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» Tuesday, February 15, 2005"...with Newsprint in his Veins..."
I either had a close encounter with the world's nastiest gastrointestinal bug yesterday or something I ate bit me back, because my favorite room became the bathroom. So instead of trading pleasantries on Valentine's Day, I kept myself occupied between shuffling short trips in dubbing off my Gallegher tapes (I finished all but "The Mystery of Edward Sims").
I sat there thanking God this was the sort of programming I grew up with on television rather than that junk they shove at kids today which is a strange combination of "knock-'em-silly with the moral" and toilet humor. We had great adventures with kids like Gallegher and Timmy Martin and Joey Newton instead of watered-down dullness with feel-good plots and...ugh...Lizzie McGuire and the Disney Princesses. I can't even imagine Disney putting together a show like Gallegher today: it had the kid in danger and use of weapons and him going out after "leads." Gallegher made today would be all touchy-feely with clearly stated lessons at the end–but Gallegher would say "butt" a lot and make outhouse jokes. Gah.
I still prefer the very first trio of stories, which were done seriously as mysteries with very little humor in them. The second trio, The Further Adventures of Gallegher, relied a bit more on physical humor–Harvey Korman, who played "Brownie" was a pretty straight character in the first set of episodes but became the buffoon in the second set (he even does a slapstick falling out of a window routine), and Anne Francis, who was in two of the three episodes, frankly stole the show from all of them.
In 1966, the Western was still very popular on television: there was Bonanza, Wild Wild West, Guns of Will Sonnett, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and several others running very strong, so Disney sent Gallegher out west to Brimstone, Arizona, for the rest of the twelve episodes. These were a notch under the city-based sleuthing and made Gallegher just another Western adventure, but they did manage to hold their own due to Roger Mobley's always engaging character and the presence of character actors John McIntyre and Jeanette Nolan as the Whites, publishers of the town newspaper, the Brimstone Blast, with guest appearances by Peter Graves and Dennis Weaver. (The first two episodes of Gallegher Goes West also features a menacing Bruce Dern as his usual creepy thug character, one of the dishonest mayor's gunslinging henchmen. He gives the story a real fillip of evil, especially the scene in the newspaper office, where he threatens Gallegher and the Whites.)
I'd just turned nine when Gallegher showed up on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, as the series was known in the mid-sixties. Already a devotee of all the live-action kids' adventure series like Lassie, Fury, My Friend Flicka, Rin-Tin-Tin, Sergeant Preston, Roy Rogers, etc., I fell in love with the concept immediately. The teenybopper crushes on the Beatles, the Monkees, Donny Osmond and all those musical groups went right over my head: Roger Mobley was the one I liked. I wanted to be Gallegher; he did such cool stuff, figured out the clues, and had chutzpah enough for ten. The whole newspaper reporting angle was very romantic to me (until I was about sixteen, that was what I wanted to major in, journalism). I knew very well it wasn't going to be like the TV series, but investigative reporting seemed like a swell job: better than being a detective because when you got done finding the facts you got to write about them, too! Anything that involved writing was A+ in my book (and still is).
Gallegher doesn't quite mean as much as it used to, and it's still fun to watch: not only does it bring me back, but it features all those wonderful old character actors–besides the ones mentioned already, also Edmond O'Brien as Gallegher's Daily Press boss (the blowhard Jefferson Crowley), Larry D. Mann, John Dehner, Ron Hayes, Beverly Garland, James Gregory, Parley Baer, Alan Hewitt, Jack Warden… It's a joy to preserve and renew my acquaintance with them–and with my favorite childhood hero (next to Lassie), Gallegher...who truly always did get the news.