Monday, January 28, 2008

T.V. flashback: Then Came Bronson.

Then Came Bronson is a short-lived adventure/drama television series that aired on NBC from 1969 to 1970, and was produced by MGM Television. The series, created by Denne Bart Petitclerc, began with a movie pilot on Monday, March 24, 1969. The series was greenlit for one year and began its first run on September 17, 1969. The pilot was also released in Europe as a feature film.

The series featured Michael Parks as the protagonist Jim Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick (Martin Sheen) and, after a heated argument with his editor, "working for the man."

In order to renew his soul Bronson becomes a nomadic vagabond searching for the meaning of life and experience what life has to offer (this information is revealed in the series pilot). During his travels he shares his values with the people he meets along the way and lends a helping hand when he can. Bronson rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle and, as such, was viewed by some as a modern version of the solitary cowboy meandering the American west.

Curiously, though the opening promised a journey of self-discovery, the premise of each episode was that Bronson entered someone else's life at a crucial point and acted as a catalyst for change. When Bronson enters an Amish community, for example, a local boy becomes enraptured of the outside world and steals Bronson's bike to run off to Reno, Nevada. And in another episode located in Reno, Bronson meets his cousin Eve on her wedding day and lends her money for the wedding service, she runs off to the casinos and blows it.
Yet, Bronson was committed to pacifism and often deflected a competitor's anger into self-examination. Always, like a true catalyst, he rolled out of every episode unchanged.
The show sometimes faced the perception that it was a knock-off of the movie Easy Rider, but in actuality it preceded the release of that movie.

Scenes were mostly shot outdoors, which made for spectacular views, and Michael Parks employed the low-key "James Dean" method of acting. Some shows were funny, some sad, some serious.

Bronson's bike figured in the many episodes; Harley-Davidson Sportster 1968 XLH 883. In one episode he entered several bike races; in another, he made an emergency run to fetch a doctor. But in some stories the bike was only mere transportation."

The all-seeing eye on Bronson's gas tank

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