Thursday, August 11, 2016

F TROOP Fridays: TV GUIDE, August 13-19, 1966

Once again lifting what is a regular feature by Mitchell Hadley at his excellent blog It's About TV, I'm going to take another excursion into his territory for this week's edition of F Troop Fridays with a look back at another classic issue of TV Guide.



It was 50 years ago Saturday that the great Larry Storch became the second star of F TROOP to make the cover of the venerable U.S. television weekly (with co-star Melody Patterson). 

F Troop was riding high at the end of its first season, the first ABC show to survive the time slot on Tuesdays at 9 PM ET opposite CBS' seemingly invincible Red Skelton Show since The Rifleman accomplished the feat in 1961.  Michael Fessier Jr. profiled the man producer Hy Averback called "our gravy comedian" for The World of Larry Storch.



Fessier caught up with Storch and the rest of the F Troop cast during filming of the second season opener, The Singing Mountie. Fessier notes that the comedian seems to have it made at age 43: "a berth on a hit series, an $85,000 dream house, a lovely and devoted wife". 

Forrest Tucker, profiled by the magazine the previous December, has the memorable quote about his lifelong friend and co-star: "Larry lives in a world belonging to Larry Storch; when you get lucky he lets you in."  Fessier goes back to Storch's show-biz beginnings as a boy impressionist in New York, noted for his ability to do character actors of his youth like Guy Kibbee and Charles Grapewin; later, Storch could approximate radio star Frank Morgan so well that he often did the show for Morgan while the star was nowhere near the studio!


The year 1960 is listed as a "career nadir" for Storch, with a stalled career and a problem with alcohol--something that Tucker would also battle with years later.  (It was a rare year without imdb credits for Larry, save for WHO WAS THAT LADY? which was shot in 1959.)  Enter Norma Booth, credited with "shaping him up", taking over management of his career, and marrying Larry in 1961. 

L to R: Larry Storch, Melody Patterson and Norma Storch in 2003

(Incidentally, there's no mention of Norma Storch's bi-racial daughter June Cross in the article, no doubt a sad sign of the turbulent era.  Ms. Cross told her story in the 1996 Frontline documentary Secret Daughter, which she later turned into a book.)

There is, however, an interview with another lifelong Storch friend, Tony Curtis, then still riding high in Hollywood and a co-star with his old Navy friend in four features, including the prior year's THE GREAT RACE and the aforementioned WHO WAS THAT LADY?, mentioned in the article. 

Storch in THE GREAT RACE (1965) as Texas Jack

The second feature article is Edith Efron's TV Game Shows: America's Great Spectator Sport.  Just eight years after the infamous quiz show scandals, all appears to be forgiven, with 32 hours of programming weekly, mostly during daytime.  Predictably, Efron laments the failure of more "intellectual" programs like The Young Set in daytime and 1963-64's East Side/West Side in prime time.  Her article, featuring comments by mainstays like Match Game's Gene Rayburn, Allen Ludden of Password and producer Mark Goodson, isn't a flattering one, but fifty years later, it's safe to say that the venerable game show still isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Picture feature They're In the Air--As Well as On It profiles the numerous prime time stars who own and fly their own airplanes.  Robert Lansing of Twelve O'Clock High and Lansing's successor, Paul Burke, both fly, as does Daniel Boone icon Fess Parker.  James Franciscus, late of Mr. Novak, owns a $35,000 twin engine Piper. 


This isn't a "males only" club, we learn that Peyton Place star Susan Oliver is a licensed pilot who sees flying as "a nebulous escape from this world we live in".  The four page feature has one glaring exclusion: Bob Cummings, whose flying was featured prominently in three of his series.  A flight instructor offscreen, Cummings' acrimonious departure from My Living Doll in 1965 ended his long run as a prime time sitcom star. 


At 29, singer Nancy Wilson is already a Grammy winning chart topper away from the tube and a frequent variety guest on it, and Singing Fashions features her in four outfits designed by Chuck Howard for those appearances. 


