Maverick is unique in the annals of TV Westerns. Eschewing the usual soap-opera-esque formulae of lawmen, ranchers, et al, Maverick features the brothers Maverick, who were raised by their old "Pappy" to be footloose and fancy-free card players – until they were 38 years old, at which point, we are told, they were supposed to settle down and raise a family. Not only that, the poker-playing brothers tend to win a variety of interesting pots, ranging from Mexican cantinas to Arabian camels. Thus, the writers were free to set their stories wherever their fancy took them within the historical constraints of the period, specifically, the 1870's, i.e., post-Civil-War America. Given this broad stage, the writers provide the audience with a wide range of settings, ranging from elite San Francisco drawing rooms to cattle drives, and from ocean voyages to gold-mining towns (desperately in need of cats…). Historical situations and characters, such as the Comstock mine and Doc Holliday, are often featured in the show's story lines. In addition to the variety of settings, we are treated to a range of colorful characters, including charming grifters of both sexes, fugitive French aristocracy, and salty sea captains. The usual assortment of sheriffs (crooked and scrupulous), gunslingers (honorable and otherwise) and dance-hall beauties of all stripes are also in evidence. New viewers will appreciate guest spots by such notable (later) stars as Clint Eastwood, Martin Landau, and Buddy Ebsen. Especially memorable is a very young Joel Gray playing Billy the Kid. And although the Maverick brothers are resolute bachelors for the duration, they are invariably gentlemen towards the various beautiful, ambitious, and intelligent women they encounter in each episode. On the other hand, Indians are often portrayed as randomly homicidal, albeit with a few thoughtful exceptions. Also, African American characters are eerily absent from the series, even from episodes set in New Orleans, presumably a sign of the times (the "times" in question being the late 1950's). With those caveats, this reviewer heartily recommends Maverick to all viewers who enjoy intelligent dialog, historical enlightenment, and engaging, thought-provoking plotlines.
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