Monday, November 9, 2015

What Might've Been: The Barbary Coast (1975)

In the mid-70's, ABC was struggling to find a show that could serve as a lead-in to Monday Night Football. That inexact science has never offered a proper solution.

Anyway, in 1975, ABC tried out The Barbary Coast, a poor man's Wild, Wild West in that it was set in 19th century San Francisco, but it lacked a lot of things, including originality.

Barbary Coast started as a TV-movie pilot that aired on the ABC Sunday Night Movie in May of '75, and generated enough ratings, such that it went to series that fall as a comeback vehicle for William Shatner (ex-Star Trek), who had been making movies and guest appearances in the interim. Shatner played government agent Jeff Cable, who was set up as an amalgam of Wild, Wild West protagonists James West & Artemis Gordon, the latter, like Cable, a master of disguise. Joining Cable was gambler/con man Cash Conover (Dennis Cole in the pilot, Doug McClure in the series).

Ok, you're thinking. Maverick crossed with Wild, Wild West. That might've been the reason that the producers subbed out Cole (ex-The Felony Squad) for McClure (ex-Checkmate, The Virginian), who was better suited, in their opinion, to emulate James Garner's portrayal of Bret Maverick. Barbary came from the pen of Douglas Heyes, who'd worked with Cole on Bearcats! 4 years earlier, but might've been overruled after the pilot.

I can only speculate because I never watched the show. I had only seen commercials. Problem was, the local ABC affiliate seemed to pre-empt Barbary every so often once they realized the series was a ratings loser. The network ultimately took the hint, and cancelled the show.

Following is the open to the pilot movie, directed by Bill Bixby (ex-The Magician, My Favorite Martian, Courtship of Eddie's Father):

Of course, Shatner would come back with T. J. Hooker and the Trek movie series, which put him back on producers' A-lists. Cole turned to directing, and McClure would make movies for the rest of the 70's.

No rating.

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