Saturday, August 23, 2014


So we're looking at the movie "Maverick" all this month.  For this particular post, you might as well settle in and get comfortable; we're going to be here a while.....

In the riverboat poker competition, Denver Pyle played the elderly poker player exposed as a cheater who was tossed into the river.

If we wanted to find one of his already established TV Western characters who could have been this poker player, we wouldn't have far to look.  Off the top of my head, it looks like the only Westerns he didn't appear in were 'The Wild, Wild West', 'Alias Smith and Jones', 'The Big Valley' and 'Sugarfoot'.

Just look over this list of only a FEW of the Westerns in which he was a guest star:
  • 'How the West Was Won'
  • 'Dirty Sally' 
  • 'Here Come the Brides'
  • 'The Guns of Will Sonnett' 
  • 'Cimarron Strip' 
  • 'Hondo' 
  • 'The High Chaparral'
  • 'Rawhide'
  • 'The Virginian'
  • 'Maverick'
  • 'Stagecoach West'
  • 'The Tall Man'
  • 'Wrangler'
  • 'Tombstone Territory'
  • 'Hotel de Paree'
  • 'Pony Express'
  • 'Wichita Town'
  • 'Law of the Plainsman'
  • 'Shotgun Slade'
  • 'Jefferson Drum'
  • 'Tales of the Texas Rangers'
  • 'Broken Arrow'
  • 'Man Without a Gun'
  • 'Casey Jones'
 Admit it: your eyes started to glaze over from the sheer volume.

As I said, those were just a "few" of the Westerns in which he acted.  Those were all the shows in which he only played one character, in one episode.

But as with any character actor in high demand, Denver Pyle sometimes came back to play other characters during the course of a show's run, sometimes quite a few more than "just a handful"......

The number in the parenthesis is the number of characters he played in each series:
  • 'Gunsmoke' (14)
  • 'The Range Rider' (14)
  • 'The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp' (10)
  • 'The Gene Autry Show' (10) 
  • 'Bonanza' (8)
  • 'Death Valley Days' (7)
  • 'Have Gun - Will Travel' (7) 
  • 'Zane Grey Theater' (7) 
  • 'The Lone Ranger' (7)
  • 'The Adventures of Kit Carson' (7) 
  • 'Laramie' (5)
  • 'The Rifleman' (5) 
  • 'Bronco' (4) 
  • 'The Texan' (4) 
  • 'Cheyenne' (3)
  • 'The Deputy' (2) 
  • 'Bat Masterson' (2)
  • 'Frontier' (2)
  • 'Buffalo Bill, Jr.' (2) 
  • 'Wagon Train' (2) 
  • 'Empire' (2)
  • 'Kung Fu' (2)
  • 'Overland Trail' (2)
  • 'Tales of Wells Fargo' (2) 
  • '26 Men' (2) 
  • 'The Restless Gun' (2)
  • 'Lawman' (2) 
  • 'Hopalong Cassidy' (2) 
  • 'The Cisco Kid' (2) 
  • 'Annie Oakley' (2) 
  • 'The Cisco Kid' (2)
If there was one TV Western which I think would have to be disqualified, it would be 'The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams'.  I just don't see Mad Jack getting all gussied up in fancy go-to-meeting clothes even for the chance to win a big poker stake.

The only thing that might have disqualified any of Denver Pyle's characters from being on that riverboat in the early years of the 20th Century would have been death or a lengthy prison term dictated by the demands of the show's script.

But there were a few characters with names that made me think they might have been right for the elderly poker player:

  • Colonel Celine from 'Have Gun Will Travel'
  • Dr. Henry S. Bland from 'Gunsmoke'
  • Dr. Barnes from 'Annie Oakley'
  • Judge Amos Blunt from 'Hondo'
  • Professor Jerry Roark from 'The Cisco Kid'  (However, considering the episode's title was "Hypnotist Murder", I get this feeling that Professor Roark would not have had the freedom to travel.....
But if there is any one TV Western character played by Denver Pyle who would be my personal favorite to be that poker player, it would be the character he played in "Family Pride", an episode of 'Maverick'.

First off, it's an episode from the show which inspired the movie.  But even more important than that, Denver Pyle was playing Jerry O'Brien.

Once Bret Senior saw who it was, he wouold have had no choice but to accuse the old-timer and throw him off the boat and into the waters below. 

Not that he would have recognized Bret - Jerry O'Brien dealt with Cousin Beau Maverick.  But Bret couldn't take that chance.  So it was off the boat and into the drink for Jerry O'Brien.


"Family Pride" indeed!

