‘Maverick: The Complete First Season'
Back in what can accurately be called the horse and buggy days of television, when there were only three TV networks to choose from and all three were overrun with westerns, one saddle-tramping series trumped all the rest with a winning hand of adult-friendly wit and satirical fun-poking at the cowpoke genre. And it had its straight dramatic moments, too.
“Maverick” starred Oklahoma-born Hollywood newcomer James Garner as dapper Bret Maverick, an easygoing itinerant cardsharp roaming the post-Civil War frontier, quicker with a wisecrack than a Colt .45 (but don't bet against him when he's forced to draw), and always in search of the next high-stakes poker game and/or the company of a lovely lady.
The seven-DVD “Maverick: The Complete First Season” package contains all 27 hourlong episodes from its initial 1957-58 run, and most of these installments are as entertaining today as they were nearly 55 years ago, when the series became third-place ABC's surprise hit that fall, raking in the ratings chips from two Sunday night stalwarts — “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS and “The Steve Allen Show” on NBC.
Most of its popularity was due to Garner's affable charm and wry delivery of humorous and lighthearted dialogue. He was solo in the first seven episodes, by which time Warner Bros. realized the demanding filming schedule was causing production to fall behind. Enter Jack Kelly as the equally personable but more serious-minded brother Bart Maverick in episode 8, “Hostage,” finding immediate chemistry with Garner and beginning an alternating cycle of Garner featured one week, Kelly the next. This allowed the studio to have two episodes filming at once, thus speeding up production.