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Series: The Wild Wild West
In black and white (season one only) and living color.
A 1960's TV series which combined two then-popular genres: The Western and the Spy Drama, following the anachronistic adventures of two Secret Service agents roaming the western United States during the Ulysses S. Grant administration. James West (Robert Conrad) was a borderline Ace, the ladykilling man of action, while his partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) was a Gadgeteer Genius and Master of Disguise. (Based on his work in this series, Martin the actor easily qualifies as a Real Life example of the latter.) The duo battled a wild assortment of mad scientists and criminal masterminds, their most persistent foe being the evil-genius dwarf Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn). Depending on how exacting a person's definition of "Steampunk" is, this series could be said to be the highest-profile example of the genre ever to appear on American live-action TV. It is the Ur Example of Cattle Punk.

Following the show's cancellation, two reunion movies were produced in the early 1980's. In 1999 a big-budgeted feature film was released starring Will Smith as West and Kevin Kline as Gordon (see Wild Wild West). If you are a fan of this series, and you want to maintain any kind of a relationship with other fans of this series, it's a good idea to just not mention the film. Seriously... don't.

In November 2010, CBS announced plans for a revival to be helmed by Ronald Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined)) and Naren Shankar (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).

The series now has a recap page.

Tropes:

  • And Starring: Ross Martin got this on the pilot and every season one episode... and on some season four episodes, due to the fact that he was sidelined by a heart attack for several shows; as a result, those episodes produced/aired after the attack in which he appears (such as "The Night of the Diva") include an "And" above his credit, while the ones in which he doesn't (such as "The Night of Miguelito's Revenge"), don't.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The episodes are introduced by a short, stylized cartoon which portrays a gunslinger foiling various evildoers, followed by the actual credits superimposed over drawings of the Wanderer.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: If Artie has any kind of college degree, it's probably in this. He and the various villains come up with endless variations.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Most of the English-speaking foreigners who appear in the series.
  • A-Team Firing: Averted. The bad guys rarely come out of gunfights unscathed and even the good guys get hit on occasion (this happened most often in the third season - see "The Night of the Amnesiac," "The Night of Jack O'Diamonds" and "The Night of the Death Masks").
  • Bloodless Carnage: Of the "small amount of blood" variety.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Almost every villain in the series puts Jim and/or Artemus into a death trap... and leaves the room.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Three different versions of a tank turn up over the course of the series - two invented by villains, one by Artie. The agents don't seem to retain any memory of the previous times such a device appeared.
  • The Cast Showoff: Robert Conrad really (and often literally) threw himself into the fight scenes, so much so that he was prone to splitting his pants (something not always fixed in the editing room - see "The Night of the Pistoleros"). Ross Martin actually called his own role "a showoff's showcase."
  • Cattle Punk: More or less invented the genre.
  • Character Aged with the Actor: In the reunion movies.
  • Characterization Marches On: Due partially to Early-Installment Weirdness and partially to behind-the-scenes drama, the first season is noticeably different from the others in terms of Artie's characterization and the relationship between the agents.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Jim's valet, Tennyson, disappears after three episodes as suddenly and mysteriously as he arrived.
    • Also Loveless's ladyfriend Antoinette (unlike Tennyson, she at least gets replaced. Three times).
  • Comic Book Adaptation: A series of comic books based on the series were released by Gold Key. In 1990-1991, a small publisher called Millennium produced a second series based on the show.
  • Cool Train: The Wanderer, West and Gordon's mobile headquarters.
  • Costume Drama: Very much so, especially after the series went to color in the second season.
  • Create Your Own Villain: The first reunion movie features a young man seeking revenge on James West for killing his father.
  • Death Trap: Most episodes, especially in season one, from the classic Descending Ceiling to a glass box specially rigged to become a Gas Chamber if escape was attempted.
  • Disguised in Drag: Artie in the first reunion movie.
