Maverick, Young Maverick and Brett Maverick

Maverick (1957-1962)
Young Maverick (1979-1980)
Brett Maverick (1981-1982)
Type: Spin Offs
Group: 22

   When you think Maverick, lets face it, you think James Garner. Playing Bret Maverick, Garner created a lovable western con man that became part of TV history. But the fact is he was not the only "Maverick". There were TONS of Mavericks on the original show and its spin offs. Its just that Bret was the only one people remember because he was the first one and none of those that followed could fill his boots.

   Premiering in the late 50's when westerns were big on TV, Maverick was unique. Most westerns were serious horse dramas with upstanding heroes who were lawmen, ranchers or trustworthy guns for hire. Maverick was the exact opposite. It was a show with a sense of humor about itself whose lead was a hustler and a gambler, a guy who preferred to run from trouble if he could. What kind of western hero is that? The fact that Bret Maverick worked as a hero with that setup is a tribute to James Garner's charisma. Sure he was a cowardly cheater but he was also, bottom line, a pretty likable guy. And one an audience could relate to. If you had a choice between a shootout with a killer or sneaking out of town, honestly, wouldn't you be tip toeing out the back door? I think most folks would. And a good con job is always fun to watch. A bad con job on the verge of collapse is even more fun.

   But networks execs are nervous sorts so they brought in a brother for Brett named Bart who could alternate as the lead from episode to episode. Bart could be the more "normal" western hero to balance out troublemaker Bret. And it also gave them a spare Maverick should they need one if, say James Garner gave them trouble. And need him they did.

   James Garner got into a dispute with ABC over how much money he was making on the show. In the end he left Maverick over it. And it's not like he's the only one to ever have this happen: Redd Foxx, David Caruso, the Duke Boys... lots of folks leave shows over money. And every time the networks try and go on without them. It usually doesn't work so well. It didn't with Maverick. To help fill Garner's shoes, Roger Moore was brought in as new cousin Beau Maverick. Did they used to call in Roger Moore every time they needed someone to take over as a popular lead character? James Bond at least made sense. But a British Maverick? What the hell is up with that? The audience said the same I guess because he got the big old cowboy boot after a single year. Bart helmed the show solo for its final year. Sort of sucks for Jack Kelly who played Bart. He was the only Maverick on for nearly the entire run of the show and James Garner is the one people remember.

   Of course it's hard for Hollywood to resist trying to revive a popular series, especially one as big as Maverick. In 1979 CBS tried with Young Maverick. I'm actually not sure what they were thinking. In the late seventies/early eighties westerns were hardly all the rage. Westerns were what you watched early on Sunday mornings where local stations plopped them to fill time. A new prime time western? Please. Not only that but one that was recycled! The final nail in the show's coffin? No James Garner apart from a quick guest shot so he could pass the baton to the new Maverick, Ben, and give him some credibility. Yawn. Over on NBC on Real People some guy was probably trying to jump 5 cars with a tank! Why watch some guy pretending he's James Garner? Especially when you could see the real James Garner displaying all his charm playing Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files? Three months and goodbye Young Maverick.

   So ABC had Maverick and then CBS. Apparently NBC was yelling "Hey! Where's OUR Maverick show?" I guess they didn't here everyone in the audience yelling, "It's the eighties dopey! Nobody's watching westerns!" because in 1981 they gave the Maverick franchise a crack.

   You do have to give NBC credit for one thing though. They figured out what ABC and CBS were too dumb to: if you don't have James Garner you don't have Maverick. With The Rockford Files recently ending its run, James Garner was available and reprised his famous con man in NBC's show Bret Maverick. Bret was now settled down in the town of Sweetwater and not wandering all over the place causing trouble. Not that he was totally respectable. Please! We are talking about Bret Maverick.

   Still, like I said, nobody was looking for new westerns to watch at the time and the whole Maverick thing felt dated. Okay westerns in general felt dated. Once again, the whole thing just didn't fly. Almost a decade later NBC did bring Maverick back one more time when in the summer of 1990 they showed reruns of Bret Maverick for no apparent reason other than to fill time. Was somebody hoping the show would catch on and inspire another revival or something?

   Oh but never count a Maverick out. In 1994 the franchise finally made a successful comeback... but as a feature film. To make it happen more than a simple TV revival was needed. Maverick the movie starred Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick. Even though like Roger Moore he wasn't exactly all American, he did have the twinkle in his eye and troublemaker persona needed to fill Garner's shoes. Not that Garner was gone. He was in the film too playing a character who(SPOILER ALERT) ended up actually being Pappy Maverick. In the original show, Maverick often talked about his pappy and pappy had actually shown up once... played by Garner. So he was actually reprising a role he had previously created. Also throw in uber actress Jodie Foster and Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner and you had a film that had little chance of failing.

Other Maverick Crossover Links
Maverick and Bat Masterson
Maverick and Cheyenne
Maverick and Have Gun Will Travel
Maverick and Kung Fu
Maverick and The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp
Maverick and The Rifleman

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