Monday, 21 February 2011
Those Maverick Boys
Right from the off the series was unique in that in alternate shows a different actor as a different member of the Maverick clan would take the lead role. One week we'd have Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick and then the following week it would be James Garner as Bret Maverick and then on other weeks we'd have Roger Moore as Beau Maverick and later on we also had Robert Colbert (cast because he looked similar to James Garner) as Brent Maverick. It was a startling concept, a different lead actor each week but the show was also different in the way it presented the hero. Series creator Roy Huggins inverted the usual screen-cowboy customs familiar in television and movies at the time by dressing his hero in a fancy black broadcloth gambler's suit, which underscored the character's streetwise perspective, but was also a time-honored stereotype for villains. The Mavericks would typically fall prey to precarious scenarios, weighing a financial windfall against a moral dilemma. More often than not, their consciences trumped their wallets. Bret Maverick was realistically (and vocally) reluctant to risk his life, though he typically ended up forcing himself to be courageous, usually in spite of himself. He frequently flimflammed adversaries, but only criminals who actually deserved it. Otherwise he was scrupulously honest almost to a fault, in at least one case insisting on repaying a large debt that he only arguably owed to begin with (in "According to Hoyle")
Initially there were only two Mavericks, Bret and Bart, though James Garner starred in the first eight episodes, and together they turned the TV western on its head - the Maverick boys didn't react to problems in the way James Arness, Steve McQueen or Clint Walker did. Confronted with someone in trouble they would run off to find the sheriff or ask, 'what's in it for me?'. This allowed for some subtle comedy that was not over the top in the style of say Blazing Saddles. It found itself able to spoof other TV westerns - Gunsmoke was spoofed in the episode called Gunshy and later episodes also spoofed Bonanza.
"Maverick was a hero who didn't like being an hero," series creator, Roy Huggins.
Season five featured only 13 episodes, all featuring Jack Kelly in the lead role, but these were rotated with reruns of Garner episodes to try and boost flagging ratings. However that was it and the series ended at the end of the season at episode 124.
The show was revived in 1978 but didn't make it past the pilot - both Garner and Kelly returned for the pilot, Young Maverick which starred Charles Frank. The series came back again in 1981 under the title of Brent Maverick and starring James Garner, Kelly appeared in one episode as Bart. The actor was to return full time for a proposed second season but this was never made.
James Garner did return to the role one more time in the Mel Gibson Maverick movie. Many had expected a disaster here but the movie is both good natured and fun - everything the TV series was famed for, in fact.
From time to time a new version of Maverick is mooted but as of yet nothing has come to fruition - perhaps its just as well - maybe it's best to leave this particular classic alone.