We could also look forward and make claims of "relateeveety" for him in which he could have been the forefather of any number of family trees - most especially tempting for Buck Webb of 'The Doris Day Show' and Uncle Jesse of 'The Dukes of Hazzard'.  But there were possibilities with some of his single episode characters as well.  (I'm partial to Uncle George Petrie of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and Hollywood director Jackson Sidemark from a case handled by 'Perry Mason'.

Happy Trails to you! 


Friday, August 22, 2014


Dubrek was a radical insurgent fighting against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.  On August 22, 1968, he was filming the arrival of tanks near his group's headquarters when Soviet soldiers tried to apprehend him.  Dubrek broke free and was able to get his camera back to the secret hideout, but the Soviets were able to follow him.  

After burning the films they had collected, Dubrek was shot while climbing a ladder to escape.  He fell to a table below and there he died while trying to rip up the information he was carrying.

At least....  We were meant to think that he died, just like the Soviet soldiers were supposed to believe.  We saw Dubrek writhing on the table and then he made one last collapse into stillness.

But Melchick, the Czech security officer working with the KGB was the first to reach Dubrek.  And he probably convinced the soldiers that the radical film-maker was dead.  However, Melchick was really working for the Czech underground and he may have been able to spirit Dubrek away to get medical help.

Just another bit of life during prime-time that we never got to see.

Having survived (in my brave new Toobworld), Dubrek was now a liability to the cause: his continued existence if discovered was a threat to Melchick's cover.  And so he had to be smuggled out of the country.

Jump ahead six years to the Fall of 1974.  Dubrek was now living in America - in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as ski instructor Paul Van Dillen.  

For a few weeks he was dating the associate news director at WJM, Mary Richards.  But Mary eventually realized that they had nothing in common and that the only reason she was dating him was because he was so damned good-looking.  When she confessed this to Paul, it turned out that he was only dating her for the exact same reason!

The relationship didn't go much farther after that (even if the sex was probably fantastisch!)  Not that Mary could have changed her mind and looked for Paul so that they could pick up where they left off.....

One night, while walking alone down a secluded street in the Twin Cities, Dubrek/Van Dillen was "attacked" by a Weeping Angel.  With just one touch, this Angel sent him back in time to the days of the wild West.  

Once he got his bearings and adjusted to the straits he was in, Dubrek realized he'd have to create a new life for himself in the Old West.  And so with what he knew of the Future and believing he could still make a difference in the world as he once tried to do in Czechoslovakia, Dubrek recreated himself once again.  

Now going by the name of Erik Hunter, he approached Company A of the Texas Rangers with forged credentials of his law enforcement skills in Europe.  From there he was assigned to Company B in Laredo where he joined Captain Parmalee's team.

One thing he couldn't change about himself was his attraction to the lovely ladies of the range.  And he changed sweethearts just as often as he changed his never-ending wardrobe.

It's anybody's guess as to what happened to Erik Hunter in the Old West, but one thing is for sure: his unrealized potential back in the "Present" (the 1970s) further invigorated that Weeping Angel.

It would not be the last time that "lonely assassin" would send some TV character back into the wild, wild West.....

  • 'The Name Of The Game' - "White Birch"
  • 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' - "Not Just Another Pretty Face"
  • 'Doctor Who' - "Blink"
  • 'Laredo' - introduced as a regular in the second season




I mentioned in an earlier post that certain real world historical events are recreated ad nauseum for mini-series and TV movies.  

Do we really need another televersion of the Kennedy assassination?

So it's always welcome when a significant event in History, which didn't get the attention it deserves, does get the spotlight in Toobworld.

From Wikipedia:
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and its main allies in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalisation reforms.

Is that Alexander Dubcek in the poster?
In the operation, code-named Danube, approximately 500,000 troops attacked Czechoslovakia; approximately 500 Czechs and Slovaks were wounded and 108 killed in the invasion.

The invasion successfully stopped the liberalisation reforms and strengthened the authority of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). The foreign policy of the Soviet Union during this era was known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

For more about the Czechoslovakian Invasion, click here.

The events of this episode of 'The Name Of The Game' begin on August 22nd, 1968.  It was certainly a timely episode as it was broadcast in November of that year.  (Somebody involved with the series must have felt strongly about getting a story made about it.)

Of course, the Invasion serves more as a timely backdrop for a standard espionage/mystery story, in which publisher Glenn Howard is caught up in the turmoil while on a tour of the country as part of a publishers' junket. 

As far as I know, the invasion of Czechoslovakia has not been dramatized by any other TV series.  There may be TV movies and movies from the Cineverse about it in other countries, but did the characters from TV series become involved in the events of that time?  Did the Prague Spring and the invasion it triggered ever get mentioned or become a reference point in some of those other shows?

