While the costumes, sets and scenery of The Wild Wild West are as vibrant as a late 1960's viewer with a new, state-of-the-art television set could wish for, the most colorful thing about the show is, undoubtedly, its characters.
Actor: Robert Conrad
If you could seduce any woman, defeat any man in a fair fight and keep your cool no matter what elaborate death trap you found yourself in... you still wouldn't be a patch on James T. West. He not only does all of that, he does it effortlessly, shirtlessly and in pants a few sizes too small. He's equally at home whether he's taking on seven goons at once or snarking the Big Bad as he (or she) reveals the villainous plan of the week. Nigh-on indestructible, imperturbable and with a mind as quick as his flashing fists, it's no wonder that James West is regarded as the United States' best Secret Service agent.
Action Hero: Jim usually gets at least one show-stopping fight sequence per episode.
Guile. Cunning. Trickery. Add a brilliant scientific mind and you have the primary tools of Artemus Gordon's trade. Though he can hold his own in a fight when necessary, he much prefers to use his wits to achieve his ends. As an actor turned Secret Service agent, he makes full use of his genius for languages, disguise, spell-binding oratory and scientific innovation. He's also fond of the finer things in life - art, wine, gourmet cuisine and, last but certainly not least, beautiful women. He's liable to turn up anywhere and as anyone... but always in the nick of time.
Ambiguously Jewish: Ross Martin was a Jew who was born in Poland. (He grew up in a non-English speaking household.) Though the only hints on the show are his knowledge of Eastern European languages, a scene where he explains the Hebrew meaning of a young woman's name and the episode "The Night of the Vicious Valentine" where he disguises himself as a Jewish tailor using a perfect Yiddish accent, Artie's Jewishness is Fanon.
Catch Phrase: "As my great aunt Maude used to say... " and "Great jumping balls of St. Elmo's fire."
The Charmer: The ladies find it hard to resist his sly smile and silver tongue.
Con Man: A rare example of a law-abiding citizen who runs cons on criminals.
Con Men Hate Guns: Artie has shades of this in his stance that using violence is "cheating." However, he still carries a gun and is more than willing to use it when necessary (such as in "The Night of Fire and Brimstone").
Consummate Liar: Whether they're off the cuff or pre-rehearsed, Artie's lies are works of art.
Cultured Badass: Recites Shakespeare. Plays the violin. Is an expert on art, wine, gemstones and fine cuisine. Has impeccable manners. Kills people.
Demolitions Expert: Usually of the creatively blowing things up variety, but on at least one occasion ("The Night of the Bars of Hell") he's called upon instead to defuse a situation.
Deuteragonist: He gradually becomes this over the course of the second season.
Did Not Get the Girl: In "The Night of the Big Blast," Artie proposes marriage to his old flame, Lily Fortune. She turns him down because she "can't lead [his] kind of life."
Doing Research: This is one of Artie's responsibilities. He's the one who dives into the books - sometimes piles of them - in order to dig out and correlate any relevant bits of data. He's also usually the one who gets in touch with the "research department" and other sources of information back in Washington, D. C.
Dreadful Musician: Though Artie claims to be able to play any musical instrument and backs up his claim rather well, in the past he was apparently not quite so skilled. He tells Jim in "The Night of the Colonel's Ghost" that he once played the organ on a showboat and was so bad that he had to give it up after the patrons threatened to kill him.
And in the tag scene for "The Night of the Cut-throats," Jim tells Artie that anyone who'd hire him as a piano player (as the week's Big Bad did) would have to be nasty.
Nice Hat: He tends toward white or brown Stetsons.
Omniglot: Artie is shown to speak and/or comprehend, at least to some degree, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese and Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs). He is unfamiliar with Hawaiian but recognizes it as a Polynesian language when he hears it.
Psychic Powers: Implied in "The Night of the Man-Eating House" and the tag from "The Night of Miguelito's Revenge."
Purple Prose: Artie likes to break into this from time to time.
Renaissance Man: Actor, scientist, master of disguise, musician, art expert, pastry chef, etc., etc.
