Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has a dollar bill pinned inside his coat.
"The one thing we don't do is kill each other."—Bart Maverick, on the relationship with his brother Bret
In a poker game, Bart and Bret Maverick don't even trust each other, but they are brothers, so they do help each other out from time to time. Usually, though, these professional gamblers go their separate ways for some often oddball Western adventures.
During his adventures in Maverick: The Complete Second Season, Bret Maverick (James Garner, The Rockford Files) beats up Batman (Adam West) and Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood), and meets up with a future relation (Roger Moore, Live and Let Die). Bart (Jack Kelly, Forbidden Planet) feeds his horse oysters and finds that trusting banks isn't such a good investment.
Facts of the Case
Maverick: The Complete Second Season features twenty-six episodes on six discs.
• "The Lonesome Reunion"—Bret is hired to protect a hatbox. When he's held up, he finds that it contains, of all things, a hat. Still, it could provide a clue to a $120,000 heist.
• "Alias Bart Maverick"—Gentleman Jack Darby (Richard Long, The Big Valley) is wanted by the law, but not by Bart, especially when he takes the Maverick brother's identity and leaves the gambler in jail as Darby.
• "The Belcastle Brand"—Bret has a rough time earning his keep as a cowhand at Belcastle Castle, until there's a bear safari afoot. After a robbery leaves the party stranded, Bret shows his true vocation: survival.
• "Escape in Tampico"—Bret takes a liking to the casino owner who he's been hired to bring back to the States to face a murder charge.
• "The Judas Mask"—A can-can girl steals Bart's poker winnings, but she's trying to break the gambler's business deal.
• "The Jail at Junction Flats"—Dandy Jim Buckley isn't in just any jail. He's been locked up in the lockup that's been fortified after the escape of Hognose Hughes (Dan Blocker, Bonanza).
• "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres"—Bret's whittling away at a problem—the theft of $15,000 by a crooked banker—with some help from his friends (and Bart).
• "Island in the Swamp"—Set adrift, Bret winds up in a hidden bayou colony. Since the colonists want to stay hidden, he's stuck. Edgar Buchanan (Petticoat Junction) guests.
• "Prey of the Rat"—A broken leg strands Bart, but he's eager to get going fast when a rancher's wife falls for him.
• "Holiday at Hollow Rock"—Bart takes in a quarterhorse race on the Fourth of July, gets suspicions at a poker game, is robbed, and ends up in a fight in the sheriff's office. George O'Hanlon (The Jetsons) guests.
• "Game of Chance"—Bret gives up "valuable poker time" to help Bart when a countess leaves a fake pearl necklace as collateral for a $40,000 loan.
• "Gun-Shy"—Marshal Mort Dooley (Ben Gage, The Big Operator) tries to chase "a certain roving gambler" out of town, but Bret's hunting for gold, so he's not going anywhere.
• "The Rivals"—A wealthy man (Roger Moore, who later plays Beau Maverick) poses as Bret for a romantic encounter, but the woman would rather encounter the real Bret. Based on a Richard Brinsley Sheridan play.
• "Duel at Sundown"—Bret's friend (Edgar Buchanan again) wants to fix the gambler up with his daughter to distract her from Red (Clint Eastwood, Rawhide). Red's the best shot in the county—and he isn't easily distracted.
• "Yellow River"—Bart ends up leading a trail drive after his bank is robbed. (Put your winnings in your boot next time, Bart!) Soon, there's a woman whose father was killed—and another body turns up. Robert Conrad (The Wild, Wild West) guests.
• "The Saga of Waco Williams"—It's a tale of moral opposites as cowardly, money-grubbing Bret tags along with the brave, tough Waco Williams (Wayde Preston, Colt .45) in a town where homesteaders and ranchers are battling it out.
• "Passage to Fort Drum"—Bart's wagon train heads into the Black Hills, with gunmen pursuing a female passenger.
• "Two Tickets to Ten Strike"—Arriving in Ten Strike, Bret is asked to leave town as he learns that a female acquaintance (Connie Stevens, Hawaiian Eye) has been mysteriously drawn there.
• "Betrayal"—Bart suspects another passenger is an accomplice in a stage robbery when she tells the bandits where he hid his stash. (Might as well have left it in the bank, Bart.)
• "The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill"—Bret seems to be falling for a singer, but he's actually hoping to find her husband alive to clear Big Mike McCord (Leo Gordon, Beau Geste) of murder.
Although "The Hanging of Bret Maverick" sounds grim, it starts the season off on a rather comical note as Bret, in jail facing hanging, plays on the sheriff's greed as he has his last meal. James Garner backs his slyness up with a hint of fear. Throughout the season, Garner has a positively Chaplinesque knack for putting a little extra something in his face to express guilt, longing, or greed, bringing Bret's love for creature comforts (such as a cigar or a hot bath) to the fore while reminding us that his life isn't so comfortable, even though he often has thousands of dollars (albeit briefly). Jack Kelly's performance as Bart is more subtle, but it still allows room for comedy as he poses as the Earl of Bartley or upgrades himself to colonel to get into a poker game. At times, Kelly reminded me of the older, wiser Garner of The Rockford Files.
Season Two uses guest stars to good advantage, from Ben Gage as a Matt Dillon clone to Connie Stevens as a talky but goodhearted woman who vows to marry Bret. Semi-regulars including Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Richard Long, and Leo Gordon pop up throughout the season, giving Maverick the feeling of an ensemble show, even though most individual episodes focus on one or two characters. Just about every ensemble player pops up in "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," though.
My favorite episode of the season was "The Saga of Waco Williams" because, unlike other Maverick companions who tend to be gamblers or con artists, Waco Williams turns out to be a good guy who puts Bret's faults into relief. Bret's watching Waco to find a fugitive and collect a reward, but he starts to take a protective interest as Waco's toughness and honesty gets him into trouble. By episode's end, they're friends. "The Belcastle Brand," which shows Bret as hardier than he looks, and "Two Beggars on Horseback," which pits the brothers against each other, were also favorites. No, I'm not ignoring "Gun-Shy" or "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres," both of which I've seen mentioned as among Maverick's high points, but there are a lot of high points in Season Two.
There's an occasional scratch in this standard def 1.33:1 black-and-white transfer, but it's mostly well-preserved, as you'd expect with an oft-rerun classic. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track serves the visuals adequately. There are no extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One Bart episode—"Prey of the Rat"—descends into melodrama as he deals with a psychotic would-be lover, but it's the only real clinker of Season Two. There are a few serious episodes, including the strong "The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill," which might not interest a viewer looking mainly for comedy, but they usually have a few moments that tickle the funny bone.
You will notice that, despite a heavy dose of humor, Maverick is still a Western, with fights, gunplay, and heroes getting conked on the head.
Whether you're already a fan of the series or are just curious, Maverick: The Complete Second Season is a good place to renew or strike up an acquaintance with the Maverick brothers. In Season Two, the series starts to feel like it's in its own universe—a greedy, deceitful universe in which the day Bret meets an honest man is comic episode fodder. "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" goes a little better if you're familiar with the semi-regulars, but for the most part, it's something new viewers will get into easily.
Not guilty. How could you not like a coward tough enough to take on Batman and Dirty Harry and survive stranded in the desert?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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