The Protectors, Jason King, The Champions, The Persuaders
.. and The Adventurer. It probably wouldn't take much collective sleuthing from the characters of those ITC shows to work out that of the bunch, The Adventurer remains the least remembered and least screened of all those series. On paper it should have worked, combining the usual ITC elements, glamorous locations, attractive women, two fisted action, car chases with the added bonuses of a famous American star in the lead and some authentic shooting in France
One of the first things you notice about the show is the lack of back story, as if the standard 'introductory' episode was never filmed, plunging us headfirst into the world of Gene Bradley, a multi-millionaire businessman and renowned film star, who happens to lead a double life as an international crime buster for the US government. Though its never made clear what came first film star, businessman or crime fighter, Bradley is aided and abetted by his boss Mr. Parminter (Barry Morse) a quintessentially British ministry man, and glamorous young assistant Diane (Catherine Schell).
As Bradley, 53 year old Gene Barry has the dubious honour of being something of the Reg Varney of ITC action heroes, blatantly playing a role that is half his age, one character, presumably registered blind, even refers to him as "young man". The situation being given a more absurd spin by the 70's fashions they kit him up in, safari jackets, polo neck sweaters, huge sunglasses, and lest we forget "the infamous Gene Bradley trousers" which Gene feels compelled to wear every third episode or so, a horrendous sight, their loudness stays with you long after the end credits.
Its hard not to think of the show as little more than an ego massage for Barry, on an episode regular basis our man is mugged for his autograph by an adoring public, even villains are in awe ("hey isn't that Gene Bradley
wait till I tell my mom") and of course a succession of dolly birds fall at his feet. Pity poor Gabrielle Drake who spent five years learning acting, and receives a less than rewarding role in one episode that simply entails her staring lovingly at Gene and delivering one of the show's worse lines "the last time I was in a library, this little boy he took me behind one of the bookshelves and made love to me". No woman it seems can resist the Bradley charm, as the ITC publicity put it he is "everybody's pin-up, nobody's fool".
Fairly representative episodes include "Double Exposure" in which Gene attempts to bring down Russian agent Ingrid Pitt by posing as an assassin, disguising himself by wearing a bald cap and forgetting to shave. While in "Thrust and Counter Thrust" Gene attempts to rescue a defecting spy by putting on a song and dance show at the embassy where the spy is being held. Little do the bad guys realize that the off key piano plonking of Gene's hippy accompanist 'Wild Man Jones' is really morse code messages.
Even if you've caught the ITV4 repeats, its worth revisiting Gene's globe trotting via the recent DVD release, whose extra features bring a whole new dimension to the series. Whereas the on screen Gene is on a mission to rid the world of evil doers, the off screen Gene appears to have been on a mission to rid the show of his co-stars. With glee interviews with said co-stars portray Barry as a short tempered egomaniac with a peculiar complex about his height (Barry himself declined to be interviewed for the DVD). First on the chopping block was Stuart Damon, fresh from The Champions, who was to have played the male equivalent of Catherine Schell's assistant. Unfortunately Damon was guilty of the sin of being taller than Gene Barry and as a result lasted two episodes before Barry had him quietly fired from the show. His character disappears for a while before returning either in the shorter form of Ed Bishop or Garrick Hagon. It seems laughable -maybe they should have cast the show among the lines of amusement park rides, with "if you are smaller than this height you will not be permitted to go on this ride" changed to "if you are taller than this height you will not be permitted to appear in The Adventurer". Sadly aspects of the show fall way below the usual ITC standard, to the degree you wonder if, given the animosity between crew and star, they weren't left in just to make Gene look faintly ridiculous. There are quite a number of obvious shots of Gene's stunt double and then there is that title sequence in which John Barry's exciting score puzzlingly accompanies scenes of Gene doing nothing of any interest, as well as a shot of him visibly out of breath..
In fairness not everything about The Adventurer is cringe worthy, notable exceptions being the aforementioned John Barry score and Barry Morse transforming the fairly one note character of Parminter into a memorable comic creation of a bumbling, upper class twit. Much as Bradley seems to have laid the DNA for David Dickinson, Parminter is uncannily a picture of how you imagine Bruce Forsyth to look without the toupee.
Yet despite the fact that the show would be equally at home as an exhibit in the museum of egomania as it would on DVD, and despite the fact that the making of the show could have been the basis for a tragic comedy, there is something entertaining about The Adventurer, head shakingly entertaining, but entertaining none the less. If ever there was a show destined to provide the dictionary definition of the words 'guilty pleasure', this is it, to misquote the song
.If loving The Adventurer is wrong, I don't want to be right. Show it to your friends and loved ones so that they too can be mesmerized by Gene Bradley and his infamous trousers.