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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Bret Maverick: The Lazy Ace

It's a shame that the 1981 TV series, Bret Maverick which saw James Garner reprise the role that originally made him famous, only lasted for the one season. Maybe it was something to do with the revised format - in the original series Maverick was a drifting gambler, but in the new run he had settled down as a saloon owner. He did of course win the saloon in a poker game and the details of the game are played out in this two part pilot episode, which is often shown as a TV movie in an edited version. Another big difference with the new Maverick was that there was only one Maverick present - that of James Garner while the original series alternated lead actors, usually between James Garner and Jack Kelly, though Roger Moore as Beau Maverick and Roger Colbert as Brent Maverick also headed up several episodes.

Jack Kelly did appear briefly in this series and there were plans for him to return for a second season - alas that didn't come to pass.

Bret decides to settle down and enjoy the easy life in Sweetwater, but before he can, he has to head out to the Badlands to hunt down the thieves who stole all his money. As Sheriff Tom Guthrie is a bit preoccupied - trying to save his job - Bret hooks up with the only help he can get - the devious Philo Sandeen, who sells himself by claiming to be General Custer's former chief scout!

The Lucky Ace is an enjoyable story with Garner slipping back into the role as if he had never been away - the supporting cast are also on top form with several recurring characters being set up in the pilot episode. Why the show failed is anyone's guess -  it was made in the early 80's at a time when the westerns popularity as a TV genre had diminished.


Anonymous said...

I actually watched most of these episodes when they were on prime time back in '81. The show did not fail and drew a steady audience -- it was NBC's 7th highest rated show of the year but they killed it anyway.

They decided that they wanted to go after a younger demographic and I think The A-Team went into the same time slot.

Can't say why I remember any of this -- I was 14 in '81 but I remember reading it in Tom Shale's column at the time.

Dan Luft

Nick Kitt said...

Bret Maverick was, and still is, an underrated gem to this day. It was a great show which essayed, rather cleverly, the "declining " years of one of TV's best characters. James Garner was fabulous, as always, and the supporting cast, especially Ed Bruce,Darleen Carr,Stuart Margolin, and the late,great Ramon Bieri were steller, to say the least. The show's turn of the Century flavor also added to it's ahead of it's time quality.It MORE then deserved a second season. At the time, there was a petition to get it picked up by another network. Why it never did was beyond me. But, really, why hasn't this, as well as the original series, ever been released on DVD??