Of course, I have to give Nancy Wilson an extra picture. 



You're welcome.



Another nice surprise is in store on page 36: two pages on Professor Jerry McNeely, who teaches TV writing at the University of Wisconsin and is also Moonlighting for Fun and Profit.  In this case, "those who can't do, teach" is obliterated: McNeely is a decade into his run as one of TV's busiest writers.  His career started in 1956, the same year he joined UW's faculty.  Ten years later, TV Guide is crowning him "television's numero uno writer in Madison, Wisconsin and a radius of a thousand miles in any direction therein".   

Professor Jerry McNeely with students in 1987
A high-minded intellectual writing for "a maligned TV wasteland" (the writer's words, not mine or McNeely's, and this article isn't credited)?  McNeely admits that he yearns for "more challenging" opportunities, but takes the ones TV has to offer and does the best he can.  From my vantage point, ya did quite well, Teach!  McNeely's work for The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, and Mr. Novak is mentioned, as is the fact that he contributed more scripts to Dr. Kildare (in its final weeks on the air) than any other solo writer. 

McNeely resigned from UW in 1975 to write fulltime and kept selling teleplays, including the TV movies SOMETHING FOR JOEY and FIGHTING BACK: THE STORY OF ROCKY BLEIER.  His career was cut short by a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in the 1990's: he died in 2014.

THE LISTINGS

It's mid-August, so the listings are full of reruns, sports.....and the premiere of a highly acclaimed documentary from a legendary screenwriter and his Emmy-winning brother:

Both The Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Palace air this week, so let's follow the example set by It's About TV and compare lineups:

Hollywood Palace: Victor Borge is your host, with comic professor Irwin Corey (who, incidentally, just turned 102 on July 29th!), choreographer-dancer Peter Genarro, the Kim Sisters and the Kim Brothers, and Irish trapeze artist Gale Shawn.


Ed Sullivan: as you can see above, Ed welcomes Jimmy Durante, comic Myron Cohen, Petulia Clark, contortionist Gitta Morelly, Franco Corelli, Dorothy Kirsten, and the Animals (featuring, of course, Eric Burdon).

While Professor Corey is legendary, so was the great Myron Cohen, who appeared on Sullivan's show 34 times.  Doesn't make him Wayne and Shuster, but obviously, Ed liked him.  (Cohen died in 1986 at age 83.)  I probably would take Borge over Durante, but it's close there too.  It isn't so close elsewhere IMO: Sullivan wins with a considerable overall edge in star power. 


A fitting rerun for a week that featured Larry Storch on the cover, as El Diablo gets an encore on Tuesday's F Troop.  The first of three episodes to give him multiple roles, with five show-stopping Storches this time out--two of them female roles.  I haven't gotten around to reviewing this installment yet; nice to get the reminder that I still have 54 F Troop Fridays to go.


Just in case you were thinking that summer was all reruns: earlier on Tuesday the 16th, at 7:30 ET, NBC aired The Angry Voices of Watts, with A FACE IN THE CROWD writer Budd Schulberg narrating and his brother Stuart producing.  Budd had established the subject of the documentary, the Watts Writers' Workshop, in the wake of the August 1965 Watts Riots.  Jimmy Sherman and Sonora McKellar were among the poets presenting their work.

 A legacy still celebrated, four decades later

A short time after The Angry Voices of Watts aired, contributor Harry E. Dolan Jr. sold a teleplay for NBC's fall premiere, The Hero.  This initial sale kick-started Dolan's career as a TV writer; his original drama Losers Weepers (starring a young Yaphet Kotto and also produced by Stuart Schulberg) soon followed in Febuary 1967.  Dolan kept writing and selling scripts until his untimely death in 1981; his later credits included multiple teleplays for Diahann Carroll's hit Julia.  Johnie Scott also benefited from prime time exposure: his article My Home Is In Watts made the October 1966 issue of Harper's magazine.