I looked into a few Czech TV shows and found one episode that must have dealt directly with it.

From Wikipedia:
'Thirty Cases of Major Zeman' ('Třicet případů majora Zemana') is a Czechoslovak action-drama television show intended as a political propaganda to support the official attitude of the communist party. The series were filmed in the 1970s.

Each episode encompasses one year, and investigations are stylized to that year. Most are inspired by real cases. The series follows the life of police investigator Jan Zeman during his career from 1945 to 1975.

ep 25(1968) "Štvanice" ("The Hunt") - propaganda episode about the end of political steps to freedom.

Other Czech shows like 'Nemocnice na kraji města', 'Hospoda', 'Kriminálka Anděl', and 'Okres na severu' may have had characters refer back to those times or perhaps had plot points that used the Invasion as background information - in much the same way that the destruction of the World Trade Center informs the personal histories of several TV characters in American TV shows.


Thursday, August 21, 2014


From Wikipedia:
John Wesley Hardin (May 26, 1853 – August 19, 1895) was an American outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk icon of the Old West. Hardin found himself in trouble with the law at an early age, and spent the majority of his life being pursued by both local lawmen and federal troops during theReconstruction Era. He often used the residences of family and friends to hide out from the law. Hardin is known to have had at least one encounter with the famous lawman "Wild Bill" Hickok.

When he was finally captured and sent to prison in 1878, Hardin claimed to have already killed 42 men, but newspapers of the day had attributed only 27 killings to him up to that point. While in prison, Hardin wrote a factually slanted autobiography, and studied law. He was released in 1894. In August 1895, Hardin was shot to death by John Selman, Sr. in an El Paso saloon.

When Bret Jr. rode his ass into that newly formed excuse for a town still clinging to the 19th Century, he soon found himself in a poker game with a young man who claimed to be Johnny Hardin.  At first Bret Jr. (and probably everybody else in the room) were cowed by the reputation this young man supposedly had with a gun.  But then Bret Jr. easily diffused the situation by showing that he was even faster with his own gun.

Bret Jr. might never have heard the story about how his father and his Uncle Bart performed a little stunt in the town of Sundown in order to prove the town bully, Red Hartigan, was actually a coward.  Bret Sr. was supposed to have a duel with Hartigan but ended up gunning down the legendary gunfighter John Wesley Hardin instead.  Once Red saw that, he slinked (slunked?) out of town, nevermore to be making advances on the daughter of Bret's friend.  

As it turned out, Hardin was no more than Bret's brother Bart in disguise.

On the way out of Sundown, Bret and Bart met a man who claimed to be the real John Wesley Hardin.  And he was planning to hunt down the man who claimed to have killed him.
The Mavericks did the neighborly thing by pointing the way to Sundown, and then once Hardin was out of sight they bolted in the opposite direction.

That man was not John Wesley Hardin.  But then neither was the "Johnny Hardin" who accused Bret Jr. of cheating.

This is the real John Wesley Hardin:

And while Johnny Hardin may have had a passing resemblance to the gunfighter of the Trueniverse, there was a good reason why he couldn't be the same guy - the real John Wesley Hardin had been dead for at least ten to fifteen years.

As I stated in an earlier post, the movie "Maverick" should be taking place in a year that is roughly equivalent to the age of actor James Garner as Bret Maverick.  The movie was released in 1994, when Garner was 66 years old.  Bret Maverick was born in 1847, so he was 66 years old in 1913.  

Like I said, I'd be happy to shave off a few years from Maverick's age and the timeline.  This would mean that "Maverick" had to be taking place at some point between 1905 and 1910.

And Hardin was dead by 1895.

The man who claimed to be Hardin outside Sundown had to be an imposter, a dangerous profession in those days but quite likely to be lucrative: claim to be a famous gunfighter and rake in what money that you could by carrying out the ruse.  (This would sometimes require an actual gunfight so the impersonator had better be skilled enough to back up his claim.)

That "Duel At Sundown" had to have taken place sometime after 1878 - most of the stories can be accepted as being from 1874 to 1881.  So this gunfighter probably knew that John Wesley Hardin would be no threat to him while he was incarcerated.

Apparently he took the role too seriously and wanted to protect his claim to being the Number One John Wesley Hardin Impersonator in the Old West.  And so every other wannabe was in danger of being gunned down.

And there were quite a few of them as we'll see in another post about this outlaw.  But we'll save that for next year!

As for Johnny Hardin?  I believe he was actually the son of John Wesley Hardin.  A theory of relateeveety that probably existed only in Toobworld......

