Let's see...a scheming huckster ships in 100 women to appease a rowdy bunch of loggers starved for companionship? Yep, sounds like a family drama to Judge Cynthia Boris.
Jason Bolt's dinner prayer:
What do you get when you cross two teen idols with a hunky Shakespearean actor, a former Hollywood screen siren and Spock's father? You get a family-oriented dramedy with a quirky hook and a lot of charm. It's 60's machismo vs. women's lib. It's cheesy, it's predictable and it's totally romantic. It's Here Come the Brides: The Complete First Season.
Facts of the Case
Behold the late 1800's. Seattle is not even a dot on the map in the vast wooded land that is Washington Territory. The "city" is nothing more than a few houses, a lumber camp, a sawmill, a church, and (most important), a saloon, all nestled at the base of the majestic Bridal Veil Mountain.
The men of Seattle are a hard working bunch. They slave from sunup to sundown felling trees and milling them into lumber. When the day is done, they like nothing more than settling down at home with their wives, kids, and a good, home-cooked meal. And therein lies the problem. There are only a handful of women in Seattle. When big lug lumberjack Swede "accosts" plain Jane schoolteacher Miss Essie, the men of Seattle decide it's time for a change. The lumberjacks go on strike—their only demand is some feminine companionship. "If it's women you want, it's women you'll get," says Jason Bolt, unofficial town leader and co-owner of Bridal Veil Mountain. Jason and his two younger brothers, Joshua and Jeremy, set sail for New England, where the Civil War has nearly obliterated the population of young men. Their mission? To convince one hundred single women to walk away from all they know in order to start new lives in Seattle. The bait? One hundred loggers just waiting for a woman to wed. The hook? Jason's silver tongue which gets him out of (and into) many a jam. The sinker? A small clause in the contract that could cause huge problems. You see, such a mission is expensive. So in order to pay for the cost, the Bolts take out a loan from the town's sawmill owner Aaron Stemple. If they fail to honor the three points of the contract, Stemple gets full ownership of the mountain (thereby bankrupting the Bolts) The three points? They're the stuff TV show plots are made of:
1. The Bolts must bring back one hundred women. (Not 98 or 99)
2. All of the women must stay for at least one full year. (I sense plot complications coming on)
3. All one hundred women must be "marriageable." (The vagueness of this term causing even more plot complications.
The Bolts agree. The women agree. Stemple waits. He knows his day will come—and that, my friends, is the fun of watching Here Come the Brides.
If it was 9:00 on a Friday night in 1969, you'd find me in front of the television, on my stomach, chin in hands, eyes glued to the TV screen. I hung on every word. I breathed only during commercials. When it was 10:00, I went to bed with visions of pretty brothers dancing in my head. Fast-forward thirty-seven years; I'm ten years old again, and I still can't help but smile when I watch.
At first glance, Here Come the Brides looks very much like a movie musical; it is often compared to the film, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Our leading man, Robert Brown, has a lot in common with his film counterpart Howard Keel. They both have wonderfully, deep, Shakespearean tones, broad-shouldered builds, and a smile that says he's probably lying, but you'll believe it anyway. As Jason Bolt, Brown is the show's anchor. A man who says what he thinks and says it often. Jason is backed up by middle brother Joshua Bolt played by a very green David Soul (Starsky and Hutch) in his first TV series. Joshua is the "smart" one. He keeps the books for the logging operation, makes up the schedules, and impatiently waits for the day when it will be his turn to run the family business. The youngest brother is Jeremy Bolt played with innocence and sweetness by Bobby Sherman (Getting Together). Jeremy (in his late teens) has been a stutterer since the day he said amen over the graves of his parents. He's the hopeless romantic, the baby of the family, and he's having a hard time finding his place.
Despite what the plot and title imply, Here Come the Brides is really a show about family, about brothers. The on-screen chemistry between Brown, Soul and Sherman really gives the show life. Like real brothers, they have a deep love/hate (okay, dislike) relationship which leads to some of the best episodes of the series, such as when middle brother Joshua decides to set up a competing lumber company. Come to think of it, relationships in general are what the series is all about. There's the slowly blossoming romance between Jeremy and Candy (Bridget Hanley), and the change in that romance when Candy becomes a mother to her young siblings. Joshua falls in love—but the girl is Jewish. And let's not forget the second-time around romance between lovely Lottie (the amazing Joan Blondell, Grease) and the cantankerous Clancy (Henry Beckman).
Let me take a moment to talk about the music of the series. I am constantly impressed by the quality of the background music. It's more like a movie soundtrack than a TV show. It harks back to the days when incidental music was recorded by a full orchestra. The warm and inviting music sets a perfect tone. The series theme song "Seattle" had its own claim to fame as a hit record for both Perry Como and the show's star Bobby Sherman. Sherman and co-star David Soul, of course, both went on to have successful singing careers.
Now let's focus our stereoscope on the individual episodes in this DVD set.