  • Easy Evangelism: If the villain has a beautiful female assistant (and they almost always do), Jim can usually get them to switch sides with five minutes of heartfelt conversation or less, regardless of how fanatically loyal they previously were. (Exceptions: Astarte in "The Night of the Druid's Blood," Antoinette in the first five Loveless episodes, Elaine in "The Night of the Vicious Valentine.")
  • Fanservice: For those who like guys, a frequently shirtless Robert Conrad and his penchant for sporting very tight pants. For those who like ladies, see Girl of the Week.
  • Faux Fluency: Averted for the most part, at least in Ross Martin's case. He really could speak most of the languages Artemus Gordon uses.
  • Flynning: Jim and Artie both get to indulge in this from time to time.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Both heroes and villains fall into this category.
    • Interestingly, occasionally the heroes's gadgets don't work properly, notably in "The Night of the Deadly Bubble" when Jim and the Girl of the Week are trapped in a room filling with steam; the explosives Jim tries to use to get out won't light because the matches are too damp. You'll just have to watch the episode to see how they escape...
  • Genre-Busting: An oddball combination of the western and the spy drama with occasional forays into sci-fi and the supernatural. It is the Ur Example of Cattle Punk.
  • Girl of the Week: The series is inspired by the James Bond franchise, after all. Almost every episode features a beautiful young woman for the hero(es) to romance - often more than one.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: And how; Conrad has been quoted as saying it's perhaps just as well the show was canceled when it was, as making it was so physically taxing for him and the stunt crew.
    • Plus, unlike many TV stars of that time (and this time), it's clearly Conrad doing most of his own stunts.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: There is a great deal of finery to be seen on the main characters and the guest stars alike.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Jim's pistol can be converted into one.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Allows the heroes to escape from imprisonment numerous times.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Presidents Grant and Juárez.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode title begins with "The Night..." (although technically season one's "Night of the Casual Killer" is the only exception).
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The last shot of every act was freeze-framed into either a textured picture (season 1 post-pilot), a tinted still (early season 2) or a drawing (in the pilot, and from mid-season 2) that took its place among the series's title design. This led to some painfully obvious posed shots (such as act 1 of "The Night of the Torture Chamber") and a tendency to advertise the upcoming freezeframes by a rapid zoom in (see "The Night of the Arrow," "The Night of the Undead" and any episode directed by Irving J. Moore - which is pretty easy, as he helmed more episodes than anyone else).
  • Idiot Ball: Loveless's genius is demonstrated enough times for it to not be an Informed Ability, but after having encountered Artie in disguise several times and still never seeing through them... especially considering Count Manzeppi, in only his second (and last) episode, immediately realises "Uncle Hansi" is actually Artie:
    Count Manzeppi: Don't "shlip" going up the "shtairs," "Mishter" Gordon.
  • Improvised Weapon: In a pinch, the agents will often resort to any weapon-like item available - a chair, a bottle, a frying pan...
  • The Infiltration: One of Artie's primary weapons, though Jim also tries his hand at it on occasion. An infiltration of some kind seems to be required in every other episode.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: At least four of them - Henry, Henrietta, Annabella and Arabella.
  • Instant Sedation: Artie's bright red knockout gas. Also any such gas used on the agents.
  • James West Bondage: The agents end up in this situation with rather astonishing frequency.
  • Karmic Death: The fate of many a Villain of the Week.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few. Many of Artemus Gordon's assumed identities fall into this category as well.
  • Lighter and Softer: The reunion movies are very much comedies, to the point of camp, while the original series is a drama.
  • Mad Scientist: Many of the villains.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: James and Artemus are Secret Service agents employed by the Department of the Treasury. Technically, their job is to track down and stop counterfeiters (which they actually do sometimes - see "The Night of Sudden Death" and "The Night of the Circus of Death")... and that's it. In reality they act much more like U. S. Marshals.