There's plenty of sports amidst the reruns, with major league baseball teams gearing up for the stretch run and plenty of exhibition football from both the NFL and the AFL.  Friday night finds Johnny Unitas' Colts (coached by Don Shula) battling Charley Johnson's Cardinals.

TV TELETYPE:

Goodson-Todman Productions reportedly has six shows pending with NBC for 1967-68, but it doesn't appear that any of them eventually made the prime time schedule.  The only one listed is Uncle Helen, starring My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston.

With The Dick Van Dyke Show ending its run, Morey Amsterdam is guesting on a Daktari in the fall.  The episode, The Chimp Who Cried Wolf, aired on December 27th.  We can safely assume that DON'T WORRY, WE'LL THINK OF A TITLE hadn't done much for his big screen prospects.


Unsold pilot The Two of Us airs August 29th on CBS.  Billy Mumy and Barry Livingston (My Three Sons) star.  Pat Crowley is also listed in the cast; I would assume that this was filmed long before 1966, since Crowley was starring in Please Don't Eat the Daisies for NBC from 1965-67.


Milton Berle is lining up the guest stars for his comeback series for ABC in the fall.  A closer inspection reveals the star studded lineup is heavy with Uncle Miltie's fellow ABC stars: Phyllis Diller (The Pruitts of Southampton), Adam West (Batman), David Janssen (The Fugitive) and Van Williams (The Green Hornet).

Finally, it wouldn't be a 1966 magazine without a cigarette ad!


And, Nancy Wilson, one more time:


This wraps up the F Troop trilogy of cover articles, but it won't be our last retro TV Guide review.  Pinky swear.  There's plenty of non-cover profiles of series stars (Melody Patterson, Edward Everett Horton) left to explore, and other TV Guide cover articles for our other ongoing classic TV episode guides here at the Section. 

'Til next time, do remember that you can get your vintage TV Guide fix weekly (every Saturday, as a matter of fact) at It's About TV.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "The Fallen Idol" (1956)





LOVE THAT BOB: "The Fallen Idol" (Original Air Date: March 8, 1956) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Lyle Talbot as Paul Fonda, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Robert Ellis as Joe Depew, Sylvia Lewis as Sylvia, Elaine Edwards as Julie, Jeff Silver as Jimmy Lloyd.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon and William Cowley.  Directed by Rod Amateau.



Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW at this link. 

When you're swanky, sophisticated man about town Bob Collins, you can sometimes be too sought-after for your own good.  Case in point: the arrival of two corsages tips Bob off that he's double-booked himself for dates with Julie and (unseen) Pamela for Friday the 9th.  Sister Margaret balks at Bob's initial back-up plan, which is to ease one of his dates over to Margaret's planned date for the evening--"that wolf" Paul Fonda.


An impossible choice between two beautiful models: all guys should have such troubles, eh?  But our ace photographer has more complicating factors: an early Saturday shoot with swimsuit model Sylvia, and nephew Chuck's promises to his friends that his "rough, tough fighter pilot" of an Uncle will help them build a model plane for a contest.  When busy Bob can't do it, they become fonder of Fonda, and Bob becomes the titular fallen idol inside his home.  Outside it too, once Julie realizes she isn't the playboy shutterbug's only girl.

Don't listen to him, Baby!


From the still-formative second season (its first contained only 17 installments) of THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW, The Fallen Idol provides many notable contrasts with the wilder and faster-paced 1957-59 episodes which are more readily available on DVD today.  For starters, older sister Margaret is much more tolerating of Bob's playboy ways than she would become.  She's much gentler in her attempts to awaken him after a night of carousing, and doesn't even assist her son and his pals as they beseech Air Force Colonel Collins for help with their project. 


