come through for O'Rourke Enterprises."  Agarn points out the obstacles: needing to fool the captain and a dentist, a uniform, etc.  But we all know by now that profits take priority. True, a court martial is a considerable risk, but when has that ever stopped Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke?  "Straighten up, Soldier--you're in the army now!"


Back at the Fort, the non-coms have located a suitable uniform, and have Private Wild Eagle ready for his multi-hour hitch.  Matter of fact, he looks better in the lineup than about half of F Troop right away.  Standing to Wild Eagle's left in formation, Dobbs (Hampton) gives the Hekawi in blue a brief glance, but shakes it off.


But can Wild Eagle fool the Captain (Berry)?  He's a shrewd one, Agarn reminds us. 


Parmenter has two news items for his Troop at morning assembly.  First, General Sam Courage, the Fort's namesake, is arriving at noon tomorrow as part of his retirement tour.  Second, and more important to F Troop's newest member, the army dentist is there now for his semi-annual visit.  (Shouldn't that be bi-annual, Captain?)  "You know his motto: see your soldiers twice a year!"  The Chief displays just as phony a laugh as anyone at the Captain's little joke.  About a 2.5 on the McMahon Scale.


Maybe the laugh was still a little too hearty, since it did pique the shrewd one's curiosity.  After dismissal, Agarn quickly escorts the new trooper away, while Parmenter asks O'Rourke who that "somewhat familiar" soldier is.  Sarge swats the question away with his customary ease ("Corporal Agarn should look familiar to you, Sir!"). The Captain is too distracted by General Courage's visit at the moment to press further.  He called the Sarge over to place him in charge of Fort Courage for the time being.  "Dobbs and I are going to ride out to greet the General."

That's a real break for O'Rourke's scheme of the week, since now he only needs the temporary command to extend past the brevity of Private Wild Eagle's "enlistment".  The newest F Troop recruit still isn't at ease, though, when he sees the patient before him exiting the dentist's office with Duffy (Steele).


But, it's too late to turn back now.  The Sarge stands guard at the door while Agarn accompanies Wild Eagle inside. 


In the dentist's office, we find a familiar face.  Lt. Goodbody is played by Hal England, who also played the Troop's doctor Lt. Anderson in El Diablo.  Goodbody shares Anderson's soothing demeanor and (fortunately for Agarn) cluelessness, not batting an eye at Wild Eagle's refusal to remove his hat or his decidedly unmilitary haircut after he does.  No, the Lieutenant is too busy reassuring the uneasy Chief that he "always" works fast, having finished his four year dental course in a mere 7 months.


Okay, so that didn't work.  Maybe the laughing gas will, and Dr. Goodbody explains that it will take effect in a few minutes.  At which time he'll be back for the extraction.  Incidentally, kudos to the Kalishes for the historical accuracy.  Nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) first came into general use at the Colton Dental Association clinics in the east in 1863--four years before it is depicted as reaching midwestern Fort Courage for the first time.

But once again, the Chief's dental work is interrupted, this time by the Sarge.  O'Rourke appears at the window with some distressing news: "General Courage is in town now!"


As ranking officer, O'Rourke has to go over the stage depot to meet him.  Of course, panicky Agarn doesn't want to be left alone with the new recruit (what if the Captain comes back?), so they agree to take Wild Eagle with them.  Somewhat bold, true, but likely the least bad alternative.  Besides, the Chief, who's had a few anesthetic whiffs already, confirms that he's feeling no pain now.

Meanwhile, at the stage depot, Wrangler Jane (Patterson) does her best to keep General Courage (Arquette) company while they wait for the troopers. 


Fort Courage's namesake proves that sometimes appearances aren't deceiving.  We get the "in my day" idiom immediately:  "They would have had a regiment to greet a visiting General!!"


After several years of playing homespun codger Charley Weaver, Cliff Arquette is a perfect choice for equally doddering General Sam Courage, who isn't having any excuses for Parmenter's failure to be present.  "A good officer always expects the unexpected!"  Of course, no miscommunication can be the fault of a General.  "I didn't miss him, he missed ME!"  (Our Brave in F Troop would turn out to be Arquette's last non-Weaver acting role; he would continue as Weaver on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES until his death in 1974.)

Fortunately Courage doesn't have to sputter and fume long, as O'Rourke, Agarn and Wild Eagle arrive to salute him.  Well, the first two, anyway.  Wild Eagle greets him with: "How!"


Agarn stammers out a few "humminas" that would make Ralph Kramden proud.  "That's his name, Sir!  Private Howe!"  Who, O'Rourke further explains, volunteered to carry the General's baggage.  Courage has enough familiarity with F Troop to know that any volunteer "must be new around here".  Very perceptive!

En route to the fort, the men encounter a large puddle, which enables Private Howe to impulsively show further initiative by channeling his inner Sir Walter Raleigh--with Agarn's jacket.


