Then Came Bronson

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Then Came Bronson
European pilot poster
Genre Adventure
Created by Denne Bart Petitclerc
Starring Michael Parks
Theme music composer George Duning
James Richard Hendricks (end theme)
Opening theme "Then Came Bronson" by George Duning
Ending theme "Long Lonesome Highway" by Michael Parks
Composer(s) George Duning, Gil Melle
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 26 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Herbert F. Solow
Producer(s) Robert H. Justman, Robert Sabaroff
Running time 44 mins.
Production company(s) MGM Television
Original network NBC
Original release September 17, 1969 – September 9, 1970

Then Came Bronson is an American adventure/drama television series starring Michael Parks that aired on NBC from 1969 to 1970, and was produced by MGM Television. The series, created by Denne Bart Petitclerc, began with a movie pilot on Monday, March 24, 1969. The series was approved for one year and began its first run on September 17, 1969. The pilot was also released in Europe as a feature film.


The series features Parks as the protagonist, James "Jim" Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick (Martin Sheen), and with "working for the man" after a heated argument with his editor.

In order to renew his soul, Bronson becomes a vagabond searching for the meaning of life and seeking the experiences life has to offer (as revealed in the series pilot). During his travels, he shares his values with the people he meets along the way and lends a helping hand when he can. Bronson rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle and, as such, he was viewed by some as a modern version of the solitary cowboy wandering the American west. The motorcycle had previously been sold to Nick by Bronson. After it is left at the suicide scene by his friend, Bronson buys it back from the widow.

Curiously, though the opening promises a journey of self-discovery, the premise of each episode is that Bronson enters someone else's life at a crucial point and acts as a catalyst for change. When Bronson encounters an Amish community, for example, a local boy becomes enraptured by the outside world and steals Bronson's motorcycle to run off to Reno, Nevada. In another episode, located in Reno, Nevada, Bronson meets his cousin Eve on her wedding day and lends her money for the wedding service, but she runs off to the casinos and blows it.

The first three episodes, including the end credits scenes, were shot in and around Jackson, Wyoming. The premier pilot movie was also shown at the town's then only theatre to give the locals a sense of what the series was about, since they were shooting in town and at local area popular spots.

Bronson is committed to pacifism and often redirects an antagonist's anger into self-examination. Always, like a true catalyst, he rolls out of every episode unchanged.

The show had obvious similarities to the early 1960s series Route 66 (in which Michael Parks guest-starred in one episode). It was also sometimes erroneously described as a knock-off of the movie Easy Rider, but it actually preceded the release of that movie.

The motorcycle[edit]

Bronson's motorcycle, a 1969 XLH 900cc Harley-Davidson Sportster,[1] figures in many episodes. In one episode he enters several motorcycle races; in another, he makes an emergency run to fetch a doctor. But in some stories, the motorcycle serves merely as his transportation.

The fuel tank is illustrated with the Eye of Providence.

Cast and crew[edit]

Michael Parks, who starred as James Bronson, had acted on television and starred in three anti-establishment movies, Wild Seed, The Happening, and Bus Riley's Back in Town. He went on to have a steady career in drive-in horror movies and TV shows. Also talented as a singer, Parks recorded three pop/jazz albums: Long Lonesome Highway, Closing the Gap, Blue, and several gospel albums. Long Lonesome Highway and Closing the Gap were connected with particular strength to Then Came Bronson, as Parks performed the former's title selection over the closing credits of each installment, and it and the latter both featured other music from the series. (See below.)

Several production staff and cast members of Bronson had previously worked on the original Star Trek series, including executive producer Herbert F. Solow and producer Robert H. Justman, actors James Doohan ("Scotty") and Meg Wyllie, and writers D.C. Fontana and Robert Sabaroff.

The series is also notable for providing the first television script credit for writer-producer Susan Harris, who went on to create Soap and The Golden Girls.


The opening instrumental theme song was titled "Then Came Bronson," and was composed and conducted by George Duning. The closing vocal theme for the series, titled "Long Lonesome Highway," was sung by Parks and written and composed by James Hendricks, and was a Billboard Magazine Hot 100 hit that reached #20 in 1970.

Parks released two albums on MGM that featured music from this series, Closing the Gap (1969) and Long Lonesome Highway (1970). In addition, other artists such as John Bahler, Kiel Martin, Gary Jayson, Buffy St. Marie, and Tom Paxton sang songs on the series.

A version of "San Antonio Rose," sung by Parks, appears on the Rhino CD Golden Throats 3: Sweethearts of Rodeo Drive.

In 2010 Duning's score for the pilot and two episode scores by Gil Melle were released as part of Film Score Monthly's TV Omnibus: Volume One (1962-1976). In 2013 Intrada released a two-disc set of music from the series, featuring Duning's six episode scores on disc one and selections from the other scores on disc two by John Parker, Elliot Kaplan, Stu Phillips, Dean Elliott, Richard Shores, Tom McIntosh and Philip Springer.

Series opening[edit]

Then Came Bronson Pilot

The opening of the show served as a metaphor for the premise of the show: getting away from the "big city" and leading a more simplistic life. The opening begins with Bronson driving up to a red light in San Francisco and he briefly chats with a commuter. The scene also introduces Bronson's signature-phrase which he often used in the episodes, "Hang in there."

Driver: "Taking a trip?"
Bronson: "What's that?"
Driver: "Taking a trip?"
Bronson: "Yeah."
Driver: "Where to?"
Bronson: "Oh, I don't know. Wherever I end up, I guess."
Driver: "Man, I wish I was you."
Bronson: "Really?"
Driver: "Yeah."
Bronson: "Well, hang in there."

From here he heads out to California's State Route 1 and then crosses over the Bixby Creek Bridge.


Novel Tie-Ins[edit]

Three novels with original stories were published during the show's run: Then Came Bronson by William Johnston, and Then Came Bronson #2: The Ticket and Then Came Bronson #3: Rock! by Chris Stratton.

DVD releases[edit]

The pilot telefilm was made available on DVD as a part of the Warner Archives collection from Warner Bros. on November 17, 2009.[2]

There have been no announcements on whether the 26 episodes will be released.

Guest stars[edit]

Among the many guest stars on the show were:

Parody/In Popular Culture[edit]

The series was parodied by Pat Paulsen in a running sketch, "Then Came Paulsen," on Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour.[3] Paulsen's motorcycle had training wheels.

The series was also sent up by Mad magazine in a piece entitled "Then Came Bombsome", which portrayed Parks smoking atop his Harley in the iconic opening scene at the San Francisco stoplight: "Takin' a trip?" "No, this is a regular cigarette I'm smoking".[4][5]

Then Came Bronson has also been referenced numerous times on the movie-mocking TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, usually in a scene featuring a lone figure riding on a motorcycle. MST3K writer Frank Conniff, who portrayed TV's Frank, is said to be a big fan of the show.[6]



  1. ^ Thomas, J.T. (2003). Riding in the Wind: A View from Behind Handlebars. iUniverse. p. 13. ISBN 0-595-26933-8. 
  2. ^ "Then Came Bronson DVD news: Announcement for Then Came Bronson - The Pilot". Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  3. ^ "Pat Paulsens Half A Comedy Hour The Complete Series DVD with Pat Paulsen". Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Doug Gilford's Mad Cover Site - Mad #135". Doug Gilford. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. Bantam Books. 1996. 

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