Amazingly, Margaret even shrugs off Bob's blatantly stated attempt to pull a switcheroo that would jeopardize her Friday night date with his old war buddy Paul Fonda, and only mildly protests her brother's (hypocritical, no?) characterization of Fonda as a wolf.  Margaret's objections would accrue an edge in segments to come (notably in Bob Plays Margaret's Game), but her only protest here is a weak sabotage of the lines thrown out by the real Wolf of Mulholland during his telephone calls to the ladies he is juggling.




With Chuck still a high school junior, he isn't yet trying to horn in on his popular Uncle's Friday night action.  Young MacDonald is far too awed by "Uncle Bob" to even think about it, hyping his WW2 achievements to buddies Joe Depew (named, of course for the show's assistant director who would go on to helm nearly 150 BEVERLY HILLBILLIES episodes for Henning) and Jimmy Lloyd.  The lads are far more interested in building a model plane on Friday night (for a contest, to be fair) than chasing girls at this stage, so Margaret isn't nearly as concerned about Uncle Bob's bad influence as she would become barely a year later (Bob Gets Out-Uncled).  Chuck is genuinely crushed when Bob's double dating duty renders him AWOL when it is time to construct their entry.

Paul Fonda--our new hero?
Not that you won't recognize THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW at this early stage; helmed capably by Rod Amateau, it is already one of the few truly subversive shows of its era.  Bob Collins keeps both dates, with his nocturnal activities not only affecting his home life (he skips out on Margaret's pleas to assist with carport planning in addition to stiffing the nephew who idolizes him) but also his job, since he is late for his Saturday shoot.  Once he's there, even the stunning Sylvia can't keep him awake.


Must have been one Hell of a Friday night!

It was, Hal, it was!!

But does Uncle Bob pay for his transgressions?  Negatory.  All he needs is a Saturday afternoon nap, and he's ready to correct the well-meaning Paul Fonda's mistakes on the inanimate model and his own on the human model--Julie, at least.  (We never follow up with "pudgy" Patricia the day after.)  By the end of the episode, the "fallen idol" has risen again.  Chuck is rewarded for his loyalty and has saved face with his friends: both are completely won over by finally witnessing Colonel Collins' expertise.  His newfound standing is only enhanced when the fellows meet Julie, the reason Bob couldn't help them the night before.

Reason enough, guys?

Later installments like Colonel Goldbrick hinted at the following decade's youth revolution, but Bob Collins is still the cat's meow in The Fallen Idol.   Paul Fonda is quickly supplanted by episode's end, and the high schoolers drool over Uncle Bob's date for the evening, but defer to their new hero and get lost when Julie shows up.  Julie, meanwhile, is impressed by Bob's "dedication to his family" after a chance to think it over.  So the redemption is somewhat genuine, but still, for a 1950's TV show, Bob Collins was getting away with a lot of transgressions against society norms without much comeuppance, even at this early stage for the show.   With he and Julie presumably headed up to Mulholland (she likes the sweaty, greasy mechanic look) Bob may well be looking like this again on Sunday morning:


Sylvia Lewis later choreographed sitcoms into the late 1980's (MARRIED...WITH CHILDREN) and would figure prominently in this episode's semi-sequel, The Wolf Who Came to Dinner.  Elaine Edwards is best known for horror films of the era, most notably THE CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN and THE BAT.


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

No one, really, which would be all but unheard of in later segments.  Margaret's feeble effort and Paul Fonda's disinterest in stopping Colonel Collins are both eyebrow raisers, and even Schultzy doesn't try to interfere with Bob's nocturnal activities for once.  The super-assistant is even benign about doing all the work on a Saturday.  Yep, for once Bob is actually penetrating the blockers' version of a prevent defense.

DID BOB SCORE?

