CBS to remake The Wild, Wild West, Deadline Web site says

CBS, having gotten a Hawaii Five-O remake off the ground, is looking to do a new version of The Wild, Wild West according to Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site. Here’s the start of a story by NELLIE ANDREEVA.

EXCLUSIVE: In one of the highest-profile reboots this season, CBS is looking to revive the 1960s action-adventure Western The Wild Wild West with former CSI executive producer/co-showrunner Naren Shankar and Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Ron Moore. The network is negotiating a deal for the project, which will be co-produced by CBS TV Studios, where Shankar is based with an overall deal, and Sony Pictures TV, where Moore is under an overall deal. The project originated at CBS TV Studios, which has the rights to the original series that ran on CBS from 1965-1969. (My new colleague Michael Ausiello broke the original story about the project when he was at EW and helped with this one too.)

The move by CBS comes not long after the 45th anniversary of the original version of The Wild, Wild West.

UPDATE: Here’s a fan-edited You Tube video that re-creates a second-season promo from the original series that starred Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. Copies of the original promo have been seen on You Tube but the original film version has deteriorated. This video seems to have virtually every shot from the original promo, with nice, sharp images. One change was to insert the title logo of the show’s main titles where the promo used a basic “Western” font. The music is by Richard Shores, taken from his score for the season-season opener, “The Night of the Eccentrics.”

By popular demand: some video of Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon

In our recent post on the 45th anniversary of The Wild, Wild West, a reader expressed disappointment we didn’t feature Ross Martin as ace Secret Service Agent Artemus Gordon more.

Well, here’s a video we hope lessens the disappointment. It’s a series of promos of CBS western shows of the mid- to late-1960s. Starting at the 3:50 mark, you can see two Wild, Wild West videos. The first is a preview of coming attractions for The Night of the Amnesiac, a third-season episode featuring Edward Asner as a typical WWW villain who, in this case, plans on killing plenty of people for the sheer sadistic fun of it.

Following that is a minute-long promo for WWW’s second season. It includes footage of Arty in various disguises, one of the character’s specialties. The music is by the underrated Richard Shores and is taken from The Night of the Eccentrics, the second-season premier episode.

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part III: I Spy’s touch of reality

The television spy mania of September 1965 had a mostly escapist flavor. The primary nemesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was Thrush, a “band of renegades” out “to rule the world.” The Wild, Wild West’s pilot concerned a plot to take over much of the western United States and its third episode would introduce a dwarf mad scientist named Dr. Loveless who had ambitions far beyond that.

I Spy was different. U.S. agents Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) dealt with, well, Soviet and Chinese agents. In other words, it was a series grounded in the Cold War. It wasn’t exactly John Le Carre. We still got exotic locations (or at least exotic for most viewers in the mid-1960s). Like other spy shows of the era, it had its share of challenges to get on the air.

The series was created by writer-producers Morton Fine and David Friedkin. They would be denied a creators credit until the 1994 television movie I Spy Returns, which didn’t air until both men had died. They joined forces with executive producer Sheldon Leonard, who cranked out popular half-hour sitcoms for CBS such as The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Leonard was looking to expand his customer base (with NBC agreeing to air I Spy) and wanting to do something other than a sitcom.

Robert Culp, however, wasn’t pleased with the Fine-Friedkin scripted/Leonard-directed pilot. In a DVD commentary recorded many years after the series, Culp described locking himself away to work on his own scripts for the show, without knowledge of the producers. Before production began, he had four completed scripts. He took one of them to the producers who, while admitting it was quite good, said he couldn’t just drop off a complete script. Culp was told he’d have to do a “treatment,” or outline, before submitting another.

Culp went back worked up a treatment for the second of his already-completed scripts. The producers liked it and said to write it up. He dropped off a copy the same day. Realizing they’d been had, the Fine-Friedkin team asked just to see what Culp had.

NBC evidently agreed with Culp. The network wouldn’t air the pilot until midway through the 1965-66 season. For the first episode to be broadcast, NBC chose So Long Patrick Henry, one of the Culp-scripted episodes. Here’s the entire episode on YouTube.

I Spy was a landmark show because it featured a white man and a black man as equals while the civil rights movement was in full swing. It also helped make Bill Cosby a huge star. The premier episode can also be enjoyed for Culp’s script (including a bit of dark humor but is also politically incorrect toward Asians, it should be noted), the performances its guest stars. Composer Earle Hagen even managed to drop “The James Bond Theme” in the show’s epilogue. It’s easy to understand why NBC selected So Long Patrick Henry to kick off the series.

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part II: spies and cowboys

In the fall of the 1965, CBS wasn’t about to let rival network NBC gain a monpoly on spy-oriented entertainment. But the Tiffany Network’s choice was a little unusual: it opted to air a spy show set in 1870s America.

The result, of course, was The Wild Wild West. That wasn’t always the planned title. The version of the show’s pilot shown to network executives was just called The Wild West. At one point, CBS was keen on 6-foot-3 Rory Calhoun to play Secret Service agent James West but ended up casting the much-shorter Robert Conrad. The memorable animated main titles depicted a tall, lanky James West, who seemed to more closely resemble Calhoun.

Versatile character actor Ross Martin got the odd nod as fellow agent Artemus Gordon, a master of disguise who also dabbled in advanced science.

The show had a rocky first season, with no less than six men (Michael Garrison, Fred Freiberger, Collier Young, Philip Leacock, John Mantley and Gene L. Coon) getting either a producer or executive producer credit. Garrison produced the pilot (also taking the creator credit even though the pilot was written by Gilbert Ralston) and would retake command late in the first season. Garrison died during the second season, and Bruce Lansbury would see the show through the rest of its four-year run.

HMSS has written before how the original series captured lightning in a bottle, something was extremely difficult to do with 1980 and 1981 TV movie revivals and a 1999 theatrical move.

Anyway, here’s a 1965 CBS promo for the series. That includes music from Richard Markowitz, who composed the show’s catchy theme but would be denied a credit for it (Markowitz would only get credits for individual episodes he scored). It’s followed by the “boxes” of the original verison of the pilot leading into commercial breaks: