Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Created by Roy Huggins and debuting September 22, 1957 on ABC, the weekly, hour-long Maverick started out as a relatively straightforward western series with a slight twist: The main characters were professional gamblers rather than lawmen or gunslingers. James Garner and Jack Kelly starred respectively as Bret and Bart, the Maverick brothers, who traveled throughout the west in search of poker games and other such lucrative pursuits. Though both of the Mavericks were fairly adept at fisticuffs, they tended to avoid violence and confrontation (a good thing too, since neither brother could by any stretch of the imagination be described as a "fast gun"), preferring to use their wits and the words to wriggle out of jams--and, conversely, to win over the pretty girls they met along the way. Originally, the episodes were evenly divided between the two brothers, with Bret or Bart alternately handling the plotlines, sometimes teaming up when the going got rough. By the end of the first season, however, James Garner had emerged as the more popular of the two stars--and as a bonus, Garner was possessed of a deft comic touch that such scriptwriters as Marion Hargrove and such directors as Douglas Heyes were quick to capitalize upon. As a result, the stories became more humorous and satirical in nature, with star, writers and directors unafraid to emphasize the more cowardly and larcenous aspects of Bret Maverick's character. One of the series' most endearing motifs was Bret's habit of relying upon the pearls of wisdom passed down to him by his grey-haired "Pappy"--who, when he finally appeared on camera, was portrayed by a heavily made up James Garner. By season three, the pattern of Maverick was fairly well set, with Jack Kelly handling the more serious and action-oriented episodes (which became fewer and farther between) and Garner doing the funny stuff. In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series, the writers had a field day spoofing such rival western shows as Gunsmoke and Bonanza, and even such non-westerns as Dragnet. In addition, there were the occasional westernized adaptations of "the classics", notably Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals. After James Garner left the series over a contract dispute in 1960, Maverick's home studio Warner Bros. tried out a brace of potential replacements. During season four, future "James Bond" Roger Moore was introduced as Bret and Bart's British cousin Beau Maverick; and later that same season, Robert Colbert showed up as the hitherto unrevealed third Maverick brother, Brent. But by the time the series entered its fifth and final season, the only Maverick on screen was old reliable Bart, who starred in the handful of episodes that were filmed to fill out what had essentially become a portfolio of reruns from the James Garner days. The final episode of Maverick was telecast on July 8, 1962; however, the property would be revived on TV in 1979 as Young Maverick, with Charles Frank playing cousin Ben Maverick, and in 1981 as Bret Maverick, with James Garner reviving his original role. And in 1994, Garner shared billing with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster in a delightful theatrical-feature version of Maverick, which nostalgically showcased a number of familiar western actors in cameo roles.
gambling, bad-luck, brother, cowboy, maverick, television, Wild-West