Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Here Come The Brides

It’s a Sunday afternoon in the Fall of 1968. I’m 9 years old and I’m visiting my friend Timmy for the first time at his new house. We’re getting ready to run outside and play and he goes upstairs to get something. He’s gone quite a while. The television had been left on in the living room downstairs where I was and the first episode of a new series came on—HERE COME THE BRIDES. I had heard about this new show but didn’t really think it looked all that good—sort of a TV version of the movie musical SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, which my Mom loved but I couldn’t stand. By the time Timmy came down, though, I was hooked in by the catchy theme song, SEATTLE, and we had to wait until the episode ended before we ran around outside.
The reason that HERE COME THE BRIDES was on Sunday afternoon was that the local ABC affiliate had a habit then of displacing programs to the weekend so they could air local shows in prime time.

HERE COME THE BRIDES is the story of three Seattle brothers in the 1860’s who travel to the East Coast by ship to bring back 100 marriageable women for the loggers in the town. Underlying the trip is a high-stakes bet between logger Jason Bolt and sawmill owner Aaron Stempel as to whether the year-long experiment will succeed.

Jason Bolt, played by actor Robert Brown, is portrayed as the stereotypical hero. He’s tall, handsome, stalwart, broad-shouldered and with a million dollar smile. He always wears his trademark leather outfit. Eye candy for the ladies for sure.

But the eye candy didn’t stop there. Jason’s two younger brothers, Joshua and Jeremy, were portrayed by future Hutch (as in STARSKY AND…) David Soul and soon-to-be America’s # 1 pop recording sensation, Bobby Sherman. Although the younger of the two, Sherman had already had some success as the house singer on SHINDIG a few years earlier.

For the guys, there was just plain Candy—Bridget Hanley, a lovely young actress whose trademark on the show was her old-fashioned hairstyle.
Rounding out the cast of the series were-- the great Joan Blondell, one of the best wisecracking dames in the history of movies, here filled out a bit but still gorgeous a saloon owner Lottie who takes the girls under her wing; Henry Beckman, an actor known before and after for his solid but bland performances, here allowed to chew the scenery with great aplomb as Captain Clancy; Mark Lenard, forever best known as Spock’s Vulcan father Sarek in the various TV and film versions of STAR TREK, as Aaron; Susan Tolsky as what passes fro Candy’s goofy neighbor, Bo Svenson in early episodes as “Big Swede” and, in the second and final season, Candy’s young niece and nephew, Molly and Christopher. 

Early on, there was a vague serial aspect to the series, itself a Western but generally without any of the traditional staples of a TV Western. Plots dealt with the courtships of various characters, the unhappiness of the women, local disasters and the family interplay with the Bolt Brothers. Famously, Bruce lee even appeared as a guest star in one episode dealing wit the Chinese community in the American West.

Josh was the impetuous one, Jeremy the stammering dreamer, Jason the altruistic self-styled leader of the town. Even though he was 42 when the series started, one would be hard-pressed to find an actor at that time that more defined the word “swashbuckler” than Robert Brown. Along with Soul and Sherman, he, too, became a teen idol. 

Bobby Sherman parlayed the gig into a series of hit singles and albums and concerts filled with screaming teenyboppers. With his fluffy hair, love beads and peace signs, his shirtless photos adorned countless issues of SIXTEEN, FLIP and TIGER BEAT. After the series had run its course, those mag spots were taken over by THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY’s David Cassidy and Bobby quickly and sadly became a bit of a trivia question.

The series only ran two seasons but its fans have been fiercely loyal. One of those fans was apparently writer Barbara Hambly who wrote a STAR TREK novel that was actually an unauthorized HERE COME THE BRIDES novel in which Spock ended up in nineteenth century Seattle under the wing of Aaron Stempel---whom you’ll recall was played on TV by the actor known for playing Spock’s father!

More recently a more proper book was written about the series and came out from Bear Manor Media. There’s talk of remaking it as a feature film for 2013.

Robert Brown went on to a syndicated underwater adventure series entitled PRIMUS. David Soul blazed through STSARSKY & HUTCH and later played the Bogart role in the ill-advised TV remake of CASBLANCA. Still later, he starred in the title role in JERRY SPRINGER, THE OPERA. Bobby Sherman had another short-lived series, GETTING TOGETHER, but soon retired to become an emergency responder, only recently returning to oldies concerts in the 21st Century.

Meanwhile, back in 1968, I found out later that night that my fifth grade girlfriend Debbie had caught the show, too. She immediately developed a crush on Bobby and I had to hear about him a lot. I started buying his records, wearing fringed vests and love beads and growing my hair longer.  

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