The Wild, Wild, West – Television Series

When I was young, maybe too young as I was only eight at the time, my father introduced me to a series of books by an author named Ian Fleming about an English secret agent known as James Bond.  Prior to this my heroes were all from world of television.  I was enthralled with the “Adventures of Superman,” “Roy Rogers” and “The Lone Ranger.” As you may have noticed two of my favorite heroes were from westerns.  James Bond suddenly took precedence over them all.  I loved the intrigue and the action in the books.  But I still loved my westerns.  Then, in 1964 a television western, The Wild, Wild West, set in the mid 1800’s appeared about two agents of the newly established U.S. Secret Service; James West and Artmus Gordon.  Each episode had the intrigue and mystery of a secret agent like James Bond as well as the special gadgets and gizmos a spy would use and best of all, it was a western.  I was hooked.

The Wild, Wild West stared Robert Conrad as agent James West and Ross Martin as agent Artemus Gordon.  Conrad’s West was the more Bond like character.  Martin’s Artemus Gordon was the master of disguise.   While James West often went into a situation in a straight forward direct manner.  Artemus Gordon would infiltrate, usually as some semi-comic character that no one would expect of being capable of doing any real damage.  Gordon was in some ways the brains to West’s brawn.  His inventions and those of many of the villains on the show may have been a precursor of today’s Steam Punk movement. 

The show had several reoccurring villains, but the most loved, or at least most remembered was that of Dr. Miguelito Loveless played by Michael Dunn.  Dunn’s Loveless would have been at home in any Bond movie. He was confident, intelligent, polite, and inherently evil.  Like many Bond villains he should have been dead but always seemed to escape certain death to come back again.  Despite his small stature Michael Dunn’s Loveless was the perfect foil for James and Artemus.

 

The Wild, Wild West reflects many of the social sensibilities of the time it is set, which is the mid 1800’s. It did not try to address the social issues of the 60’s.  James West’s womanizing however would have done James Kirk or James Bond proud.  The show was meant to be nothing more or less than a spy/thriller/ western.  The Wild, Wild West does not take itself too seriously and there are moments of laughter and comedy as well as drama.  The show was canceled after four seasons.  Interestingly not because of low ratings but because of the rising concern about violence on television.  It is however extremely tame compared to today’s programs. Unlike many programs today the show can be picked up at any point.  There is no continuing storyline in the series and in fact the dates in which the episodes were set, if they were mentioned at all, jump back and forth throughout the series.   The first season was filmed in black and white and the remaining three were filmed in color.  Personally, I still love black and white movies and television shows, but if you don’t, feel free to start watching with series two.   It won’t really matter.