Whether you grew up with it on the tube, want to erase the memory of 1999's disappointing feature-film adaptation, or are simply discovering it now, The Wild Wild West
rocks. This late-'60s TV show has a bit of everything: laughs, drama, action, elements of magic, sci-fi, ghost stories, high- and low-tech gadgets that would do James Bond and MacGyver proud, great music, pretty ladies, outrageous villains, cool clothes... and even Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Pryor, among other unexpected guests. Droll ladies man and government agent James West (played by tough guy Robert Conrad, wearing pants so tight they reveal his... well, they're really tight) and his sidekick, master of disguises Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), are back at it for this second season (1966-67), with 28 episodes packaged on seven discs, bringing with them the same delightfully arch tone as before. Headquartered in their well-appointed train car, they embark on a variety of oddball adventures, all of them entitled "The Night of" something (like "...the Flying Pie Plate," "...the Returning Dead," "...the Surreal McCoy," "...the Tottering Tontine," and many more). It's all very tongue-in-cheek; the villains, both familiar (Doctor Miguelito Loveless, colorfully portrayed by "little person" Michael Dunn) and new, are deluded, silver-tongued maniacs camping it up like there's no tomorrow, while the stories, ranging from Loveless' schemes to take over the world and various plots to eliminate President Ulysses S. Grant and other important personages to time travel and green-skinned women from Venus, are smart, whimsical, and clever.
The show's overall vibe, from the opening credits on, is obviously reminiscent of cartoons and comic books; the fact that it doesn't take itself at all seriously is arguably its most appealing feature, along with better-than-average sets, cinematography, and other technical elements (not to mention a great title tune by Morton Stevens, the same guy responsible for Hawaii Five-0's immortal theme). Inevitably, some of it seems a bit dated now, such as the stereotypical depictions of Indians, but overall, The Wild Wild West has held up well. If there's a principal drawback, it's the lack of any bonus features; even though creator Michael Garrison died before this second season hit the airwaves, it would have been nice to hear from some of the others who participated in the making of this terrific show. --Sam Graham