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|Developed by||Gordon Dawson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||18|
|Running time||60 mins.|
|Original release||December 1, 1981– May 4, 1982|
The New Maverick
Bret Maverick is a 1981-82 American Western NBC television series starring James Garner in the role that made him famous in the 1957 series created by Roy Huggins and entitled Maverick: a professional poker player traveling alone year after year through the Old West from riverboat to saloon. In this sequel series, Maverick has settled down in Sweetwater, Arizona Territory, where he owns a ranch (The Lazy Ace) and is co-owner of the town's saloon (The Red Ox). However, Maverick is still always on the lookout for his next big score, and continues to gamble and practice various con games whenever the chance arises. The series was developed by Gordon Dawson, and produced by Garner's company Cherokee Productions (mistakenly dubbed "Comanche Productions" on the end credits) in association with Warner Bros. Television.
Almost two decades after the original Maverick series, and a few years after his appearance in the 1978 TV-movie The New Maverick, Bret Maverick has put down roots in the frontier community of Sweetwater, Arizona Territory where he's now the silent partner of the Red Ox saloon that he won in a card game. Maverick's still a gambler, and is not above running various con games to help make the money he needs to keep his businesses afloat. Because of this, he's viewed with suspicion by many of the town's more prominent citizens, especially the town's newly appointed sheriff.
Bret's business partner is Tom Guthrie (Ed Bruce), the town's former sheriff and co-owner of the Red Ox Saloon. (Actor Ed Bruce, a noted country singer, also co-wrote and performed the show's theme song.) Bret's penchant for organizing cons and money-making schemes of questionable legality means that he and ex-sheriff Guthrie are often at odds with each other, although they still remain friends. Also seen as series regulars are Richard Hamilton as Cy Whitaker, the aging but feisty foreman of Maverick's ranch; Ramon Bieri as prosperous local banker Elijah Crow; Darleen Carr as Mary Lou "M.L." Springer, the fetching owner, editor, and photographer of the local newspaper; David Knell as Rodney Catlow. M.L.'s young assistant; and John Shearin as Mitchell Dowd, the town's arrogant and ineffectual sheriff.
Also seen frequently are three actors who were carry-overs from Garner's previous series The Rockford Files. Stuart Margolin ("Angel" on The Rockford Files) appears in a recurring role as crooked Native American Philo Sandeen; frequent Rockford Files bit player Jack Garner (James' brother) plays the role of Jack, the Red Ox's bespectacled bartender; and Luis Delgado (James Garner's longtime stand-in, and "Officer Billings" on Rockford) plays Red Ox employee Shifty Delgrado. Semi-regulars included Tommy Bush as the inept but friendly Deputy Sturgess, and Marj Dusay as Kate Hanrahan, the town's local madam.
Cancellation and aftermath
Although the ratings were respectable, the show was unexpectedly canceled by NBC at the end of the first season. Writer/producer Roy Huggins, original creator of the titular character but otherwise unconnected with this series despite Garner's request that he come aboard mid-season, speculated that one reason the new show didn't quite work was that Maverick, traditionally a drifter, had settled down in one place. Jack Kelly, who had alternated the lead with Garner and later Roger Moore in the original 1957-62 Maverick series, had been slated to return as Bret's brother Bart Maverick in the second season, and briefly appeared at the very end of the only season.
A number of scripts for the following season had been written and presented to Kelly, according to subsequent interviews; Bart was going to look after the saloon in Arizona while Bret ranged across the West, thereby making this series closer in conception and tone to the original Maverick. The series' final episode also included a number of other changes to the series set-up: notably, Tom Guthrie was re-elected as sheriff, and sold his interest in the Red Ox to Kate Hanrahan, who immediately reinvented the establishment as an upscale brothel. As well, Mitchell Dowd was appointed to a government position as an inspector of bars and hotels throughout the Arizona territory, where he promised to remain a thorn in Maverick's side.
The 2-hour first episode was eventually trimmed and repackaged as a TV movie for rerunning on local stations under the title Bret Maverick: The Lazy Ace. Additionally the series' only two-part episode was similarly repackaged as Bret Maverick: Faith, Hope and Clarity. NBC took the unusual step of rerunning the episodes two additional times - in the summer of 1988 to help provide 'new' programming during a writers strike, and in the summer of 1994 to play off publicity surrounding the Mel Gibson movie remake of the original Maverick series also featuring Garner.
As a tribute to the character featured on this television series, on April 21, 2006, a ten-foot bronze statue of James Garner as Bret Maverick was unveiled in Garner's hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, with Garner present at the ceremony.
- James Garner as Bret Maverick
- Ed Bruce as Tom Guthrie
- Ramon Bieri as Elijah Crow
- John Shearin as Mitchel Dowd
- David Knell as Rodney Catlow
- Richard Hamilton as Cy Whittaker
- Stuart Margolin as Philo Sandeen
- Darleen Carr as Mary Lou Springer
- Jack Garner as Jack
- Tommy Bush as Deputy Sturgess
- Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick
On April 22, 2014, Warner Bros. released Bret Maverick: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time, via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively through Warner's online store and only in the United States.
The series has reaired on Encore Westerns since fall 2008.