Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On DVD: Dusty's Trail (1973)

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."--George Santayana

Let me start with a quick history lesson.

In 1966, with Gilligan's Island entering its 3rd & final season, series creator-producer Sherwood Schwartz sold a 2nd series to CBS, It's About Time. As with Gilligan, it was produced through Phil Silvers' production company and United Artists. By the end of the season, both Gilligan & Time had been cancelled. Gilligan, of course, became an iconic classic, much beloved in reruns nearly 50 years later.

In 1973, The Brady Bunch and its animated spin-off, The Brady Kids, entered their final seasons on ABC (5th & 2nd, respectively). Not willing to tempt fate again, even though he did have a new series ready, Schwartz opted to test the waters of syndication with his latest creation, Dusty's Trail. Unfortunately for Schwartz, the fates didn't smile on him this time, either. Dusty rode off into the sunset, pulled from the air by producer-distributor Metromedia 6 months after its debut.

What was the problem? It was really a reincarnation of Gilligan, only this time it was set in the Old West, with a wagon & stagecoach separated from the rest of its wagon train. Scout "Dusty" Boots (Bob Denver) had screwed up, and took the wagon off course. From there, Dusty, wagonmaster Callahan (Forrest Tucker, ex-F-Troop), and 5 passengers ventured to locate the rest of the train. Suffice it to say, the series ended without a proper resolution.

Bob Denver had enjoyed some minor success after Gilligan with The Good Guys (1968-70), but while he claimed in interviews that Dusty was a favorite of his, it wasn't an icon like Gilligan or even Maynard Krebs, his role on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Not only that, but the perception was that Dusty was 2-3 times dumber than the other two characters put together. The rest of the cast corresponded with other Gilligan characters, including the sweeter-than-honey Southern belle (Lori Saunders, ex-Petticoat Junction), the aformentioned wagonmaster, and the brainiac (Bill Cort). However, the chemistry just wasn't there.

Country singer Mel Street performed the title song. Uploaded by MarktheSaiyan:

Undaunted, Schwartz & Denver teamed up again the next year, reuniting most of the Gilligan cast for the animated New Adventures series for ABC & Filmation, which lasted three seasons (1974-77), even though only 1 year's worth of episodes was produced, enabling Denver to try one more series, 1975's Far Out Space Nuts, bringing him back to CBS. That same year, Tucker reunited with F-Troop's Larry Storch for the Ghost Busters, also for CBS, and coupled with Space Nuts as part of the network's Saturday morning block. All three have been reviewed over on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives.

For what it's worth, I gave away the ending already. The two Brady series ended their runs 5 1/2 months after Dusty's Trail did, meaning that Schwartz's previous misfortune had indeed been repeated.

Rating: D-.


Hal Horn said...

Agree, everyone tried hard, but this series just didn't work. I think part of the problem was that Denver was almost forty and aging out of being convincing in GILLIGAN type roles. He had tried something different with his prior series, THE GOOD GUYS, but that one didn't catch on either.

hobbyfan said...

Not only that, but Gilligan was in syndication by 1973. That meant Dusty was doomed.