Apr 12, 2013

Young Rebels: Hippie Spies of the American Revolution

In the wake of Woodstock, ABC wanted to capitalize on the hippie counterculture, and someone noticed that the key players of the American Revolution were young, too: in 1776, Alexander Hamilton was 21, James Madison 25, and Thomas Jefferson 33.  But somebody asked for spies, too, to capitalize on the Cold War spy craze.  The result was The Young Rebels (1970-71), about a trio of young-adult spies working to undermine the evil Redcoats.

1. Jeremy (Rick Ely, right), son of the local pro-British mayor.  (No relation to Ron Ely, the first tv Tarzan).

2. Isaak (Louis Gossett, Jr., bottom), a former slave and Civil Rights advocate.
3. Elizabeth (Hilary Johnson), a Women's Rights advocate.

Their mentor, Henry, was an elderly Ben Franklin clone (though played by 28-year old Alex Henteloff, left).

Most of the buddy-bonding occurred between Jeremy and Isak, who went on most of the missions together (and Isak required lots of rescuing).  But I liked the interaction between Jeremy and the Marquis de Lafayette (Philippe Forquet), a real historical figure who came to the U.S. to fight in the Revolutionary War.

The network had high hopes for the program, and heavily invested in tie-in novels, lunch boxes, and comics.  Rick Ely and Philippe Forquet got significant teen idol treatment, sharing the teen magazines with David Cassidy and Davey Jones (Rick Ely even released a teen idol album). My social studies teacher even discussed the series, the first time I had ever heard any teacher talk about tv except in a sneering dismissal of "Brain-rotting junk!"

But there was a problem: Sunday night was already crowded with kid-friendly series, Lassie on CBS and The Wonderful World of Disney on NBC.  Besides, if you wanted a trio of hippies, you could watch Mod Squad. 14 episodes aired in the fall of 1970, and a 15th in January 1971, and that was all.

Afterwards Rick Ely had guest spots on Marcus Welby, MASH, and Gunsmoke, did some soaps, and played a gay prisoner on I Escaped from Devil's Island (1973).  His IMDB filmography ends in the early 1980s. I heard some rumors that he is still alive, still living in Los Angeles, and gay.

Philippe Forquet, who was a French aristocrat in real life, was heralded as the most handsome man in France, and had been busily playing sultry boyfriends to sexually-liberated women: In the French Style (1963), Three Nights of Love (1967), Camille 2000 (1969), and so on.  Afterwards he worked on several tv series before retiring to oversee the family estate and businesses.

Louis Gossett Jr. and Alex Henteloff have both had long careers before the camera.