Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr. - The Complete Series

This article has been at least a couple years in the making, so I am thrilled to finally knock it out! The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr. (Original TV Promo) is a western comedy TV series with a hint of sci-fi thrown in for good measure to keep things interesting. It originally ran on FOX for 28 episodes during the 1993-94 TV season before being cancelled during the summer before production kicked off for season two. I had vague recollections of catching a few episodes of it growing up, but quickly forgot about it over the years.

Jump ahead nearly 20 years later and I found myself picking up the complete series on DVD as a birthday gift for my brother a few years back since I know he is a huge Bruce Campbell fan. Several years ago I was reminded of this TV series when my brother borrowed me Bruce’s autobiography, If Chins Could Kill where he had mostly positive memories of his time on the show. My brother said he would only watch episodes of the show with me whenever we got together and hung out. So starting roughly a year and a half ago we started watching the episodes in one or two episode chunks every month or two. A week ago we finally finished, and even though technically the DVD is my brother’s, since I originally purchased it and watched every episode with him I feel it would be appropriate to cover it here.

If you never heard of this show and thought it might have been a predecessor to the awesome Firefly western/sci-fi series going by my description than you are sadly mistaken. If you watch the linked commercial above it is clear that Briscoe County is far more lighthearted than Firefly. Bruce Campbell is the leading role as Briscoe County Jr., and the show kicks off with Briscoe’s father getting murdered in the line of duty. We jump ahead to Jr. trying to live up to his dad’s legacy by being as good as a sheriff as his dad was, but by playing by his own rules as a private bounty hunter.

Joining Briscoe is Lord Bowler (Julius Carry), who originally is Briscoe’s rival bounty hunter trying to compete with him on bringing in the latest on the wanted list before him. It was entertaining watching Bowler transition from rival to partner with Briscoe over the show’s first several episodes. Carry and Briscoe absolutely nail their performances as the carefree ‘opposites attract’ partnership. Joining them is attorney Socrates Poole (Christian Clemenson) who is the over-the-top-yet-loveable doofus who fills them in on their latest mission and occasionally joins them in the field to stir things up for all parties involved.

The show has the familiar ‘villain of the week’ TV setup, but there is also a grander season spanning mystery where a couple familiar foes have recurring roles. The Bly Gang was responsible for Briscoe Sr.’s death and Briscoe is after them for the first half of the season, while the Bly Gang is also after a mysterious orb that Briscoe & Bowler are also after. This orb is where the sci-fi elements come into play, and as much as I enjoyed this show, the handful of orb-themed episodes were not usually among the good ones as things just got a bit too out there for me to suspend my disbelief. I did get a chuckle watching the awesomely bad 1993-era TV special effects that happened around the orb, but if you are trying to marathon this show as quick as possible I recommend skipping the orb episodes or watching them at double speed if you must.

The better lighthearted moments that hit more at home with my brother and I were whenever the show hinted at future technology. Briscoe County Jr. is set 100 years before it originally aired in 1893 when America is on the cusp of an industrial revolution. The show has a professor by the name of Albert Wickwire (John Astin) who occasionally pops up to demonstrate all kinds of zany prototypes for automobiles, rockets and rubber bullets to name a few. There is a few other minor periphery character that appear throughout the season. Most of whom added a lot to the show like the lovely Dixie (Kelly Rutherford), but occasionally there were some that were just completely off the mark and mind-numbingly annoying such as the wannabe Elvis sheriff, Aaron Viva (Gary Hudson).

Even though I already mentioned how out-of-date the special effects are, since this is a western themed show not a lot of other cutting edge effects are needed for the majority of episodes that do not have sci-fi hijinx. This was shot in the Warner Bros. lot so one can only imagine the nearly limitless wardrobe, props and set pieces they had available to them. While this is a comedy, this hit all the right notes for me as far as western action scenes went, with plenty of fist fights and shoot-outs aplenty. The few serious moments in the show really hit home because of how seldom they transpired, case in point is the series finale which is a two episode special. If the producers would have known they were going off the air after the first season at time of production, they could have ended the show with the most gut-wrenching, dour moment of the season at the end of the first part of the special because of how well crafted it was. Luckily, that is not the case and we got a more open-ended closing where Briscoe and Bowler ride off into the sunset ready for wherever their next adventures take them.

This DVD is loaded with extra features. There is one commentary on the two-part pilot with Bruce Campbell and producer, Carlton Cuse. There is an excellent booklet accompanying the DVD set filled with liner notes from Campbell on each and every episode that provided some worthwhile background info I made sure to read after each episode. There are several behind-the-scenes features with the standout being History of Briscoe County, which is a half hour retrospective with the cast and crew. I really dug this as they interviewed all the major cast and crew members on their memories of the show, and thoughts for ideas of season two and how surprised they were when it got cancelled and how the show gained a new audience in reruns on Saturday mornings on TNT. Worth noting is they did interview Julius Carry here just a couple years prior before he passed from cancer. If you are not one to really dive deep into extras make sure to at least go out of your way and indulge in just this one.

Tools of the Trade is 12 minutes of combined interviews from the cast and crew with a bunch of amusing anecdotes from the show and Reading from the Book of Bruce is Campbell spending seven minutes reading the entire excerpt relating to his time on the show from his aforementioned autobiography. Finally, Briscoe County Writer’s Room is where several of the writers and producers gather in an open 43 minute discussion reminiscing from their time on the show. There are many good tales in here, but a few times they did get a little heavy into the nuts and bolts production process that went over my head and there are times where they were shouting over each other that got to be a little much, but then again it shows how passionate they were for the show.

Minus several episodes, my brother and I had a riot enduring the 28 episode season of The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr. Of the 28, I would say roughly 20 of them are hits while eight did not do it for us. I do not fault the show though because that does seem to be a slightly longer than usual season, so I could see how some ideas made it out of the writer’s room that should have stayed there. I am not nearly the mega Bruce Campbell fan my brother is, but I enjoyed Briscoe County just as much as he did, and if you are up for some western comedy than this will be right up your alley.

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Roseanne – Seasons 1-9
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
Superheroes: Pioneers of Television

No comments:

Post a Comment