Rerjun Junkie–The Last of My TV Boyfriends

Pete MalloyI have three TV boyfriends: Artemus Gordon, Dan Williams, and Pete Malloy. These three characters (from The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, and Adam-12, respectively) managed to capture a little piece of my rerun junkie heart that no other character could. Sure, there have been crushes. Like Jim Rockford, for example. But these three guys really make it for me. Don’t ask me to tell you why because I don’t know. You can’t explain love.

So my heart was understandably broken when I heard on Monday that Martin Milner had passed away. A wonderful man and a wonderful actor, there are a whole lot of people sad and rightfully so.

But I’m doing a fair bit of mourning, not unlike what I did when James MacArthur died back in 2010. Ross Martin passed away back in 1981, long before I identified as a rerun junkie and discovered him, but I imagine I would have mourned just as much for him then if I had.

My last TV boyfriend is gone.

There’s a very odd sort of emotional duel going on in my being right now because the actor died, but the character I love will live forever because that’s how reruns work. That’s not to say that I don’t adore Martin Milner, because I do. I love watching him in other stuff, too. He’s in one of my favorite episodes of Murder, She Wrote and I’ve seen him in Route 66 as well as in some of my other reruns. I’m delighted to see him in anything, just as I’m delighted to see James MacArthur or Ross Martin play different characters. It’s a trip to see James MacArthur, Danno for crying out loud, play a right jerk and do it well. And Ross Martin is probably one of my favorite actors of all time because the ease at which he could seem to play any character, from psychotic bastard to wounded, vulnerable human.

Those three people are gone, but their characters live on.

Pete Malloy will never die. He’ll never wither, he’ll never age. There’s no risk that he’ll get cancer or suffer a stroke. Any injuries he sustains, any illnesses he contracts, he’ll recover. I know he’ll recover. Because I’ve seen it all before. He’ll always exist in a sort of frozen bit of time, a safe place where my TV boyfriend will always be waiting.

But the man that brought Pete Malloy to life, that gave him the essence and personality and emotion and face that I love has passed away and I’m really bummed about that.

Safe travels across the horizon, Mr. Milner. Thanks for everything. I really appreciate it.

Rerun Junkie–Following the Stars

Ross Martin not being Artemus Gordon.
Ross Martin not being Artemus Gordon.

I like to follow the stars of my reruns. Call it a symptom of my rerun junkie habit. Call it lazy, harmless stalking. Whatever you call it, I do it.

Once I get hooked into a show, I’ll start looking for its stars in other things when I go through the TV schedule for the week. It doesn’t matter what it is, new or old, movie or TV show, I’m just looking for the face.

To me, it’s neat. Here’s someone’s first TV appearance. Here’s their most recent movie. Here’s that same face that you love on this TV show that was made before you were born, the person that plays this character that you adore, doing something totally different.

And I have little to no shame in regards to this TV stalking. If I have taken an interest in you, then I will look for you. And if I see you are going to be on my TV this week, I’ll make a note of it on my phone so I don’t miss it (not kidding; I set an alarm and everything).

Randolph  Mantooth not being Johnny Gage, but doing it with a fantastic mustache.
Randolph Mantooth not being Johnny Gage, but doing it with a fantastic mustache.

Because of this peculiar habit, I’ve seen Johnny Crawford on Little House on the Prairie and Hawaii Five-O; Randolph Mantooth on Charlie’s Angels (with a fabulous mustache) and Criminal Minds; Larry Storch on Love, American Style and Gilligan’s Island; Forrest Tucker on Bionic Woman and Marcus Welby, MD; Ross Martin on The Bold Ones and The Return of the Mod Squad (honestly, my Ross Marin fixation deserves its own post); Kevin Tighe on Law and Order: SVU and Leverage; Kent McCord on Ironside and JAG; and Martin Milner on The Millionaire and The Virginian.

(I don’t think I have to tell you that I’m not listing ALL of them.)

Larry Storch not being  Randolphy Agarn.
Larry Storch not being Randolphy Agarn.

It’s because of this peculiar habit that I realize how many of these people I’ve seen dozens of times BEFORE I found them on my reruns. Do you know how many times I’ve seen Kevin Tighe in Roadhouse and Kent McCord in Airplane II? Well, let’s not discuss it. I’ve seen those flicks an embarrassing number of times. The same goes for anyone that’s been on Murder, She Wrote, because I’ve seen all of those episodes ten times at least. I’ve seen Martin Milner be the hero and Randolph Mantooth get killed sooooo many times.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are so many faces I’ve seen multiple times BEFORE they became significant faces to me. It’s fun to go back and see them again now knowing them.

And you thought I couldn’t have any more fun with my reruns.

Rerun Junkie– The Wild Wild West

Three in the afternoon was a dead zone for me. There really weren’t any reruns that I wanted to watch, so I’d usually just put on Me-TV until my next round came on, putting the TV on mute and listening to the radio (oldies, of course) while I worked and waited.

It just so happens that The Wild Wild West is on at three. And after several weeks of looking up to see what was going on and being completely baffled by what was onscreen, I turned on the sound. That didn’t always help, but what I did find was a new rerun for me to love.

The Wild Wild West

The show features secret service agents James West (Robert Conrad), our dashing and daring hero, and his partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), a master of disguise and gadgets, as they do the bidding of President Grant in the 1870’s, protecting him and the country from various fiends and schemes. They travel the country on a special train that’s stocked with every gadget they might need, most of which didn’t come into existence until after the time. And no matter how busy they were saving the country, they always found time to romance a girl or three (seriously, I don’t know how they found the time to do their sworn duty with all the tail they got). It’s a Western with a steampunk/Bond flavor.

The one real repeated villain the show had was Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), a brilliant but dangerous and slightly mad man who often went to toe to toe with James West and though his plans were often spoiled, he always managed to get away. He was usually accompanied by his companions Voltaire (Richard Kiel) and Antoinette (Phoebe Dorin). Oh, and Dr. Loveless just so happened to be a little person.

Though the show was primarily an action gig, there was comedy supplied from the wit and quips of James and Artemus, usually poking at each other. It added a nice balance to all the death defying and saving of the country. The chemistry between Robert Conrad and Ross Martin is really quite delightful and makes the episodes without Mr. Martin more noticeable (Mr. Martin had a near-fatal heart attack during the fourth season and was replaced by Charles Aidman, Alan Hale Jr., and William Schallert for several episodes while he recovered). The replacement agents were all fine, but they just weren’t Artemus Gordon.

They can also pull off fringe and chaps without looking like pro-wrestling gimmicks.
They can also pull off fringe and chaps without looking like pro-wrestling gimmicks.

It’s also worth noting that since this is an action show, the two leads did get in on that action. Mr. Conrad did most of his own stunts until he fell 12 feet from a chandelier and sustained a concussion that ended filming on season 3 a couple of weeks early. Mr. Martin also broke his leg during an episode a few weeks before having his heart attack (though I don’t think he did quite as many of his own stunts as Mr. Conrad). Something you don’t see much of today.

In addition to our favorite villain and fellow agents, other guest stars included Victor Buono, Suzanne Pleshette, Robert Loggia, Harold Gould, Dabs Greer, Boris Karloff, Carroll O’Connor, Burgess Meredith, Ida Lupino, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Duvall, Ed Asner, Harvey Korman, Martin Landeau, James Gregory, and Leslie Nielsen.

This show is fun. Along with the wit and the action, you get some really nifty gadgets, complicated, diabolical plots, James West goes shirtless every other episode, and Artemus Gordon gets to be a dozen different people on any given day. What’s not to love?



Where I Watch It