“The Wild Wild West” is one of those TV shows from the late 1960ies what would have been quite forgotten by all but fans save for an ill-fated attempt at making a movie from it in 1999 a movie which spent a great deal of money on the star-power and special effects and proved resoundingly that plenty of each do not come anywhere near assuring a hit.

The original series aired from 1965-69, and was a cheerful amalgam of the Old West with James Bond gadgets spliced together with lashings of Batmanesque camp thrown in for good measure. The debonair secret service agent James T. West (Robert Conrad) and his partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) the master of disguise and accents, roamed the American frontier in their luxurious private train, foiling the devilish plots of various megalomaniacal villains. They did so with panache and considerable charm – and an almost complete lack of period authenticity, to the point where this set would make a wonderful drinking game for 19th century re-enactors; simply down a drink every time there is an out-of period anachronism of any sort: I guarantee everyone would be hammered by about an episode and a half.

But still and all, the show does have a certain nostalgic charm of its own, at this point. It’s a relic of an earlier television age, when it was perfectly OK to shoot on the same old familiar back-lot, or take the crew out to do exterior shots in Griffith Park, and never mind that there is a telephone pole right there between the pine trees and the back of a warehouse, too. Or that the window through which a fist-fight crashes is boarded up with very obvious balsawood planks, the breakaway barrel is completely empty and made of balsa-wood too, and that whoever dressed the set just pulled oddments out of a prop warehouse someplace: the same objects kept showing up, time and time again. And the extras stand around in the background uncertainly waiting further direction – but the viewer can count on Robert Conrad getting into a fist-fight (he did all his own stunts) and possibly removing his shirt, which he did oftener than William Shatner did on Star Trek. The threshold of believable authenticity in a weekly show was, needless to say, appreciably lower forty years ago. The budget for the 1999 movie remake of The Wild Wild West probably equaled the budget for season or more of the TV show, but the original is far, far more amusing.

There are no special features in this set – just the 24 episodes. The Wild Wild West – Season 3 is available from Amazon.com, and at other retail outlets

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com

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