General Courage gives more than just mere credit when Howe "uses his head".  He inflates the NCO ranks by one, promoting him to Corporal.  Not something that makes F Troop's existing Corporal happy, since Wild Eagle just accomplished in less than an hour what it took Agarn six years to achieve.


Look at the bright side, Randolph.  Now Wild Eagle has an official reason to be in the same quarters with O'Rourke and Agarn, so it'll be easier to keep an eye on him.  If they can keep him from sleeping on the ground outside, which is the Chief's preference.  It's a good thing they didn't allow that, since General Courage continues his sentimental journey by visiting them in the non-com quarters.  Clearly, General Courage is enjoying his trip.


Initially outraged at the lack of a cot for Corporal Howe, the General is pleased when he learns that sleeping on the floor is the new NCO's preference.  So pleased, in fact, that he decides another promotion is in order.  The sleeping soldier will now be Sergeant Howe when he wakes up.


While Wild Eagle works his way up the rankings in the army, his assistant is also pleased to learn the following morning that he is still acting Chief.  We've all wondered what the Hekawi camp would look like under the leadership of Chief Crazy Cat, and now we know:


O'Rourke cautions that Wild Eagle will be back soon, and once the Sarge is back at the fort, Corporal Agarn has good news and bad news.  The former being that they're already rid of Sergeant Howe.  The bad news?  It's because he's now Lieutenant Howe.


Too bad we weren't shown the scene that Corporal Agarn describes.  They fired the cannon to honor General Courage.  As always, the tower fell--and would have fallen on the fort's namesake, only Wild Eagle pushed him out of the way, leading to his commission in the field.

That order!!!
O'Rourke has had enough, but Wild Eagle isn't going to the dispensary.  "A good officer learn to live with pain!"  He orders his new underlings to salute him, lest they lose their stripes!  Well, looks like Crazy Cat can enjoy his own promotion a little longer.

Still acting Chief!
But hey, where did Captain Whatshisname go?  Fort Courage's C.O. and bugler are still lost, and it has to be 24 hours since they left now.


Probably time for a search party, but with the turmoil back at the post, who's going to order it?  Wilton feels a renewed sense of urgency to find his way back, since it suddenly strikes him that that "strange looking trooper" (Dobbs: "Which one is that Sir?  We have so many.") was in fact Wild Eagle!  Eager to get back and check out his hunch, the Captain tries turning navigation over to the horses, who "have the instincts of homing pigeons".  That they do.  Unfortunately, they are just a wee bit faster than the men are on foot.


Too bad, since the commanding officer be missing a powwow that has been called by General Courage with F Troop's other leaders concerning the Hekawi.  "Good subject," declares the newly commissioned Lieutenant Howe.  General Courage has the same worry that every clueless visiting officer has: the possibility that the Hekawi will go on the warpath.


Despite Lieutenant Howe's assurance that Wild Eagle is a "big peace lover" (and he should know), he does have a suggestion for keeping treaties intact:  "Money!"  The General, puzzled initially, quickly finds value in this suggestion: setting the Hekawi up in business for themselves!


Howe further suggests calling it Hekawi Enterprises, and the new soldier's winning streak continues.  "I'm promoting Lieutenant Howe to Major, and putting HIM in charge of the Hekawi Enterprises!"

50/50 eh?  Not anymore!!

Naturally, there won't be room at Fort Courage for two commanders, so just one episode after he passed the test for Major and turned it down to stay (The Majority of Wilton), Parmenter finds himself being booted out anyway.  In fact, his office is already being cleaned out for him in absentia as a crying Wrangler Jane exits.  (Nagging Question # 1: Isn't anyone worried about Parmenter and Dobbs making it back at all at this point?) Stunningly, Corporal Agarn dries up the tear ducts for once after the Sarge's sobering assessment of the effect of this promotion on their finances.

It's time for the Corporal's frequent question, always asked when it looks like O'Rourke Enterprises might go the way of Lehman Brothers:  "What are we gonna do, Sarge?"  The crafty Sergeant always thinks of something, and finds his ace in the hole right there on Parmenter's desk--the Officer's Manual.


In the meantime, Fort Courage's new commander is back at the dispensary, finally about to get that tooth pulled by Lt. Goodbody.  The dentist exits to let the laughing gas take effect, but he'll find his patient missing yet again when he returns.  Manual in hand, O'Rourke and Agarn have arrived to take Major Howe away again.  "You're leaving the army!"


The gloves are off, and so is the anesthesia mask filling the air with nitrous oxide, of course.  Wild Eagle disputes that he'll be leaving the army, noting the fun of "working his way up the ranks" all over again (how long did it take him to become Chief?) and the added security of an Army pension.


But the manual doesn't lie, though it can be hard to understand when the men reading it have been getting high off the gasses in the air for about thirty seconds.  Wild Eagle laughs it off himself; he's ready to take the "qualification test" by proving his physical fitness right away.


