Saturday, May 21, 2011

John Jakes' third Bicentennnial miniseries serves up a different feast of classic stars

In our March 15 and May 18 posts, we've been following the John Jakes Bicentennial novel series and the TV miniseries adaptations of the first three books in the series. Today we turn our attention to No. 3, "The Seekers," and the 1979 TV movie version of Jakes' 1975 book.

Andrew Stevens is not back as Philip Kent in this one. That's the bad news. BRBTV would have loved to see him, being such big fans of that continuity thing and all, but the producers evidently felt it wouldn't make sense to try to age him two decades for this third installment. Rats. OK, so bye-bye to Casey Denault of our beloved "Dallas."

But "Dallas" still gets some representation, wouldya believe. Enter Randolph Mantooth, who played Joe Don Ford, as the lead character in the first half or so of the four-hour drama, Abraham Kent, son of Philip. Then, as a special treat (and this is the "good news"!), there's Timothy Patrick Murphy, credited as "Timothy P. Murphy" in the opening credits. Our own Mickey Trotter, the troubled youth so wonderfully tamed by little Lucy Ewing. (Of course, we know it was a mutual taming!) Oh, how we loved Mickey Trotter! Cut down so soon, on the cusp of an upturned life, by the horrible boozing habits of Sue Ellen's!!!! Ugh. Anyhow ... Murphy takes on the role of Jared Kent, son of Abraham and the lead character of the second half of the miniseries. As Jared, Murphy is a polite and  honorable young man -- a kid, really, who is forced to grow up very quickly as he encounters some of the many catastrophes of this third, acutely depressing installment in the series. (And if you want to read more about how much of a veritable downer this third book was, read BRB's review on Amazon.) Murphy was just three years away from his stint on "Dallas," and an unfortunate nine years from dying at age 29.

But wait, there's more! Picture George Hamilton, our suave and cunning Joel Abrigore of "Dynasty," as a suave and cunning and just-as-evil Lt. Hamilton Stovall, who has it in for poor young Jared in more ways than one. He's arrogant, he's indignant, he's got a nasty pointed tongue. We just don't like him very much, do we???? And Hamilton shines in the part, years before he tormented Krystle Carrington with her "body double" of sorts on our beloved show.

Throw in other great stars like "Brady Bunch" dad Robert Reed as the heavily accented Daniel Clapper, who befriends Abraham, and Ross Martin of "Wild, Wild West," the exceedingly patient editor at the Kent and Son printing company. A fluffy, strawberry-blond-tressed Delta Burke -- fresh as a daisy -- is the fiesty Elizabeth Fletcher, wife (and stepsister -- don't ask) of Abraham and mother of Jared. She begins the miniseries promising the cunning evil of Ashton Main of Jakes' "North and South" trilogy, but she's cut off too quickly to do much damage. Alas and alack. Jakes himself, an aspiring actor at one time in his life, even shows up as the character Alex Elphinstone. All in all, though the events of the miniseries are gruesome, in terms of classic TV fare, it still gets BRBTV's stamp of approval.

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