Sep 14, 2012

Alias Smith and Jones

The buddy movie is a venerable American institution, about two guys, cops, detectives, or outlaws, who may enjoy the company of the other sex but live only for each other.  But it hasn't transferred to television well.  So obsessed are tv producers with promoting heterosexual romance that only a few examples of buddy tv shows can be found.

Alias Smith and Jones (1971-73) was one.

Betting on the popularity of Butch Cassdy and the Sundance Kid the year before, Alias starred Robert Redford lookalike Ben Murphy, who had been making the rounds of tv dramas, usually in roles that required his shirt to come off.  He played Kid Curry, the muscular one.

Round-faced Pete Duel was cast as Hannibal Heyes.  He had starred as Rod Taylor's buddy-boyfriend in The Hell with Heroes (1968), and he was also been making the rounds of tv dramas, as well as doing a few comedies (such as Gidget).

Outlaws trying to go straight, they criss-cross the Old West, getting involved with people's problems along the way.  Thankfully, few of those problems involved old girlfriends or current flames, and many involved rescuing each other from cliffhanging danger.

But they only filmed 18 episodes together.  On December 31, 1971, Pete Duel, who had been depressed and drinking heavily, committed suicide.

Instead of cancelling the program or giving Kid Curry a new buddy to work with, the network immediately hired Roger Davis, previously Vickie's boyfriend on Dark Shadows as Hannibal #2.  Gay fans were outraged -- how could they replace a boyfriend so cavalierly?

But the program managed to keep going on through the end of the 1971-72 season and halfway through the 1972-73 before being cancelled.

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