Posts Tagged ‘Ross Martin’

Review: ‘The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series’ puts it all in one box

November 4, 2008

If you’ve put off picking up each of the four individual season sets for The Wild Wild West,  now’s your chance to get them all in one swoop, along with two TV reunion movies not previously released on DVD. The handsomely boxed The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series, new from Paramount, doesn’t come cheap, but collectively it sure beats buying the four seasons individually.

Of course, many loyal fans already may have purchased the individual season sets, and there’s the rub. Despite the relatively low quality of the two TV movies added to this full-series set, those movies are desired by fans who are completists. And such fans shouldn’t have to pay $90 or so just to get those two movies and an attractive box when they already have the four season sets.

It’s hoped that Paramount will issue the two TV movies individually at a later date, and at a reasonable price, of course. Until then, the only place to find 1979’s The Wild Wild West Revisited and 1980’s More Wild Wild West is in this big boxed full-series set.

Well, we can’t have everything, and have it all whenever we want, now can we?

Besides, I already know of one friend who’d held out on buying the season sets and is thrilled to get the entire series — and two movies — in one package. And let’s not forget the big picture: that The Wild Wild West was one of the more entertaining and original hybrids of ’60s TV, blending James Bond-style secret agents with Old West settings, though its villains’ crimes went far over the top at times, and anachronisms (as in the dreadful Will Smith theatrical film) prevailed.

After its more earnest first season — which also was the only one in black and white — WWW tended to topple over into fantasyland, and thus lose its endearing western identity. Still, stars Robert Conrad and Ross Martin remained an engaging pair of agents, and as in many shows, it’s the characters, not the stories, that most enthrall us. So saddle up and enjoy these “oaters” in whatever format suits you. The trail ahead is eventful, entertaining and long.

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‘Wild Wild West’ weathered tough final season

March 17, 2008

As Heath Ledger’s recent death and Patrick Swayze’s current illness remind us, larger than life celebs are no different than anyone: They’re human, and they’re subject to illnesses, accidents and worse, just like all of us. And that brings us to Tuesday’s release by CBS DVD of The Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season, a season which was hit hard midway by its own human frailty when star Ross Martin suffered a heart attack.

He was just 48 years old at the time (1968). Martin recovered, but he lived only until 1981, when another heart attack proved fatal at age 61.

His famed series about 1870s U.S. secret agents ended too, after that fourth year, though its production values never faltered. If anything, The Wild Wild West looks better than ever for its swan-song season, when guest stars include the likes of Harvey Korman, Kevin McCarthy, Ted Knight and even singer Jackie DeShannon (What the World Needs Now).

With Martin’s Artemus Gordon ostensibly sent to Washington, D.C. on assignment, co-star Robert Conrad’s James West soldiered on with a substitute sidekick, Charles Aidman. The show must go on, as they say.

Conrad also continued to do his own stunts (no absurdly dissimilar stuntmen for him, unlike William Shatner on Star Trek)  and this proved both a plus and a minus. It was a plus because the action looked more realistic. It was a minus because networks were smarting after the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. earlier that year, and violent TV programming came under fire. Thus, after four fine seasons, WWW was axed — though, to be fair, it was far more fanciful than realistically violent.

But that end was only a beginning, in some ways, and you can still see all 104 episodes in four boxed sets. That’s more than you can say for many shows which emerge on DVD for one or two seasons, then subside. And while human frailty may halt some things, digital entertainment is forever.