Happy trails to you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Joe Riley was a Texas Ranger working out of 'Laredo'.  Previously he had been a gunfighter who sometimes found himself on the wrong side of the Law.  In fact, he joined the Rangers just so he could escape the ire of a local sheriff.

But Joe Riley didn't remain a Ranger for too many years - eventually he struck out to make his fortune and found that Lady Luck particularly smiled on him while at the poker table.  By the early 1900's, Riley had made enough money at poker to buy into the great marathon poker game held on Commordor Duvall's riverboat.

His luck didn't hold out long, but he at least was as good-natured about it as he was when he was a Ranger under Captain Parmalee's command.  He enjoyed a front row seat at the final game of the marathon.

His propensity for getting into trouble with the Law followed his family down the line like a curse.  Somewhere along the Toobworld timeline before we saw him again in the "Maverick" movie, Joe Riley got married and had at least one child, a daughter.  She married an Italian immigrant, probably a member of the Black Hand.  His name was Falconetti.  Their grand-child grew up to be Anthony Falconetti, the scourge of the Jordache family (as depicted in 'Rich Man, Poor Man'.)

Happy Trails To You!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Exactly 2000 years ago today, Emperor Augustus passed away.  If historical legends are to be believed, he was poisoned with tainted figs which had been dusted with the poison while still on the tree... by his wife Livia.  (This was to ensure her son Tiberius would inherit the throne as emperor.)

Pictured: Brian Blessed as the dying Augustus



Toobworld's previous attempt to incorporate Michael Crichton's vision of "Westworld" into the world of television......


HBO is teaming up with Jonathan Nolan to write a new version of Michael Crichton's classic sci-fi Western & "Bad Disneyland" mash-up "Westworld", which will have the pilot produced by JJ Abrams.

HBO has only committed to a pilot but should it go to series, it would star Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins.  Hopkins would be Dr. Robert Ford, (as described in the press notice) the "brilliant, taciturn and complicated creative director" of Westworld.  Dr. Ford "has an uncompromising creative vision for the park — and unorthodox methods of achieving it."  Sounds menacing enough!  (It may be the type of role that wouldn't require him to be there for every episode.)  

Meanwhile, Evan Rachel Wood will be a farm girl named Dolores Abernathy, "who is about to discover that her entire idyllic existence is an elaborately constructed lie."  In other words?  She's an android.

In other casting news for the pilot:

HBO has announced that James Marsden will play Teddy Flood, a new arrival to frontier town, while Eddie Rouse will play a Native American card dealer and smuggler.

Jeffrey Wright will play Bernard Lowe, "the brilliant and quixotic head of the park's programming division. His keen observation of human nature provides him with boundless inspiration for his life’s work — creating artificial people."

Rodrigo Santoro is set as "the terrifying and brutal (with a dark sense of humor) Harlan Bell, Westworld's perennial "most wanted" bandit. He subscribes to the theory that the West is a wild place, and the only way to survive is to embrace the role of predator."

Shannon Woodward is Elsie King, "a sardonic rising star in the programming division charged with diagnosing the odd quirks of behaviors in the park's hosts."

Ingrid Bolso Berdal will portray "Armistice, a savage fighter and brutal bandit whose ruthlessness with her victims is surpassed only by her abiding loyalty to her fellow outlaws."

Angela Sarafyan is set as "Clementine Pennyfeather, one of Westworld's most popular attractions: every aspect of Clementine is perfectly beguiling, by design."  So she's the frontier whore, a pleasure-bot.

Simon Quarterman rounds out the new additions as "Lee Sizemore, the narrative director of Westworld, whose inspired storylines consistently delight or terrify the guests — and his artistic temperament consistently grates on his colleagues."

Unfortunately Yul Brynner is dead or it might have been fun to include a cameo from his cybernetic gunslinger.  Perhaps Richard Benjamin might make an appearance as the older version of his character from that 1973 movie?

The press release also claimed that the potential series would be “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.”

In 1980, there was a short-lived TV series that went beyond the confines of the movie, 'Beyond Westworld'.  So far, I don't see any reason why all three properties - the movie, the TV series, and this new pilot - can't all be considered part of Earth Prime-Time.  Any potential Zonk - say, a different name for the corporation behind the "amusement park" - can be easily splained away.

But I may be wrong.....

Looking forward to seeing the final product!


Monday, August 18, 2014


"Ruggles Of Red Gap" was the first big American film for Charles Laughton and its been a comedy classic - if a bit creaky - ever since.  It told the story of Marmaduke Ruggles, a gentleman's gentleman who was "lost" in a poker game in Paris back in 1908.  His new masters, Egbert and Effie Floud, brought him to America and he found himself in the decidedly uncivilized Old West, in the town of Red Gap.