Once General Courage is encouraged to continue his nostalgia tour by taking the entire troop out for a hike, it's time for Major Howe to earn the respect of the men under his command.  (Nagging Question # 2: How's he gonna do that when none of them, save O'Rourke and Agarn, are there to witness this?)  The first test involves a big pile of chopped firewood being carried up to the lookout tower log by log--then being carried back down the same way.


But he surprises the soldiers, just like Agarn previously surprised the Chief during his Hekawi initiation.  Wild Eagle makes it past this first hurdle, and it's on to the well.  How deep is it?  Just to the bottom.


If this series of tests is truly a requirement for commission, we now know why no one in F Troop ever receives one.   Wild Eagle, on the other hand, shows that he is in damned good shape.  Maybe sleeping on the floor really does toughen you up!


Finally, though, the combination of fatigue and a cannonball brings the first bump in the road, and a now sweaty Wild Eagle is breathing heavily and ready to go back to being Chief of his tribe.  There's four more tests, and he declares himself too pooped to pass.


There's the little matter of getting rid of the evidence at a big rock (not the one that looks like a bear) outside the Fort after Wild Eagle's resignation.  While this is in process (along with plans to announce Major Howe as A.W.O.L.), General Sam Courage continues to prove himself very worthy of his namesake.  He's hopelessly lost and none of the men are following his directions.  Matter of fact, they're nowhere to be found.  He's as lost as the Captain when his compass takes him to the scene of the crime. 


"Traitors!  Murderers!!"  This takes a little explaining, especially after Wild Eagle emerges and declares Major Howe "all gone".  Once the Chief and Major Howe are proven to be one and the same, the General has a new charge: foisting an imposter Major on the United States Cavalry.


Sticky situation, but O'Rourke reveals a bargaining chip.  Since Wild Eagle was snuck in as a Private, and the General actually promoted him up through the ranks, he'd be exposing himself.  No retirement with honors.  No book deal for his memoirs.  "They might even change the name of Fort Courage!"


(Oh, I don't know about that last one, Agarn.  After all, General "Indian Bill" Baxter did far worse, and that Fort still bore his name a century later.)

Regardless, the point is proven, with the short-lived Howe Era will remain their secret.  The General proving his worth by trumping O'Rourke's "AWOL" idea.  "I'll transfer Major Howe to a desk in Washington!"  Thus ensuring he'll never be heard from again.


In the coda, well, we can finally stop worrying about Captain Parmenter.  He's made it home--safe, if not exactly sound.


When he suggests that Wild Eagle is in the troop, plotting to take over the fort, O'Rourke, Agarn and Courage all laugh it off. with the General especially peeved at the suggestion that any such chicanery could go on in his presence.  "I could spot an Indian the minute I seen one!"


"It's all the teeth", explains the General, at the precise moment that a full set of teeth flies into the frame tied to an arrow.  Hopefully it isn't Wild Eagle's.  (For what it's worth, he isn't toothless in the subsequent episode, Is This Fort Really Necessary?)  If it is the result of Crazy Cat's modern tooth pulling, Wild Eagle's comment in the opening scene proved sadly prophetic.

LOOK OUT FOR THAT PENULTIMATE!:

The next to last episodes of both seasons (The Day the Indians Won, Our Brave in F Troop) found Hekawi Chief Wild Eagle taking over Fort Courage--the only two times this ever happened.


WISE OLD HEKAWI SAYING?

Since Chief Wild Eagle spent most of this episode as a soldier, we don't get one.  His assistant does have a memorable line while filling in.  "When Wild Eagle away, Crazy Cat play!"

NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH TREASON:

Once, and General Courage comes right out and calls O'Rourke and Agarn traitors.  Murderers too!


PC, OR NOT PC?

Chief Wild Eagle proves to be the best conditioned and most industrious soldier in the history of F Troop during his brief stay.  His rapid move up the ranks would make Custer green with envy, and he takes charge of both Fort Courage and O'Rourke Enterprises in what can literally be described as a bloodless coup.  That said, the parting words of the "Major" might raise a few eyebrows: "Better red man than dead man!"

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I chose to highlight this one for the Favourite TV Episode Blogathon over several other contenders.  Our Brave in F Troop stands out, as a perfect blend of the first season's foremost comedy drivers with the heightened surrealism of the second season.

After a number of experimental episodes, some successful (The Day They Shot Agarn), others lacking (That's Show Biz), Mr. and Mrs. Kalish took the show back to basics and upped the ante a bit.  O'Rourke is again concealing a business scheme from his commander.  The Sergeant's entire enterprise is threatened by its highest ranking visiting officer yet.  Wild Eagle uses the visiting brass in his gamesmanship for a better deal and (as he had in Iron Horse Go Home) overplays his hand.  This very welcome return to the show's roots was sharply directed by Robbie.  Special kudos to Cliff Arquette--the long awaited appearance of Fort Courage's namesake didn't disappoint.  Deservedly included in every "Best of" compilation so far.  (**** out of four)

F TROOP currently airs on Me-TV for a full hour each Saturday morning at 5 AM ET/4 AM CT and on Sunday mornings at 6 AM ET/5 AM CT.