Siamese cat Spock, a blue point

Siamese cat Dracs, a lilac point
This was previously on Ann's Page

RIVERBOAT - CLASSIC TV WESTERN

 

Remember the days when television was in black and white? Good always triumphed over evil, there was invariably a happy ending, the strongest word even the most case hardened criminal ever used was "darn" and the closest anyone got to sex was a chaste kiss?

Today it's impossible to avoid docusoaps, house or garden makeovers and cookery programmes. Back in the early 1960s we lived on a diet of Westerns. "Wagon Train", "Rawhide", "Laramie", "Bonanza", "Wyatt Earp"; there was one on every single night of the week and we watched them all.

Everyone had a favourite and they were all discussed at length on the school playing fields at lunchtime. It's difficult to imagine how the scriptwriters managed to come up with so many different plots and yet I don't remember seeing the same storylines going the rounds the way they do now on all the soaps. Perhaps it was because they just set out to entertain in those days and left it to the documentaries to increase our awareness of serious social issues. Helpline numbers for those of us needing to deal with bullet wounds hadn't been thought of then.

The series I remember liking the most were those in which the main characters didn't take themselves too seriously, so "Maverick" episodes featuring James Garner, and "Sugarfoot" with Will Hutchins were both high on my list. But at the very top, head and shoulders above the rest, was "Riverboat".

Riverboat, Main Title

"Riverboat" had a short life in Britain. It was on air for less than a year and, to the best of my knowledge has never been seen or heard of over here since. Instead of a cowboy, or lawman, the main character was a riverboat captain and each episode followed one of his adventures on a riverboat called the Enterprise, as she plyed her trade up and down the Mississippi in the 1840s. Captain Grey Holden was played by Darren McGavin.

In common with, I imagine, every other series at the time and some of today's too, Grey Holden's character could sometimes change from week to week to fit in with the plots. This of course quickly turned him into a truly remarkable person. They certainly don't make men like that any more! (It must have been quite challenge for Darren McGavin, who, to his great credit, made Grey Holden credible despite everything.)

At a loose end one evening, I decided to look up some ghosts from my past and stumbled upon a website full of pictures of "Riverboat". What a trip down Memory Lane that was! If the hit rate for that web page rose noticeably around the beginning of May, it was probably due entirely to me.

When I was finally able to drag myself away, further surfing revealed a thriving little Internet community collecting/swapping and trading videos of just about any television series you can think of. Apparently as long as you don't do it for profit and the tapes are for private use only, it's not illegal. That's what one website said anyway, although it was US case law they were quoting. If you're in Britain, presumably you just have to take your chances. (So don't blame me if you decide to give it a try and end up in the dock!)

Turning the clock back so many years is always a gamble. What if you hate it now? What if you shatter all those adolescent illusions? Having debated the issue for all of 2 seconds, naturally I went ahead anyway.

The first tape arrived. "I'll be grown up about this and wait until this evening to watch it", I thought. Five minutes later I'd convinced myself that I really ought to check that it played on my VCR. Five further minutes and I was under the spell of Captain Grey Holden all over again. Whatever I'd planned to do that day, never got done. I was far too busy wallowing in nostalgia.

Reversion to a second childhood has been rapid and collecting more episodes has temporarily become my new mission. I'm just relieved I chose a relatively short series to remember with such affection, even if it is proving very hard to track down. Anyone taken with "Gunsmoke" for example, which ran for 20 years, is likely to be bankrupt and on a zimmer frame by the time they've finished amassing all the available episodes!

"Riverboat" isn't a masterpiece of classic television drama. I didn't think it was at the time and I certainly don't think so now. But it's great fun to watch and Grey Holden still does it for me, just like he always used to all those years ago.

A character in a series can only be as compelling as the skill of the actor who plays him,.so I take my hat off (a peaked captain's one of course), to Darren McGavin for creating Grey Holden.

Captain Grey Holden played by Darren McGavin

Grey Holden and Ben Fraxer played by Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds

Captain Grey Holden played by Darren McGavin
Captain Grey Holden and Pilot Ben Frazer played by a young Burt Reynolds

"RIVERBOAT" THEME TUNE

Since I first wrote this webpage, I've had a number of people emailing me because they too remembered "Riverboat" with great affection. In particular, Elmer Bernstein's theme music from the first series seems to have made its mark. The quality isn't too good and you may have to turn your speakers up, but if you'd like to hear it again, click

HERE

If you'd like to find out more about "Riverboat" I can recommend www.darrenmcgavin.net/riverboat.htm
My thanks go to the webmasters there for their kindness to me.

If you fancy dabbling in a bit of video trading try
Video Trading Post
& Jim's Rare Serials

P.S. If there are any other Riverboat fans out there, feel free to email me!

P.P.S.If you're female and over 35, I'll bet you're now heading off to the nearest search engine to look up your old favourites!

 

You can never be sure what you'll find on Ann's Page. It changes whenever Ann feels inspired and it's completely different each time. If you'd like to see what was previously on Ann's Page, click on one of the links above or go to our Archives If you'd like to know when Ann's Page changes, please feel free to join our mailing list.

 

 

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