The story seems to mirror the life of Edward Hewitt, who also started out his adult life as a valet but found himself (due to gambling as well, but this time his own) in the area of Stockton, California.  Like Ruggles, Mr. Hewitt eventually turned to making a career for himself in the culinary arts.  (All of this happened in the 'Big Valley episode "Danger Road".)

I was tempted to make the claim that "Ruggles Of Red Gap" - which began life as a serialized novel and then a play before there were two silent movie adaptations - was based on the life of Edward Hewitt - at least as far as within the reality of Toobworld.  O'Bviously that wouldn't hold up in the real world since Hewitt didn't show up on television until the late 1960s.

But as it turned out there is still yet another version of "Ruggles Of Red Gap" - a 1957 TV musical which starred Michael Redgrave as Ruggles and with Jane Powell, Imogene Coca, David Wayne, Paul Lynde, and Hal Linden.  I'm not sure if the Paley Center has a copy of this production in their archives, but I have seen the soundtrack album available online.

Musicals are a tricky thing when it comes to their placement in the Television Universe - into which dimension should they be placed?  Some musicals are adaptations of theatrical productions, so I think those should go right into the world of ToobStage.  

But this was made for television with original music by Jule Styne.  And even though everybody breaks into song, Toobworld has a secret weapon to splain that away.  (But there are times when I think I should just chuck all TV musicals into their own dimension and be done with it!)

Mr. Sweet is a demon whom we met in the musical episode of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' ("Once More With Feeling".)  He would cause humans to reveal their true natures through song and dance - until the exertion and overload of emotion killed them.  

He only appeared on TV that one time and yet he's a member of the Television Crossover Hall Of Fame.  That's because we use him as the scapegoat whenever there's a musical episode of a TV series or even an entire series with musical scores.

As for TV series in which Sweet was involved, there's 'Hull High', 'Cop Rock', and even earlier, 'That's Life' from 1968.  TV shows like 'Community', 'Psych', 'Grey's Anatomy', 'House', 'Fringe', 'How I Met Your Mother', and even 'American Horror Story' all had musical episodes that had to be due to the demon Sweet. (After that 'Buffy' episode, it seemed like everybody wanted to get into the act.)

At least with 'Scrubs', there was a medical reason why a patient saw everyone around him as singers and dancers.

So, thanks to the participation of Sweet, I have no problem with keeping this one-shot production of "Ruggles Of Red Gap" in Earth Prime-Time.  That is, at least until a straight version of the story is adapted, perhaps as an original production for Encore Westerns.

But if I might add a little twist for the 1957 version.....?

If demons are not immortal, they are at least incredibly long-lived.  So I have no problem in believing that Sweet was alive back in the days of the wild, wild West and survived easily into the Future to eventually confront Buffy and her Scoobies.

But what if he was on his second go-round through the Toobworld Timeline because of a Weeping Angel?  As you'll see come October, I think there's a Weeping Angel in America which has sent other TV characters back in Time to the days of the Old West.  

It's just an idea and probably not worth bothering with....

Unless you're a fanficcer of course.  And if so, you're most welcome to the idea.  (So long as you give me credit for it!)


Sunday, August 17, 2014


"You're not going to leave me behind, Pard, 
Not after carrying your series for nine years!"
Doug McClure
'The Fall Guy'

From Wikipedia:
Played by Doug McClure, the character of Trampas took on a completely different personality from the character in the novel. In Owen Wister's book, Trampas was a villain throughout the story and at the end was shot by the Virginian. However, in the TV series, the producers chose to make Trampas a fun-loving and rowdy character, Doug McClure fitting the part perfectly. Trampas, a sandy-haired, rowdy cowhand who eventually settled down on the ranch, was by far the most developed character in the series. Several episodes were made detailing his past. Doug McClure, as Trampas, added a touch of light comedy to the series to counterbalance the Virginian's serious manner.

With his appearance in the movie "Maverick", I see no reason why McClure couldn't have been playing Trampas again.  Basing the date of the movie around 1910-13 (due to Garner's age at the time and its correspondence to the birth of Bret Maverick), Trampas does show he's a "bit" older than he looked at the end of 'The Virginian'.  But life as a ranch hand for so many years might have caught up with Trampas fast in those early years of the 20th Century.  

Or... it could be that it might have been make-up to disguise him from being recognized as just a ranch hand.  It could be that Trampas was serving as a front man for whoever owned the Shiloh at the time, that they were depending on his skill with the cards.

But again, I don't think aging had much of an effect on the boyish Trampas.

The same couldn't be said for the Virginian however.....

Happy Trails!