We don't hear much about his Thursday date with Joi Lansing's Shirley Swanson (unseen this time), and there are mixed signals concerning Friday night.  True, Bob is dead to the world at 10 AM and stays that way, but despite this promising sign, he did end up in his own bed and Julie is mad at him.  He is also inexplicably too tired to try to make personal time with Sylvia during their shoot.  It does appear, though, that the fallen idol is literally rising again at episode's end:


While The Fallen Idol milks the gags about Bob's morning-after lifelessness a little too much and Collins' path to redemption seems a little too easy, it's a typically amusing, if average entry.  Emmy-nominated Rod Amateau laid the foundation for Cummings' more hyper, crazy directorial style to follow, and Amateau would subsequently turn that up a notch further with his own wild work on over 100 episodes of DOBIE GILLIS.  If The Fallen Idol is indicative of this show's "B" game, well, LOVE THAT BOB's B game is still pretty damn funny.  (**1/2 out of four)


The Fallen Idol is available for viewing on YouTube, titled as "My Uncle Bob".
It is also available on DVD under that title at Shokus Home Video.

Monday, July 04, 2016

MAVERICK Mondays: "Prey of the Cat" (1958)








MAVERICK Mondays: Number 20









MAVERICK: "Prey of the Cat" (1958 ABC/Warner Brothers TV) Starring Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Wayne Morris as Pete Stillman, Patricia Barry as Kitty Stillman, Barry Kelley as the Sheriff, Yvette Duguay as Raquel Morales, William Gordon as Fred Bender, William Bryant as Chase.  Written and Directed by Douglas Heyes.


After making the acquaintance of jovial cattleman Pete Stillman on a cold, windy night in Woodstone, Bart suffers a broken right leg when his horse is spooked by a mountain lion.  Since Maverick faces several weeks' healing before he can ride again, Pete insists that the stranger convalesce at his Star Trail Ranch.


During his extended recuperation (which includes the Christmas holiday), Bart learns that Pete's wife Kitty is a Chicago transplant who isn't especially happy at Star Trail or with her marriage.  When he realizes that Mrs. Stillman has designs on him, Bart resolves to leave as quickly as possible--but he meets resistance from the unsuspecting Pete.  Mr. Stillman insists that Maverick come along and help hunt for the mountain lion that has been menacing his cows since Bart's accident.  It's a hunt that proves fatal for the rancher, and the gambling newcomer is an easy target for blame by the suspicious Sheriff.  Then Bart learns that it was a bullet fired by Kitty that killed Pete--and her shot was intentional.


Douglas Heyes wrote and directed a noir-ish segment for each Maverick brother during the highly acclaimed second season.  Garner's was Escape to Tampico, in which Bret also makes a sympathetic but doomed new friend.  While Escape to Tampico is much more of a "straight" western than the typical Garner outing, it's positively light-hearted compared to what Heyes had in store for Jack Kelly.  Prey of the Cat is the grimmest MAVERICK episode, bar none, with a situation going completely against Roy Huggins' oft-stated guideline for the show: it is deadly serious in addition to being as hopeless as usual.


The opening scene induces a few smiles, as Bart tricks ranch foreman Bender out of a chair next to the wood stove.  Your jaw will stay tightened after that: Prey of the Cat turns as cold as the temperature on that windy night.  It's a story with three tragic figures all ruined by unrequited love: the Stillmans and Raquel ("Rachel", Pete teases) form the real triangle in Woodstone. 


All three love someone who doesn't reciprocate the feeling, though only Pete Stillman is doing so unknowingly.  The rancher chose the fair-skinned lady from Chicago over the Hispanic woman who truly loves him: the end result for Pete was a wife who accepted his proposal despite indifferent interest in him and his ranch.  Kitty is calculating (note how quickly she does math in her head) in more ways than one, but she's just as delusional about Bart's feelings for her as she was about her own feelings for Pete.  Mrs. Stillman "can never truly love something" unless she "makes it her own". 


Raquel is also hiding her true feelings: she's devastated to have lost the man she has always loved to an outsider.  We see hints that Pete--despite his public proclaimation that Kitty is his "smartest choice" ever--might subconsciously regret the marriage.  Note the contrast between the humorless, awkward dialogue between Mr. and Mrs. Stillman and the effortless rapport Pete still has with Raquel in what seems like daily banter.  Raquel asks him why he isn't "home with his wife" in the opening scene, and it's a good question: it's a freezing night outside, yet Mr. Stillman is in front of a wood stove in town with his bunkhouse workers and his ex. 


