Monday, December 15, 2008

Back in the mid-80s, when my life consisted mainly of passing time between Half Life gigs, I remember an ongoing argument that my tight knit gang of Pittsburgh punkers and I often had. One day our friend (and loyal roadie) Brian Corley brought up the short-lived 1970’s TV show Dusty’s Trail by way of asking us if we remembered it. I did, somewhat vaguely I’ll admit, but once he went on to (accurately) describe it as “Gilligan’s Island set in the old west” our little group was instantly split between the two of us and those who thought that he was totally making it up, and for whatever reason, I was in on the joke. Looking back on those pre-internet, “all the information in the known universe is just one click away “days of yore, it does sound like the set up for an elaborate gag. I mean, why would you try to recreate the wackiness of the world's most famous "crew of castaways" 100 years earlier, substituting a lost wagon train for a remote South Pacific island? But unfortunately for us, back in 1973 that’s exactly what Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz did. Jump to the present, where I recently had the misfortune of having one of the Dusty’s Trail discs somehow work it’s way to the top of my Netflix cue, and I’m here to tell ya, he and his son Elroy really should have left well enough alone.

It’s bad enough that the cast is a carbon copy of the Gilligan’s crew, from the bumbling Dusty (played by an obviously stoned Bob Denver, Mr. Gilligan himself) to Forrest Tucker as the “wagon master” who essentially takes on the Skipper’s role. But it doesn’t stop there, you have the rich couple, the smart guy, and of course the two girls, one glamorous and one a plain but loveable brunette no less. But where it really stinks up the joint is within it’s so-mundane-they-actually-insult-you “plots” – if you dare to call them that. During the course of the 4 episodes I somehow forced myself to sit through, they pull out every tired television gag humanly conceivable, from the old “hypnosis gone wrong” to a (Gasp!) escaped gorilla, which, remember that this is set on an abandoned trail in the unsettled west of the mid-19th century now, they don’t even attempt to explain how it got there, much less the fresh bananas that they have at their disposal to feed it. You know me friends, I generally like the TV shows of my youth, and I do have a pretty high threshold for sit-com silliness, from Petticoat Junction right up through the last season of the Partridge Family, but this flat out sucks, there’s really no other way to put it. I’ve read reviews online where retailers try and put a positive spin on this turkey, using phrases like “mirth and merriment ensue” but trust me, Dusty’s Trail is to be avoided at all costs.


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