Young Indiana Jones 1.10 – Peking, 1910

In the chronology, the Peking episode is the last of the ten hours to feature Corey Carrier as Younger Indy, but I think that it might have been the third one produced, and it also might have been planned as the third one with this cast to air.

When ABC first gave The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles its six week run in the spring of 1992, they showed the Curse of the Jackal movie (“Egypt, 1908” and “Mexico, 1916”) and five one-hour installments. Merchandising takes a little while to get circulating, and it wasn’t until the summer that we started seeing tie-in material. There were chapter books and coloring books, sticker albums and magazines, and trading cards issued by a company called Pro Set. These were very interesting: the cards told the storyline of the episodes of the first season, except they added the Peking adventure, which was written by Rosemary Anne Sisson, before the show’s closing two-parter.

Did ABC originally plan to show six episodes after the movie? We can only speculate, but ever since I saw those cards, I have believed that they intended to show this story on April 1 1992, with the German East Africa/Congo 1916/17 episodes on April 8 and 15. The network got cold feet after the poor critical reception to the first half of Jackal, and quietly moved this one into limbo. It finally aired in June 1993, after the show had been canceled.

It’s really too bad that the Younger Indy stories weren’t better received, but they’re still not being very well received in our house today. This isn’t a very talky episode, but it’s more of a drama for grownups. Indy gets incredibly sick while the family is miles from a city, and it will take several days for the nearest American-trained doctor to be brought to the house where they’ve found refuge. The only real drama comes from waiting for Indy’s mother to swallow her pride and agree that a local doctor can treat him with acupuncture.

All ends well, of course, but our son seems pretty glad that they’ve ended, period. I’ve assured him that the rest of the series would have a little more action in each hour. Not every one of them, mind you, but we’ve got some spies and criminals and enemy soldiers for an older Indy to tangle with starting about six years after the family left China…

Young Indiana Jones 1.9 – Benares, 1910

The India episode of Young Indy was among the last ones shown by ABC in the summer of 1993. The program had already been canceled and they were just burning off some of the hours they’d paid for already. It was written by Jonathan Hensleigh and by far the most interesting part of it was the beginning, where Indy teaches a group of local kids baseball, and they teach him a little about cricket.

The show is a gentle introduction to the major world religions, as the city of Benares was once known for being a place where all faiths worshiped with peace and respect from their neighbors. The exception would probably be the Theosophists, and it’s their young figurehead, 14 year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti, who gives Indy the nickel tour while Miss Seymour unsuccessfully tries to convince the Theosophical Society’s president that one of their number is a fraud and a charlatan. I think the show was kind of doomed to failure here. The main characters in this story are all actual people from history, even if they’re ones that have long passed into obscurity. It’s an interesting choice to make Charles Leadbetter the villain, but since Annie Besant never renounced the man, it isn’t going to happen here. Maybe they could have invented somebody else, and a fictional reason for Besant to do the right thing.

And maybe they could have spent a little more time playing baseball and cricket. That’s the best part of the hour.

After the episode, we had a family discussion about treating people of all faiths respectfully, even if we don’t necessarily agree with any of them. Even the theosophists, with all their talk of universal evolution, occult powers, clairvoyance, and auras, deserve kindness and courtesy, even if we certainly don’t agree with what Miss Seymour calls “flim-flam!”

Young Indiana Jones 1.8 – Athens, 1909

You have to admit that Lloyd Owen had a pretty thankless and very difficult task in playing the role of Indiana Jones’ father. Sean Connery created the role in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, set in 1938, and Owen had to get some sympathy from the audience as a worried father while most of the audience knows that these two characters are going to spend most of their adult lives not speaking.

This segment is really, really talky. Indy and his dad get some bonding time when they go to one of those hanging monasteries outside the Greek town of Kalambaka – the same one where they filmed the climax of For Your Eyes Only – to translate some medieval books in their library. Henry Sr. decides to introduce his son to Aristotlean logic. It’s not the most exciting thing we’ve ever watched. Later on, some goats eat their clothes while they’re bathing. At least that got our son giggling.

