Young Indiana Jones 1.1 – Egypt, 1908

The first problem with Young Indiana Jones is the remarkably curious way that it was produced. George Lucas and his team assembled a timeline and chronology for Indiana Jones between the ages of about 8 to 25, cast Corey Carrier as the younger Indy and Sean Patrick Flanery as the teenager and young adult version, and then made the episodes in nothing that even remotely resembled chronological order. Even if a network had been willing to run each hour of the show as it was delivered, even assuming they agreed to hop between a Carrier episode one week and a Flanery the next, the order would have wrecked any casual viewer’s ability to follow it. The May 1916 installment was made before the February and April 1916 episodes, for example.

The second problem with Young Indiana Jones is the downright idiotic way that it was broadcast. ABC gave it a six week tryout in the spring of 1992, where it did decent numbers, averaging about 17 million viewers. Each hour was bookended with an introduction and wrapup featuring George Hall as the 93 year-old Indiana Jones in the present day, reminiscing about his youth. The show could be exciting, although action was not the total goal of each hour, but also educational. The obvious place in the fall 1992 lineup for a family show like this was Sundays at 7 pm, the old home of The Wonderful World of Disney. Madly, ABC renewed the treacly family dramedy Life Goes On, which already had that slot, and eventually canceled it and gave the hour to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Young Indy instead got MacGyver‘s awful old slot before Monday Night Football for all of four weeks. ABC gave up and, months later, burned off 17 of the (then) 21 remaining hours on Saturday nights.

And the third problem with Young Indiana Jones is the astonishingly aggravating way it was released on DVD. 44 hours of the show were eventually completed, but the broadcast versions don’t exist anymore. They’ve been reassembled into 22 compilation movies, with all of George Hall’s bookends deleted. The DVD sets were criminally expensive when they were first released, in part because the sets are absolutely bloated with special documentaries about the subjects of each story. Lucas apparently envisioned these sitting on the shelves of every high school history class or something. Set one contains fourteen hours of TV across twelve disks, along with dozens of hours of background material that can all be safely skipped.

So, what we’re going to do here is watch one hour at a time, chronologically, stopping each of the compilation movies at the halfway point. I see us doing this in five or six “seasons.” Mind you, some of these were originally shown as two-hour movies on ABC or The Family Channel, but most of them were always clearly two separate hours linked together. “The Scandal of 1920” and “The Phantom Train of Doom” were probably the only ones that really felt like proper feature-length stories.

“Egypt, 1908,” for example, originally saw life as the first half of the 1992 TV movie Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal, both parts of which were written by Jonathan Hales. Now it’s the first half of the DVD-only movie My First Adventure. We’re going to label it “1.1,” which looks like it means “season 1 episode 1,” but it is really “DVD set 1 first half of movie 1.”

And George Lucas occasionally wonders why everybody loves Star Wars and Indiana Jones but would still love the opportunity to punch him in the nose.

So anyway, the first ten hours of Young Indy star Corey Carrier as our hero, who was born on July 1, 1899, and are set between 1908 and 1910. Indy is globetrotting around the world while his famous father, played by Lloyd Owen, is on a lecture tour. Ruth de Sosa plays Indy’s mother, and Margaret Tyzack is Miss Seymour, who had been Henry Jones Sr.’s tutor at Oxford and has come along to instruct Indy.

Since there’s a limit to how much an eight year-old kid can do to save the day, these earliest adventures see him in the company of others who carry the action and the rough stuff. Joseph Bennett makes the first of a couple of appearances as Indy’s pal T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) here. Some other recognizable faces include Oliver Ford Davies, who Lucas evidently remembered as he later got the small role of Governor Bibble in the Star Wars prequels, and Tony Robinson, best known as Baldrick in Blackadder.

Revisiting this, it seems really slow, but it’s paced pretty well for kids. There are a couple of mild frights in a tomb, but the actual plot – a murder mystery and the theft of a ruby-eyed jackal from a secret room – takes up surprisingly little time because there’s so much setup for the family’s voyage around the world. Our son enjoyed it, but I don’t think anybody has ever been crazy about it. Things get much, much more fun when Sean Patrick Flanery steps in, but hopefully we’ll enjoy getting there, revisiting so much that I’ve forgotten, and seeing a few hours of the show that I’ve never seen.

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