Loyal, generous, fair and good-natured, Pete Stillman's misjudgment of Kitty's interest level is his fatal flaw.  He's allowed her to slowly take over the ranch in all but name in an effort to keep her happy, and everyone thinks he's succeeded.  Caught in the middle, innocent Bart Maverick almost becomes a fourth tragic casualty in Prey of the Cat, with the Sheriff joining all of Pete's loyal employees who blame the outsider for their boss' death.


Patricia Barry (Two Beggars on Horseback) is up to the challenge of playing what has to be the most disturbing and unhinged female in the series' run.  Kitty is stunningly beautiful (and aware of it) and highly intelligent, yet bitter about giving up Chicago for this impressive but remote town with a man she doesn't truly love.  Her attraction to Maverick reveals that she has bad boy syndrome--Pete is simply too nice a guy for Kitty.  Bart Maverick, a self-described "drifter and gambler", excites Kitty, and the "edgy" outsider gets her--she thinks, anyway.  Kitty shows increasing psychosis triggered by Bart's rejection but she remains sane enough to use the situation to ensnare him.



In short, Kitty is one scary lady.  Only poor Maverick has seen the unmasked Mrs. Stillman: she has the entire town snowed ("No two people were ever as good together as those two!" the Sheriff asserts.) to the point that the lawmen and other seemingly civilized people like Bender and Chase are turned into a bloodthirsty lynch mob as a result of her machinations.



Somewhat surprisingly, Prey of the Cat is not a script recycled from a more conventional WB series.  Despite the lack of levity, Heyes wrote it specifically for MAVERICK, and avoids some of the errors made by others who attempted "straighter" installments.  Epitaph for a Gambler (for example) had Bart Maverick doing way too many things that were out of character to engross the show's audience: Heyes' script, while unrelentingly solemn, is sermon-free and faithful to the Bart we've come to know.  The writer-director was only one of the many top-notch creative minds (Huggins, Hargrove, Hughes) sorely missed after that landmark 1958-59 season.


Wayne Morris was fated for an early demise less than a year after Prey of the Cat aired.  The World War II hero and rising Warner Brothers star of the pre-War years was as busy as ever (nine credits during 1959 alone) when he died suddenly of a heart attack on September 14, 1959.  He was only 45.  Heyes usually cast fellow writer William D. Gordon as an actor in his MAVERICK and TWILIGHT ZONE projects, and Gordon makes a solid impression as the ranch's loyal but guarded right-hand man.  The episode also marked one of the last acting roles for stunning Fifties starlet Yvette Duguay, who was 28 when she retired from the screen in 1960.

 
HOW'D BART DO AT POKER?

Despite all those ranch hands at the bunkhouse and all that time convalescing, Bart finds no time for real poker.  He relieves his boredom by teaching Mrs. Stillman a few basics of the game while staying off his broken leg, almost losing a lot more than just valuable table hours through no fault of his own.


WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

Only the revelation that Bart made him two promises: he'd never hold a drink or a steady job.  Stillman tries mightily to keep Bart around for the latter after he heals, so one of Pappy's proverbs heard that we hear two seasons later (in The Ice Man) applies here: "Never impose too long on a man's hospitality.  He's liable to put you to work."


THE BOTTOM LINE:

It is understandable that this unapologetic melodrama is disappointing to many fans and is considered a rare second season dud by some, but I think that assessment is off the mark.  Prey of the Cat isn't what one expects from MAVERICK by any stretch, but it is intriguingly acted, directed and written--a successful stab at much sterner subject matter than the series was usually mining by this time.  Pretty courageous of Heyes to put this blatantly dour effort on Huggins' desk, if you ask me--and hey, the show's creator didn't reject it, did he?  (*** out of four) 




MAVERICK currently airs Saturdays at 4 PM Eastern, 3 PM Central and Sundays at 4 AM Eastern, 3 AM Central on Cozi-TV. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Apache Kid" (1967)







"Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!"






