Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Re-telling Tales of the Gold Monkey

Roddy McDowall (left) and Stephen Collins (R) get ready for adventure
In 1981, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's first Indiana Jones opus, Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters and brought joy to the hearts of critics and paying audiences alike. What followed in the wake of Indy's success was like a reprise of what happened when Lucas's Star Wars saga first launched '77: All manner of imitators attempted to bring a similar flavor to big screen and small, hoping to catch some of that mojo. The Star Wars fad is what led Glen A. Larson to inflict the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers on the TV-watching public, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is what allowed Tales of the Gold Monkey, an ABC series created by Donald P. Bellisario, to air briefly between 1982 and 1983.

Starring Stephen Collins (best known by then as "Decker" in the very first Star Trek flick three years earlier) as hotshot cargo pilot Jake Cutter, Gold Monkey was set in the late '30s (just like Indy), had our hero engage in all manner of treasure hunting derring-do (just like Indy), while exchanging witty banter with his love interest (just like Indy), and hanging out with an eyepatch-wearing dog (just like...okay, that part wasn't like Indy). The "Gold Monkey" of the title, by the way, refers to a statue that resides at the Monkey Bar, frequented by our main characters and owned by one Bon Chance Louie (played by Roddy McDowall, who just can't seem to escape those damn, dirty apes!).

Here's the intro, with theme music by good ol' reliable Mike Post:


As it happens, Bellisario had actually been trying to get Gold Monkey off the ground with various nets for awhile before Raiders hit, but it was only that film's success that led to ABC taking a chance (and probably regretting that they took the chance, given how short-lived it ended up being). Debuting in September of '82 and ending the following summer, Tales of the Gold Monkey kind of lived on the periphery of my recollections, as I was around three at the time, and this was just before my family moved to Saudi Arabia (interestingly, and I just learned this while writing this post, it was an inspiration in the creation of Disney's Tale Spin, a show I mentioned briefly last week and will discuss further down the line).

Nonetheless, despite its brief lifespan, Tales of the Gold Monkey is another of my most-requested Nostalgia Theaters (you know, like this one). When Shout! Factory put out a DVD set containing all 21 episodes a few years back, I snagged it at a decent price, and while revisiting pop culture artifacts from your childhood without the benefit of nostalgia to lay gauze over your eyes can sometimes be as fraught an experience as any cliffhanger Jake overcame in the actual series, what I found with Gold Monkey was...not that bad! It's also not that deep and not that ambitious, but as with other Bellisario offerings we've talked about on this site, it's a fun little confection for audiences who've either forgotten about it or never heard of it at all. A hidden treasure, if you will.

No comments: