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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Comedy > The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. - The Complete Series

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. - The Complete Series


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: A     Film: B



When Brisco County first aired in 1993 the commercials touted it as a Comedy Western.  It was obvious from the opening scene, that of Chinese workers being granted super powers by a high-tech glowing, golden orb, that neither comedy nor western quite covered the bases.  This quirky show, created by the late Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse, writer and executive producer on Lost, regularly straddled the line of several genres, all with a tongue-in-cheek good-natured sense of fun.  The network didn’t know how to market the show and it never found an audience (the same fate that befell the Sci-Fi/Western series Firefly a couple of years ago for much the same reasons).


The basic premise was pretty straightforward.  Brisco is the son of a famous western lawman who was gunned down by bad guy John Bly and his twelve-man gang.  Brisco Jr. is hired to track these outlaws down. While many of the episodes are pure Western, the plot is complicated by that golden orb.  Seems the Orb (all three of them, we later discover), is from the future, as are several of the cast members who attempt to retrieve it over the course of the series.  John Bly has a connection to it, as does Brisco himself.


To complicate things, along the way we have an episode that is a tribute to the Alfred Hitchcock horror film classic Psycho (filmed at the actual Hollywood set), and another that is a murder mystery straight out of a game of Clue.  Like it wasn’t hard enough to categorize this show.


While the style of the program is an obvious tribute to the classic Western movies and serials of the past much its theme is about the future and what it holds.  It is set in the 1890’s, a west on the verge of a new century. Brisco has quite the imagination, always keeping an eye out for "the coming thing."  To that end we see the advance of technology in the series, and although some of it is anachronistic, it is all used to great effect.  There are diving suits, tanks, motorcycles, and lighter than air ships.  We also see items that were unknown at the time, such as a shower instead of a bathtub, a miracle fabric known as denim, a sandwich made out of fried ground beef, and a town sheriff who could pass for a certain flamboyant 1950’s King of Rock and Roll.


Whatever the genre, there is no confusion about what truly has Brisco County stand out, and that is the cast.  Each of the primary characters are a joy to watch. Many of the roles Bruce Campbell is best known for (Army of Darkness and Bubba Ho-Tep, both reviewed elsewhere on this site) have a darker edge to them, but Brisco was the classic square-jawed cowboy hero who loved his horse and never missed a shot.  Julius Carry originally played bounty hunter Lord Bowler as an over-the-top angry Mr. T in the old west, but over the course of the series toned down and found nuances that made him lovable.  Christian Clemenson rounded out the regular cast as Socrates Poole, the beleaguered city lawyer who just wasnąt cut out for adventure.


The extended cast of recurring characters is also essential to the feel. John Astin as the befuddled inventor added an air of SteamPunk to the proceedings.  Kelly Rutherford played Dixie Cousins, a dancehall girl with an agenda of her own, adding an updated Mae West-like sexuality and a love interest for Brisco.  Billy Drago portrayed John Bly with a poise and grace that was Shakespearian in its villainy.  John Pyper-Ferguson was a joy as my personal favorite character, Pete Hutter, a hired gun who came up with plans that were phenomenally stupid, yet periodically discussed existentialism and the Hegelian dialectic.


The show ran a full season before being cancelled.  The good news for viewers is that the primary plotline, that of the Orb, is resolved in the first season, so there are no really annoying cliffhangers at the end.


In addition to the twenty-seven episodes, the eight disc set is loaded with extra features.  There is commentary on many episodes, a full color booklet episode guide, Brisco’s Book of Coming Things (a video catalog of the show’s references to the future), a retrospective documentary, a roundtable discussion with the show’s primary writers, and a reading by Bruce Campbell from his book If Chins could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, focusing on his time with the show.



-   Wayne Wise



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