• "A Crying Need"—The dangers of childbirth comes into play and Jason is forced to find a doctor for Seattle. Unfortunately, the only one who will agree to come is a woman and that doesn't sit well with proper New England ladies. Call it the precursor to Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman B
• "And Jason Makes Five"—an Annie Oakley look-alike shows up in town with three children in tow and she claims that Jason is the father. A very funny episode with the brawny Brown trying to teach the mother how to act like a lady. B+
• "The Man of the Family"—It looks like Miss Polly and the Preacher will be wed until Polly's young son shows up to mar the proceedings. Stefan Arngrim (Land of the Giants) gives a great performance as the young son who is determined to keep his mother to himself. B+
• "Letter of the Law"—John Marley (Cat Ballou) plays the town's new sheriff who takes his job a bit too seriously. B-
• "Lovers and Wanderers"—Aaron Stemple (Mark Lenard, Star Trek) maliciously hints at a love triangle between Jason, Miss Essie and Big Swede and that means big trouble for Jason. B-
• "A Jew Named Sullivan"—Daniel Travanti (Hill Street Blues) stars as the title character in this story about Joshua's love for a Jewish bride. An extremely unusual storyline for a light series such as this one, the episode not only deals with the problems of interfaith couples but also with Christian prejudices against Jews. Sadly the ending is contrived to fit the series—the only Jewish man in town happens to fall for the young bride keeping her from leaving town at the last minute (which would void the contract that the show hinges on). Still, an excellent and rather brave episode for the time. A+
• "The Stand Off"—It's Stemple and Jason butting heads again and this time there's a young lady stuck in the middle of a bet. B-
• "A Christmas Place"—You know I'm a sucker for a Christmas episode and this one slays me every time. Fearing for a repeat of Jesus' persecution, two young girls abduct a "Christmas baby" leaving Seattle frantic and in fear. Soul and Sherman strum guitars and sing a pretty holiday tune at the end. Not to be missed. A+
• "After A Dream, Come Mourning"—An odd one this. It's a flashback episode that appears to be made up of bits of what should have been the second episode of the series. It's all about the brides' original arrival and the first question of "marriageable" when Jason and Candy spend the night in the woods alone. B+
• "The Log Jam"—Jeremy and Candy announce their engagement, but marriage-shy loggers have Jeremy quickly changing his mind. B
• "The Firemaker"—Edward Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) guests in this story about mysterious fires that may have more to do with a fiery romance. B
• "A Kiss Just For So"—This time Jason's the one in love, only she's Amish and insists he stop his fist fighting ways. Recycled Bonanza plot. B-
• "Democracy Inaction"—The women want the right to vote. An inevitable story line for the late 1960's, though probably not so much in the late 1860's. B-
• "One Good Lie Deserves Another"—Another poignant tale with Joan Blondell as the star when Lottie's old lover returns and he's up to no good. A-
• "A Dream That Glitters"—Sad tale about Candy's grandfather who dreams of striking gold before he dies. Will Geer (The Waltons) gives a lovely performance. B+
• "The Crimpers"—One after my own heart, or rather after my favorite two brothers. Jeremy and Joshua are shanghaied and Jason (with some feminine help) is out to find them before they're shipped off to sea. I'll confess an odd fascination for this particular episode, probably because it's the most danger our boys ever get into. In fan fiction, they call this a trash 'n bash and I'm a sucker for one of those. A
• "Mr. & Mrs. J. Bolt"—It's a well-used plot device but it's works so nicely here. Joshua agrees to play husband to a "plain jane" bride when the girl's family threatens to take her home to New England. Apparently the girl lied about her age and wasn't legally able to enter into a contract and now this underage cutie is falling for Josh. A-
• "Loggerheads"—Unscrupulous lawyers come between Joshua and Jason forcing Josh to start a logging company of his own. B+
• "Marriage, Chinese Style"—another tried and true plot device. Jeremy saves the life of a Chinese girl and now she belongs to him forever. To add to his troubles, the girl's boyfriend played by martial arts master Bruce Lee (The Green Hornet) is involved in a Tong War.
• "The Deadly Trade"—Another unusually heavy episode when a young logger is killed due to Jeremy and Joshua's roughhousing. Jeremy shoulders the blame for the incident and puts himself in the line of fire when the boy's family come looking for revenge. B+
Looking at the DVD itself, you'll find lovely clear color, mono (but acceptable) sound, and great box art. The disc art makes nice use of some cast photos—but what were they thinking when they designed the snap case art? Each case has a generic western town photo, which makes absolutely no sense because Here Come the Brides is not a western. As a matter of fact, the buildings on the Disc Three case look suspiciously like the western street at Universal Studios. Why not cast photos, people? Or at the very least a lovely shot of the pine trees and mountains of the Pacific Northwest?
Now for a bit of trivia. The series villain, Aaron Stemple, was played by Mark Lenard who went on to make quite a name for himself as Spock's father in the Star Trek franchise. Making good use of this resemblance, author Barbara Hambley penned a Star Trek novel titled Ishmael which has Spock going back in time to the home of his ancestor—Aaron Stemple. The novel uses all of the Here Come the Brides characters to tell the rest of the tale about aliens on the hunt for Spock. It is a great book and a must-read for Brides fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's not a lot here to complain about if you ask me. Well, you did ask me, sort of, since you're reading my review. Taking a step back into objectivity land…I could say that the show is schmaltzy and clichéd at times and I suppose that wouldn't sit well with some more sophisticated viewers. Other than that, I got nada.
In publishing terms, Here Come the Brides is what is called a "sweet romance" in that it's a love story without sex. It has morals. It has conviction. It would play on The Family Channel if it were around today. The brothers are perfect. The supporting cast is excellent. The writing is clever and the look is real. If I had to sum the show up in one word, I'd say "warm." Because that's how I feel when I watch it. All warm and fuzzy—and that, my friend, is a good thing.
This court finds Here Come the Brides—The Complete First Season as innocent as a first kiss.
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