Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: Barbary Coast

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of William Shatner’s work ever since I was a kid. From his fantastic role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek to his turn in B movies during the 70s, he has never failed to choose parts that are interesting. Widely regarded as an over actor, he has managed to turn that trait into the very thing that has made him an enduring cult superstar for decades.

The show Barbary Coast was a 70s version of the Wild Wild West. In May of 1975, ABC aired the pilot episode. On September 8, the series had its official premiere. William Shatner starred as Jeff Cable, an Artemus Gordon type who excelled at disguises and was a government agent. In the pilot episode, his partner, Cash Conover was played by Dennis Cole but for the series was replaced by Doug McClure.

Where Cole’s Conover was more devious and a thief, McClure’s version was lighter and had a more comedic bent to it. The showrunner also changed. Cy Chermak took over which may not have been a good thing. While a professional through and through, Chermak only had experience with dramas like Kolchak the Night Stalker.

Cable and Conover were friends and they frequently used the saloon and casino that Conover owned as their base for operations. The property was located on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, hence the name. Also, an interesting fact, the show employed writers from Mission Impossible so that explained some of the plotlines for the series. Richard Kiel was a recurring villain on the Wild Wild West and played Moose Moran on the show.

Unfortunately, while Barbary Coast had an interesting premise and won an Emmy for Art Direction for its pilot episode, it didn’t capture the public interest. Another issue that didn’t help was the fact that the series was opposite Rhoda and Phyllis on CBS. After thirteen episodes, the show ended its run on January 9, 1976.

For those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to view this program when it aired, I encourage you to give it a try. It is a fun, light comedic series and Shatner and McClure worked well together. Plus, playing a master of disguise was right in Shatner’s wheelhouse and he was enjoyable to watch.

If you are a collector of DVD’s you are in luck! The series is on DVD and Blu-ray.

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