Some TV series are likable in spite of themselves. Take “Here Come the Brides,” a western adventure-comedy that ran just two seasons from 1968-70. The characters are as stock as can be, the situations are familiar, and the acting is good but not great, and yet it’s still entertaining. Meaning, after you watch one episode, you want to watch another.
Fans of the “Starsky and Hutch” TV Show will enjoy seeing the blond and bowl-cut David Soul in his pre-Torino days as Joshua Bolt, one of three brothers who, like the Waltons, lay claim to a mountain. Logger Jason Bolt (Robert Brown) is the oldest brother and a domineering, take-charge guy who’s a cross between Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” and musical star Howard Keel. There are times when he throws his chest out and smiles that you half expect a blinding glint to come from his teeth. Like an all-purpose whisperer, he can talk to anybody and convince them to come around. Joshua is also like a father to youngest sibling Jeremy (pop star Bobby Sherman), who stutters something fierce. In fact, he’s so perfect that if this were a reality show, one of his brothers would have found a way to push him out of a tree by the sixth episode.
That, of course, doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t take long for us to be launched headlong into the unlikely premise of the show: the 152 residents of Seattle, Washington, all male and mostly loggers, are ready to head for more civilized hills because they’re tired of going without female companionship. So to keep them around and keep their livelihood going, Jason stands up and delivers one of his many speeches to turn things around. The solution? He’s going to go to New Bedford and convince 100 marriageable women to come to Seattle. Financing his venture is the series heavy, sawmill owner Aaron Stempel (Mark Lenard), and at stake is the brothers’ mountain, appropriately named Bridal Veil. If he can’t bring back 100 women or if any of them backs out within a year, Stempel wins.
So Jason sails around the Horn all the way to New England, of all places, where getting 100 “girls” to travel to an unknown outpost halfway around the world is as simple as slapping handbills around town calling for a meeting of all single women. And before you know it, the smooth-talking Jason has them all aboard a mule ship sleeping on straw for a six-month voyage to be “picked” by grubby lumberjacks (one of whom, “Big Swede,” is played by a young Bo Svenson).
With women’s lib emerging in full force around the time that the series was aired, it’s no wonder that it lasted just two seasons. The wonder is that it lasted that long. But it did because the characters themselves are interesting and likeable and the plots, though typically TV, are engaging enough. Bridget Hanley does a good job as the quasi-feminist leader of the “girls,” Candy Pruitt, as does Kathleen Widdoes as Dr. Allyn Wright. Joan Blondell (who was nominated for an Emmy both seasons) anchors a cast of relative unknowns—one of which was “bride” Karen Carlson, whom Soul met and married on the set, and director Bob Claver (“The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Partridge Family”) does a lot with a little. The cinematography makes it look as if it was all filmed in the Pacific Northwest, but most of the footage was shot on the Columbia/Warner Brothers Ranch in Burbank, California. Look closely and you’ll see a young Vic Tayback (“Alice”) among the loggers.
The obvious inspiration for “Here Come the Brides” was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (which starred Keel), but there are also elements of that John Wayne “northerner” “North to Alaska” and Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion.”
All 26 episodes from Season One are included here, in the original color:
1) “Here Come the Brides”—Jason sails to New Bedford to bring back 100 brides for the men of Seattle.
2) “A Crying Need”—One dead mother (dog) is all it takes for the women to realize that some of them are going to die in childbirth unless Seattle has a doctor, so Jason is sent on another mission while his brothers are left to fill a huge logging contract.
3) “And Jason Makes Five”—A woman with three children turns up in Seattle claiming that Jason is the father. And it threatens to tarnish his image just a bit.
4) “The Man of the Family”—Another “secret” episode has the preacher falling in love with Miss Polly, who has a past that might just skew any marriage.
5) “A Hard Card to Play”—Clancy loses his boat in a card game, and Joshua gets in the game to win it back.
6) “Letter of the Law”—A new sheriff pulls a Fife and drives everyone crazy.
7) “Lovers and Wanderers”—Stempel convinces the schoolteacher (Mitzi Hoag) that Jason loves her, all to stir up trouble with her jealous boyfriend, Big Swede.
8) “A Jew Named Sullivan”—”Hill Street Blues” star Daniel Travanti guests in an episode about a woman who will only marry within her faith . . . and that means Jewish.
9) “The Stand Off”—This time Stempel tries to nudge the Bolts out of the timber business, and Jason has to propose a contest to settle things.
10) “A Man and His Magic”—Can a magician (Jack Albertson, of “Chico and the Man”) really stop the rain, and help Jeremy in the process?
11) “A Christmas Place”—Sherman’s singing got a boost with this episode, in which a baby is born in Seattle . . . on Christmas Day.
12) “After a Dream, Comes Mourning”—A look-back episode about the brides’ first landing in Seattle.
13) “The Log Jam”—Jeremy and Candy get engaged, but a logger convinces Jeremy to go whoa!
14) “The Firemaker”—Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) guests in an episode about a rash of fires that starts just about the time a romance does between one logger and a bride.
15) “Wives for Wakando”—Seems everyone wants a bride, even the Wakando Indians, who kidnap a few after their offer to trade pelts for wives is turned down.
16) “A Kiss Just for So”—When Jason falls in love with an Amish woman, the question is, can he become a pacifist?
17) “Democracy Inaction”—The women wake up politically when the men in town conclude that females aren’t eligible to vote.
18) “One Good Lie Deserves Another”—A suave con man shows up and bilks the town, until the Bolts figure out a way to beat him at his own game.
19) “One to a Customer”—A Mormon is foraging for more wives and plucks four from the group, apparently to no one’s protests. So why isn’t the deal with Stempel lost?
20) “A Dream that Glitters”—Will Geer (“The Waltons”) guests as Candy’s prospector grandpa who almost gets rich with a scheme of Candy’s, until it backfires.
21) “The Crimpers”—Rosemary De Camp stars as Mrs. Fletcher in an episode where Joshua and Jeremy are kidnapped and it’s up to the women to get them back.
22) “Mr. & Mrs. J. Bolt”—Character actor Henry Jones guests as Uncle Jebediah in an episode where Jason and one of the brides have to pretend they’re married so she can stay in Seattle.
23) “A Man’s Errand”—Jeremy lands a big business deal, but blows his stack when he returns to find Candy kissing another guy.
24) “Loggerheads”—You want to shoot all the lawyers in this episode when some barristers try to stir up trouble between Joshua and Jason.
25) “Marriage, Chinese Style”—Martial arts legend Bruce Lee guests in this episode about a Chinese woman who’s so grateful when Jeremy saves her life that she’s intent upon marrying him.
26) “The Deadly Trade”—When a logger is killed, Jeremy feels bad enough . . . and then vengeful kin come to town.
Video: Though the colors are slightly faded and there’s a bit of grain, the overall quality is quite good, especially for a color show from this era. And the 1.33:1 picture looks pretty good stretched to fit a widescreen television.
Audio: Nothing fancy here—just Dolby Digital Mono—but the tonal quality is good and the mix seems right, with dialogue, music, and Foley sounds appropriately balanced.
Extras: There are no extras.
Bottom Line: Logic would dictate that this show get a 6 out of 10 at best, but sometimes logic has nothing to do with it. Familiar characters and situations are balanced by a likeable cast, sleight-of-hand cinematography, music from Hugo Montenegro and friends, and capable direction from Claver.