Friday, June 21, 2013

Classic TV: Wagon Train (1957)

Critics referred to Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek derisively as "Wagon Train in space" because of the various guest stars appearing aboard the Enterprise from week to week. After seeing Wagon Train itself, which signed off a full year before Trek launched, it's easy to understand why.

Wagon Train lasted 8 seasons between two networks, NBC (1957-62) and ABC (1962-5). For much of its run, it was a 1 hour show, but experimented with a 90 minute format for a time as well, which might've asked a little too much of viewers.

Each episode focused on one particular character, usually played by the guest star du jour. Comedian Lou Costello, in one of his last roles, appeared in a season 2 episode, for example. There are recurring, consistent themes, usually involving mistrust, which is certainly evident in "The Doctor Denker Story", from season 5, and starring Theodore Bikel in the title role.

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Currently, the Train airs Saturday afternoons on Me-TV. Not sure who else might have the rights.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I am reminded of a scene in the film, "Stand By Me" in which the boys are chatting by the campfire about various things. One of the discussions turns to "Wagon Train". One of the boys says, "You notice they never seem to arrive at their deastination? ALl they do is keep wagon training!"

I think that was the show's problem - it never seemed to end! It was like the Korean War lasted over a decade (M*A*S*H), or Gilligan and Co. never getting rescued during the show's original run.

The Tropes page I think labels it, "Status Quo Is God".

hobbyfan said...

Just like the Enterprise's 5 year mission "ended" after 3, unless you count the two-year animated series.......

As I noted, the show was more about individual storylines, one & done, involving specific people who were part of the train for that week. I think a revival wouldn't work, ironically, for the same reason, and for the reason you noted.