  • Mix And Match: The Western + Spy Drama + a bit of The Twilight Zone for good measure.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Any weapon wielded by a villain far in advance of real late 19th century technology will be this, to explain why nobody ever heard of it again after Jim and Artie destroy it and kill its owner.
  • Novelization: "The Night Of the Double-Edged Knife" was turned into a paperback novel, simply titled The Wild Wild West, by Richard Wormser.
  • Punny Name/Epunymous Title: The Wild Wild...James West?
  • Recurring Character: Colonel Richmond, played by Douglas Henderson, and Roy Engel as President Grant.
  • Recycled INSPACE: It's James Bond IN THE WILD WEST!
  • Recycled Premise: A number of episodes involve threats against President Grant (admittedly Truth in Television, given how prone Presidents are to death threats).
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Episodes used music from Gunsmoke (like "The Night of the Running Death") and, believe it or not, Hawaii Five-O (see "The Night of the Bleak Island" and "The Night of the Winged Terror, Part 2"). Even more bizarrely, the latter show returned the favour - the episode "Face of the Dragon" borrows music written for "The Night of the Sedgewick Curse"!
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: The vast majority of the audience isn't fluent in Morse code, so when a message comes in over a telegraph it will often get a running translation into spoken English for no apparent reason.
  • Reunion Show: The TV Movies The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West.
  • Rogues Gallery: Dr. Miguelito Loveless and Count Manzeppi are the only recurring main villains. But there's also Loveless' loyal assistants Antoinette and Voltaire - although Antoinette vanishes during season 2 and Voltaire never appears after season 1 (unlike his portrayer Richard Kiel, who returns in another role in "The Night of the Simian Terror").
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: Many of the death traps on the series, allowing time for the hero(es) to escape.
  • Shirtless Scene: Jim West gets a lot of these.
  • Shoe Phone: The show features exploding billiard balls, cigars that play a variety of tricks and deadly pool cues, among other things.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Besides a good conk on the head, the most frequent method used to incapacitate one or both agents.
  • Steampunk: Between steam and various kinds of Applied Phlebotinum, the characters manage to invent devices many, many years ahead of their time.
  • Steampunk Gadgeteers: One of the heroes and about half of the villains.
  • Stunt Double: Not for Conrad so much as his opponents.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Not quite so surprising once you learn how many languages Ross Martin actually spoke.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • When Artie is temporarily assigned to Washington (to cover for Ross Martin's absence while he recovered from a heart attack), Jim gets a new partner, Jeremy Pike, who also happens to be a Master of Disguise and a dab hand with gadgets.
    • Pike was himself briefly replaced by Frank Harper, who was basically Jeremy Pike with a different actor.
    • Averted with Ned Brown, probably West's only partner who doesn't go in for disguises or gadgetry. Also averted with Sir Nigel Scott (not least with his being The Mole).
  • Technicolor Science: Used lavishly once the series went to color.
  • Temporary Substitute: Jeremy Pike, Frank Harper, Ned Brown and Sir Nigel Scott pinch-hitting for Artie in season four.
  • Theme Tune Cameo:
    • In the second TV movie, Artemus Gordon hums the main theme from the show while getting ready in front of a mirror.
    • Not a theme tune cameo, but at the end of "The Night of the Sabitini Death," we get a clip of the music typically played during the first scene of a Gilligan's Island episode. See Actor Allusion on the trivia page.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Very frequent occurrence.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Artemus Gordon's disguises are generally of this variety.
  • The Wild West: So wild they had to say it twice!
  • World Of Phlebotinum: A new gimmick seems to pop up in almost every episode, usually courtesy of Artemus Gordon.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Seen in the opening credits sequence during three of the four seasons.
  • Written-In Absence: Ross Martin's health problems forced him to sit out a few episodes, which led to several substitutes.
  • You Look Familiar: Rampant throughout the series, e.g. Joan Huntington being the Girl of the Week on three separate occasions ("The Night of the Red-Eyed Madmen" (with Toian Matchinga, who also appears in three episodes), "The Night of the Bottomless Pit" and "The Night of the Circus of Death"). Most striking example: when Dimas appears in "The Night of the Simian Terror," neither of our heroes notices how much he looks like Dr. Loveless's assistant Voltaire.

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