Romantic Runner-Up: Originally, despite saving the day or having an equal part in saving the day as Jim, he rarely got the girl; many episodes in the first season end with him looking on forlornly as Jim kisses the Damsel in DistressGirl of the Week (although even then there were exceptions - both Jim and Artie get lucky in "The Night of the Torture Chamber," "The Night of the Whirring Death" and "The Night of the Glowing Corpse," and "The Night of Sudden Death" is a rare example where Jim is the Romantic Runner-Up as Artie literally walks away with two ladies!). From season two onwards neither agent was lacking in female companionship.
Science Hero: His gadgets often save the day while his scientific analysis of available evidence frequently helps point to the solution of a mystery.
Street Smart: Very much so. He wouldn't last long as a professional undercover man if he wasn't.
Team Chef: Though he claims in one episode that he "can't cook," this is belied by his ability to prepare everything from simple but delicious camp food to much more elaborate multi-course meals (not to mention his disguise as a chef in "The Night of the Infernal Machine" and "The Night of the Big Blackmail"). He's also a professional-level pastry chef.
Though possessed of a towering intellect, Dr. Loveless can't reconcile himself to the small body in which he finds himself confined and, at some point, turned to evil. After repeated defeats by West and Gordon he develops a personal grudge against the pair, particularly West, though, at the same time, he learns great respect for their talent and resourcefulness. West himself admits at one point when Loveless has apparently died: "I'll miss him, that little man with the giant rage against the whole universe."
Breakout Villain: Dr. Miguelito Loveless debuted in the third episode, where he was caught (as he was in his second episode - from his third episode onward he was never captured again). But he was so popular (and Dunn was a good friend of Robert Conrad's in Real Life), that he returned several times a year for the rest of the series.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: His less fantastic/silly inventions are decades ahead of their time, although before his first appearance he apparently did make a fortune from some of them.
Depraved Dwarf: His small stature seems to be the main origin of his hatred for, well, everything.
Diabolical Mastermind: He's usually in the midst of running one dastardly operation or another with a group of minions at hand.
Giggling Villain: Loveless prefers to giggle his way through situations calling for evil laughter. It's still quite effective.
Joker Immunity: Loveless is either captured or (apparently) killed in many of his appearances, but he always manages to reappear.
Kingpin in His Gym: Loveless is sparring with his minions when West first meets him. As a dwarf he's not a physical match, but he seems to specialize in a martial art involving his walking stick and makes short work of them. This seems to be nothing but a bit of entertaining exercise, since he never even attempts direct combat any other time.
Leitmotif: He came back so often that he got his own theme music.
Mad Scientist: He's brilliant but, sadly, as mad as a march hare.
Motive Decay: In his first appearance his goal was to force recognition of his family claim to land amounting to half of California and make it a paradise with his other inventions, and to prevent mass production and military use of an explosive he helped invent. By his second appearance these were secondary goals to revenge on West, which was planned to at least forward them, and after that he'd totally lost it.
The Napoleon: While Loveless likes to think of himself as a logical, calm, rational being, he is pretty much the exact opposite, given to rages, tantrums and vindictiveness.
No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: In "The Night of the Surreal McCoy," Dr. Loveless claims that it would be uncivilized to kill West before sitting down to dinner with him.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Dr. Loveless feels this way about West. In "The Night of the Surreal McCoy," when a rebellious minion tries to just come right out and shoot West, Loveless attacks him with a blowgun.
Shadow Archetype: Why is a genius like Loveless so obsessed with a lowly Secret Service Agent like West, to the point of including him in all his schemes? It's a case of Not So Different: both of them are intelligent (though Loveless is at genius level), both of them are handsome, and both of them have a lot of success with the Girl of the Week. Furthermore, West is almost always the shortest guy in the TV show (not counting Loveless) and yet he is perfectly happy and wants to help others. Loveless will never accept that his Take Over the World schemes would result, for him, in a And Then What? situation... he would still be the same bitter man. Destroying West, the man who reminds Loveless that being shorter than anyone else is not an obstacle to happiness, is his true dream.
Utopia Justifies the Means: The motivation behind almost every evil, twisted scheme of Loveless' is to create a better world - though only better by his standards, of course.
Actor: Victor Buono
A man of mystery. It's never made clear what powers Manzeppi has, if any, but he is capable of seemingly inexplicable feats of "magic." He is suave, sophisticated, intelligent, cold-blooded and completely self-serving.
Affably Evil: He may try to kill you, but he'll be very friendly and polite about it.