HONDO: "Hondo and the Apache Kid"  (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Episode 6; Original Air Date: October 13, 1967.  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.  Guest Stars Nick Adams as The Apache Kid, Farley Granger as Jack Graham, Danielle Rotar as Star Bird, Sofia Marie as Emmy Jo, Stan Barrett as Running Wolf, James Beck as Highton.  Written by Frank L. Moss.  Directed by William Witney.


Series Overview for HONDO: TV's Unlikeliest Cult Hit at this link  


Ace Civil War and Ohio Flood journalist Jack Graham is brought to Arizona territory by his latest cause celebre: the "persecution" of The Apache Kid, childhood friend of Hondo's turned renegade who is wanted for murder (among other crimes).  Graham's articles have already resulted in pressure on Richards to capture the Kid alive.  After Lane is instrumental in doing so, the famed reporter excoriates Hondo in print as a "Judas", putting the scout and all of Fort Lowell under intense scrutiny from coast to coast--and particularly from Washington D.C.



With Graham's unwitting (and unknowing) aid, the Apache Kid soon breaks out of the guardhouse to start a fresh crime spree.  After killing his sentry, the renegade Kid (who is even less welcome on his tribe's land) slays Star Bird's father, kidnapping the bride-to-be and sending her fiancĂ© Running Wolf in pursuit.  With faithful Sam at his side, Hondo gamely tries to track down the escaped prisoner and his badly abused hostage.  Hot on the trail of both is Graham, brandishing a telegraph guaranteeing his "heroic" subject a top attorney.


Like the previous segment, Hondo and the Apache Kid gives us a clueless outsider to the Arizona territory with impressive credentials in his field, but a thoroughly wrongheaded superiority complex.  Jack Graham is hailed as the champion of Pennsylvania coal miners and New England mill workers, but he's out of his element in the southwestern desert--he first "saw an Indian" just three months earlier.


Witnessing the unjust execution of that falsely accused Native American in Texas inspired his current crusade, but unfortunately, Graham's chosen representative is as unworthy a poster boy as he could find: a kidnapper, thief, rapist and murderer.  Hondo gets a terse (ten seconds, tops) soapbox moment, telling the reporter that he's wasting his help on a sociopath hated by his own people that could be used by the numerous Natives who have been wronged and cheated: Delgado (Hondo and the Singing Wire) and especially Ponce Colorados (Hondo and the Savage) come to mind.


Moss avoids some of the pitfalls that befell Frank Chase in that latter teleplay.  Obnoxious Graham threatens to wear out his welcome, but fortunately Chase gives him to us in smaller doses: Graham disappears completely during the episode's middle third while the audience witnesses the treachery that the scribe is oblivious to.  The three Apaches who end up unjustly executed here are all murdered by The Kid, whose every action justifies the jailing (not solitary confinement as embellished by Graham).  An equal opportunity criminal, the Apache Kid also slays a farmer (while raiding the man's home for food) in addition to the aforementioned trooper.


Tarantino favorite William Witney keeps this one moving, staging a truly badass reveal for Adams and an exciting apprehension of him in the teaser alone.  The director fades in on the collateral damage of the trackdown and doesn't disappoint during the cat and mouse game between Hondo and the Kid.  Lane's frustration at every near miss is palpable as time ticks away for the fugitive's captive--carnal desires after three weeks in the guardhouse are the least of her worries.

