Maverick is one of my current favorite TV shows and it is from the late 50s. Current because I have never seen them, and because I “discovered” it about 6 months ago. You might be familiar with the show, or more likely with the Mel Gibson movie, but I am going to pretend you are not.
Roy Huggins pitched Maverick to ABC to capitalize on the popular western Cheyenne. The big difference between Maverick and all other westerns of the time was that its lead character was an anti-hero. Roy wanted to buck as many trends as he could get away with from the standard western. Bret Maverick, played by James Garner, was a gambler who would avoid fights whenever possible. He would sneak out the back door, or agree with an insult levied at him if it meant he could avoid fighting.
This gave the show a great sense of humor and the plots started to follow suit. Bret might find himself winning a camel that he couldn’t sell or convincing hillbillies to solve their feud through poker. This show seems smarter and more fun than a lot of today’s programming (amazing that it can prove to be more entertaining than ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’).
I also enjoy some of the background stories about the show. The show began falling behind schedule almost immediately so they hired Jack Kelly to play Bart Maverick. His character was nearly identical to Bret’s and they would film episodes simultaneously (occasionally doing an episode with both of them). They were so similar in fact that scripts were all written for Bret, and Garner would choose which ones he wanted. The remaining scripts just changed all the Bret’s to Bart’s. In episodes with both of them it would simply be written Maverick 1 and Maverick 2.
James Garner left after Season 3, so he was replaced by Roger Moore who played British cousin Beau Maverick. They even added a fourth maverick with Brent Maverick played by Robert Colbert who immediately quit when he realized he had to play it just like Maverick. “Put me in a dress and call me Brenda but don’t do this to me!” he told the studio.
So Colbert and Moore left the show (Moore claiming the scripts were a lot worse than the original scripts) leaving Jack Kelly to have the 4th and final season all to himself.
Even though Jack Kelly played Maverick way more than anyone else, Garner remained the true Maverick in most people’s minds. Even in Jack’s who said, “Garner was Maverick. I was his brother.”
I sadly never saw the Beau Maverick episodes. American Life TV (channel 153 on my cable service) skipped from the last episode of season 3 to the pilot. Though, I at least didn’t have to wait over a year for the show to get to the 1st season which is often cited as far superior to the later seasons.
This week is the first episode with Bart, which I can’t wait for. The two Mavericks have great chemistry together and I love watching them play off each other. Even when Bret is threatened with death if he loses a poker game Bart refuses to throw it. Apparently he was being paid to win and their Pappy used to say, “The only thing more important than money is more money”. Bret understood his explanation and dropped his request.
Anyway – I doubt this factual description of the show is going to convince anyone to seek out episodes, or buy the non-existent DVD sets, but let it be said it charmed the hell out of me. From the thousand dollar bill the Maverick’s pin inside their vests for emergencies to the quotes that their pappy used to say I can’t get enough of it.
Here is the theme song: