Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Joys of Black and White

Saturdays have become my favorite TV night. There are some very good shows being written these days, but there's been good writing all along and it is a pleasure to discover some of it.

A Chicago station has been broadcasting episodes of some shows that were on when I was too young to be aware of them. MAVERICK is one of the best written westerns I've seen with it's wry wit and clever plots. HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL isn't as well written, but that may be a limitation of the half hour format. The character of Paladin, the gunfighter/knight errant is interesting. I've noticed that several of the writers who went on to STAR TREK got their start here.

I'm not as crazy about PETER GUNN but the jazz soundtracks they use are a lot of fun. The detective hero is played by Craig Stephens, who reminds me a little of Cary Grant and a little of Humphrey Bogart, but without the charisma of either. For my money Lola Albright as Gunn's long-suffering girlfriend and Hershel Bernardi as his tough cop friend are both more interesting. Frankly, Gunn loses a lot of points with me for the sexist and dismissive way he treats Albright's character (that's not political correctness talking, rude is just rude).

The other gem from the black and white era that local cable is offering right now it THE RIFLEMAN. The writing is solid and the direction is very good. (Sam Peckinpah got his start on this show before making a big name for himself in th emovies.) The plots are fairly standard for westerns but they're saved by the strong relationship between Lucas McCain and his son Mark.

I'd call it nostalgia, but I never saw any of these shows (except for a few episodes of The Rifleman) until recently. It's more like discovering forgotten treasure.

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