Danielle Rotar
The main flaws with Hondo and the Apache Kid have to do with its titular antagonist.  Captain Richards' early assessment of him as just a "bad Indian, that's all" is never convincingly elaborated on.  Buffalo tells us that the Apache Kid (no other name, either) was "like a brother" to Hondo, and the two were trained as Indian scouts by the same man before The Kid broke bad.  It takes a leap of faith to believe that the illiterate, almost mute (he has three words of dialogue, total) Apache Kid could have ever been all that, and the only explanation we're given for his despicable actions is his Napoleon complex.  "Runt of the litter", Hondo says, eliciting one of those three words: "Lies!".


If the Kid's feral manner requires one suspension of disbelief, Adams diminutive stature makes another necessary, particularly in fistfights with Taeger, who is eight inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier.  Fortunately, Adams' trademark intensity helps a great deal towards that end.  The star of Fenady's THE REBEL some six years earlier, Adams is consistently ferocious and elusive.  His Kid also shows a remarkable gift for infiltration time and time again, which helps make it plausible that he learned alongside Lane--"part panther, part Apache" himself--once upon a time.


Jack Graham may seem just as one-note on the surface, but on closer inspection he's broken bad himself.  It's clear from his reputation and past triumphs that he started out as a true champion of underdogs before losing his way.  He states he's there to see that the Kid is treated fairly, but his actions tell us that journalistic objectivity has long fallen by the wayside: Graham is addicted to the power his pen gives him.  Charles Foster Kane's belief that people will think "what I tell them to think" comes to mind.  Any information that contradicts the narrative he's constructing is dismissed as a lie--Graham simply cannot be dissuaded from making his latest "discovery" into a larger than life hero (the Kid appears as tall as the mountains on the newspaper's front page).


After Graham's close call (yes, his muse turns on him), does he seek out any of the numerous Native Americans that (as Lane stated) could "use his help"?  No, the writer only knows one way to apologize, and it's a self serving one--he attempts to make Lane into his next sensationalized hero (after trashing the scout's reputation for weeks).  Of course, the prospect of Graham "repaying his debt" by making Hondo the next protagonist of his "dime novel garbage" gets the reaction you'd expect.  And yes, after an hour with this blowhard, it is a satisfying thing to see.


Chief Vittoro adds gravitas as always, another improvement over the prior segment.  The Apache's leader is with Hondo in spirit but unable to assist him since the scout's task involves taking the Kid to "white man's justice".  The Chief would prefer to do away with the murderer the Apache way, and might be right in this instance, since a sequel (Hondo and the Apache Trail) was needed.


HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

That pictured punch in the tag aside, Emberato's temper has improved ever since the closure provided in Hondo and the Superstition Massacre.  The inevitable final confrontation with the Kid is Hondo's only other one on one scuffle (the Kid is swarmed in his initial capture) and the scout ends finally ends it with a right cross after the villain's rifle ammunition runs out. 


IS THE CANTINA STILL STANDING?

Proof of just how formidable an adversary we are dealing with: Hondo and Buffalo never get a chance to set foot in their favorite watering hole--a first for the series.


A DOG'S LIFE:

Sam helps with the tracking for two-thirds of Hondo and the Apache Kid, but he spends the final act as a therapy dog for the newly orphaned Emmy Jo.


GUEST CAST NOTES:

Striking Diane Rotar (credited as Danielle), nineteen at the time, was already known as Jennifer Somers on THE VIRGINIAN.  Long-time stunt coordinator Stan Barrett had his first acting credits on HONDO, appearing in three episodes in all.  He too gets to duke it out with The Kid--can't that guy get along with anyone?



THE BOTTOM LINE:

An interesting examination on the power of the press and how easily that power can be misused, Hondo and the Apache Kid also manages to be an exciting, tense chase tale.  In what would end up being one of his final performances, Nick Adams makes a lot out of very little dialogue.  A solid, satisfying effort--though the Kid's return (Hondo and the Apache Trail) is even better.  (*** out of four)

HONDO airs every Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM Central on GetTV. Effective July 3rd, 2016, HONDO changes time slots, to Sunday mornings at 6 A.M. Central on GetTV.