Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember?”
It’s no secret that we here at PoP! love us some Bruce Campbell. From the Evil Dead trilogy to his surprisingly dramatic turn on The X-Files to Burn Notice, the man has had quite a career. Few times was he at his best than when starring in the short-lived series Jack of All Trades. Whether it’s spouting out one-liners like no tomorrow, engaging in both serious and slapstick fights, or flirting with a hot girl, this show has all the things he’s known for. It’s also got, in my opinion at least, one of the best opening themes in television history. One that’s apt to stick in your head hours after you hear it, and then pop up randomly for years to come.
Created by television writer Eric A. Morris, Jack aired alongside Cleopatra 2525 (a sci-fi series that I only remember because I was impressed by a pre-Firefly Gina Torres) as one-half of the syndicated Back2Back Action Hour in 2ooo. Produced by Campbell’s long-time friends and collaborators, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, it was shot in New Zealand just like their better known series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Set in the year 1801, Jack featured Campbell as the roguish American secret agent, Jack Stiles. Sent by President Thomas Jefferson to the fictional island of Pulau-Pulau in the French-controlled East Indies, Jack was tasked mainly with stopping Napoleon from any designs the conqueror might have on America, but also battled other threats to the nation as well. He was aided in his tasks by the English spy Emilia Rothschild (Angela Dotchin), posing as her attaché as his cover. To conceal his identity when in action, Jack would don the disguise of a masked hero known as The Daring Dragoon. The main villains who routinely dogged the pair were Governor Croque (Stuart Devenie) and Captain Brogard (Stephen Papps), agents of Napoleon.
Running only a half-hour per episode, the plots were never overly complicated, though the same couldn’t always be said about Jack’s plans. If you’re looking for historical accuracy, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is a show where Benjamin Franklin had to be rescued from Blackbeard the Pirate, who kidnapped him as he was working on a electricity-based WMD. Other real-life historical figures showed up here and there, from Lewis, Clark & Sacagawea to the Marquis de Sade. One of the shows funniest recurring gags was having Napoleon Bonaparte appear in several episodes played by Mini-Me himself, the diminutive Verne Troyer. Jack also borrowed a recurring gag from Hercules and Xena, having characters invent modern items years before they were actually conceived. The writing was fun, with the highlights being the playful Moonlighting relationship of Jack & Emilia (helped by the obvious chemistry between Campbell and Dotchin) and Jack’s penchant for Ash-worthy one liners. (“Well, yank my doodle!” was always one of my favorites.) Though it only ran for two seasons and twenty-two episodes, Jack of All Trades is well worth watching and the whole series is available on DVD.
Oh, and one more thing before I go. Remember how I said Jack had on of the greatest opening theme songs of all time? If you don’t believe me, just watch and listen: