The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on October 3, 1976 · Page 467
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 467

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 3, 1976
Page 467
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THE QUEST: DIG SCOPE ON THE LITTLE SCREEN Neither Kurt Russell nor Tim Matheson can remember the time when television was dominated by the westerns, when cowpokes on their horses were galloping down every channel Wyatt Earp and Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Rifleman, Hotel de Paree. The Tall Man, The Deputy, The Restless Gun, Maverick and Gunsmoke, always Gunsmoke. Since Gun smoke drifted away a couple of years ago after a 20-year run, it's been confidently predicted each season that the West will rise again, that another western cycle is inevitable. Yet The Quest with Russell and Matheson as a couple of young drifters in the 1880s in search of their kid sister who was captured and is presumably living with the Indians is the only western in recent years with a reasonable chance of being a hit. Not only because or its two young stars though they are decided assets. It's the intent of the series. It's produced for NBC by David Gerber's organization which has provided television with the finest weekly drama on the air in Police Story. It is Gerber's intention to make The Quest with the gritty realism, the attention to detail, character and authenticity that makes Police Story the class of television. It's not easy to do because no matter how authentic the tale and how carefully researched under the supervision of coprodu-cers Mark Rodgers and James H. Brown with the aid of historian Ray Billington. an authority on the West and director of research at the Huntington Library, they continually discover that almost every story that exists about the Old West has been done on one television program or another. There are other problems. "NBC wants a Big Screen look on Little Screen prices," Gerber says. He produces The Quest in association with Columbia Pictures TV whose president John Mitchell is a leader in the industry fight to make networks pay the full cost of the product they demand, who wants to stamp out deficit financing by Hollywood producers. But even though hour programs are going at about $300,000 an episode this season. The Quest is running 15 over the top of the market. The reason is partly the enormous urban spread of Southern California. Brown remembers when he was doing Wagon Train and a half-hour ride on the freeway took a film company into a section of the Conejo Valley that was as remote a wilderness as it had been 100 years aRo. Today, the valley is solid with housing tracts and shopping centers and golf courses. "Now you have to take a caravan of trucks and buses and equipment three or four hours to hit open country," Brown said. "By the time you set up, it's time to turn around and go home . . ." Despite these complaints. The Quest thus far in this young season has given us a broad panoramic Big Screen look to its episodes. FOUR Cecil' Smith Knrl Russell, left, and Tim Matheson star as hrttthi'rs searching far heir sister in The Quest, Wednesday nights an SBC. Particularly, the 90-minute drama "The Captive" by Mark Rodgers that opened the season a couple of weeks ago. Blue-clad cavalry soldiers riding to attack an Indian village galloped over wild open plains beneath cloudless skies and across a roaring river with the water high on the chests of their horses. That attack on the village, incidentally, in which the soldiers mercilessly slaughtered the Indians in as bloody a massacre of women and children as you're likely to find in western lore brought up still another problem in making Westerns. "We want to produce realism, not mythology, about one of the most violent eras in man's existence on this continent," said Gerber, "and we're doing it at a time when the whole country is against TV violence. Without the hangings, the brawls, the gun-fights, the rapes you simply can't do this show . . ." Typical is the story of "Shanklin," as played by Don Meredith, which is scheduled to be shown next week. Shanklin was a captain of Texas Rangers with an almost psychotic hatred for outlaws who led as ruthless a band of lawmen as ever trod the Texas plains, including, reportedly. Frank James, the old outlaw, and one of the Rockefellers. Shanklin and his men tirelessly pursued the marauding bands that roamed West Texas and, when he caught them, was judge, jury and executioner: "Hang 'em," he ordered, and left bodies swinging across the West. It was Shanklin's bitter frustration that he was not allowed to cross the Rio Grande after outlaw bands that escaped into Mexico. When he broke that rule the subject of Charles McDaniel's script next week and crossed into Mexico to bang a gang of murdering rapists, he was thrown out of the Texas Ranger service. "Don never had a better part," said Tim Matheson. "And be played the pants off it. That's one part you can't get by on charm." Tim and Kurt Russell, the stars of this charade, were lounging, stripped to the waist, under the hot autumn sun on a western street on the Columbia Ranch, wolfing hamburgers and kidding the actresses playing the frontier hookers. "This story we're doing," said Tim, "is about 72 hours in a railhead town when the trailherders hit there. The bars and the brothels and the fights and Jhe works. "If stories we're doing have been done before, and I 'guess they have," he said, "they haven't been done in the way we're doing them. We've seen whites massacred by Indians but Indians massacred by American soliders? We've got one that's being written about a young gunfighter a Billy the Kid killer. He's idolized in the Old West, glorifiedlike a rock star today!" Tim and Kurt have been actors almost all their young lives. When Kurt was 10, he played the starring role in The Adventures of Jamie McPheeters; Tim as 12 was costarred with Robert Young on Window on Main Street. Kurt later was the wheelhorse star of Disney features like "The Barefoot Executive" and "Superdad." Tim put in a year on The Virginian and the final year on Bonanza. Both are consummate professionals. Neither is married. You gather the world is their oyster. "Doing this show is a dream job," said Tim. "We come to work to play cowboy. We're paid to act out our childhood fantasies." "Yeah, man," said Kurt. "Every night is Friday nighl!" The structure of The Quest is a little gimmicky. At the beginning of each episode, a solemn voice intones that this is the legend of the Baudine brothers and their search for their sister, their quest. That voice you hear, incidentally, is that of Bing Russell. Kurt's father and a veteran western actor who played the deputy sheriff for 13 years on Bonanza. As Morgan Baudine, Kurt with his long blond hair held in place by a beaded headband was raised by a tribe of Cheyennes. His is the sympathetic Indian viewpoint. Matheson as Quentin Baudine. on the other hand, studied medicine in San Francisco he's the citybred tenderfoot. It's not a gimmick that would worry anyone, I suppose. In fact, Tim Matheson believes it's valuable. "Otherwise," he said, "we're Route 66." He paused and thought about it and added: "Or rather, Cowtrail 66." LOS ANGELES TIMES

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