As with the previous hour, this segment was originally shown as part of the TV movie Travels With Father on the old Family Channel in 1996, with the script for both segments credited to Frank Darabont, Jonathan Hales, and Matthew Jacobs. The TV movie was cut and edited at least somewhat differently for its DVD release.

Young Indiana Jones 1.7 – Russia, 1909

After ABC canceled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, another network came in to save the day. The Family Channel (later ABC Family and, today, Freeform) ordered four TV movies, three with Sean Patrick Flanery and one with Corey Carrier. The two-and-a-bit stories that made up the Carrier film, Travels With Father, were filmed in 1994 and shown in 1996.

The original movie, its script credited to Frank Darabont, Matthew Jacobs, and Jonathan Hales, had lengthy bookends with Flanery returning home in 1919 after the four years of globetrotting that we’ll see later, and trying to mend fences with his father. Those have been excised from the final DVD version of this series and used to form a separate story on its own. Nothing annoys like George Lucas and his constant tampering.

Our son enjoyed this episode more than the last pair we saw, and it gave us a fun moment of perspective to discuss. Indy has been misbehaving and, accident prone, has caused one spectacle after another, culminating in dropping a chandelier on a wedding cake. Afraid of his punishment, he runs away and meets up with another apparent tramp making his way through the Russian countryside: Leo Tolstoy, who’s trying to get away from his annoying family. They have a remarkable meet-cute – Indy shoots him in the rear with a slingshot while aiming for a weasel, much to our son’s delight – but they bond and decide to work together to get to Russia’s eastern shore and make their way to New Jersey. Michael Gough is terrific as Tolstoy, and I thought this was one of the more entertaining segments as well.

We were amused to learn that our son thought that Indy was perfectly justified in running away and worrying his parents to death, because his father was mean. We protested that Indy’s father didn’t actually do anything other than tell him to stand in one place out of the way – which he promptly ignored – and send him to bed. Yes, he told us, but it was his father’s tone of voice that was the problem. “He sounded mean!” We had to suggest that maybe the destruction of so much of their host’s property, and embarrassment at a wedding might spark a mean tone. Grudgingly, he had to agree a little with us there.

Young Indiana Jones 1.6 – Florence, 1908

It amazes me just how much they spent on this program. This time out, it’s not just all the costumes and the extras and the copious amount of location filming around Florence and Pisa, including a trip to the Leaning Tower, but there’s a production of the opera La Boheme as well as rehearsals for Madame Butterfly, and the fellow who wrote them became one of our son’s most hated TV villains.

Make no mistake, he didn’t like anything about this story of a romance that, mercifully, doesn’t blossom. But Giacomo Puccini, played by French actor Georges Corraface, had our son absolutely fuming. With Indy’s dad off to a conference in Rome, his mother gets swept off her feet by Puccini while Indy stays mostly oblivious and Miss Seymour worries about the right thing to do for somebody in her place. At last, Indy spots his mother having lunch with Puccini in a cafe and our son was off the sofa like a rocket, shaking his fist right in the TV screen. “I HATE him,” he growled. “He should LEAVE HER ALONE!”

Production-wise, Young Indy, particularly the 1908-1910 segments, was a truncated mess produced in a nonsensical order, but this segment was badly overdue. Indy’s mother and father are badly underused in the first episodes. We needed to see more of this family unit and see what makes them tick and love each other. We really could have used more time before Puccini got thrown in like a grenade. It ends well – at the very least it ends before Anna crosses a very bad line – but there isn’t a passing line in any of the Harrison Ford movies where Indy grumbles that he hates Madame Butterfly, and this episode makes you kind of wish there was.

I was mentioning how Matthew Jacobs wrote the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, where Madame Butterfly is a curious little plot point, but amusingly, this wasn’t actually one of Jacobs’ Young Indy segments. Jule Selbo wrote it, and Mike Newell, who made the film Enchanted April shortly before this, was the director. Phyllida Law has a small role as the owner of the large house where the Jones family is staying. But for all this talent and money spent on it, the episode was only shown in a few European countries, and not in the United States. Bootleg tapes did the rounds for a while, but most people never had the chance to see this until the DVD came out in 2007. And as far as our boy is concerned, nobody should have seen this, ever. There was “way, way, way (x 14) too much romance in that,” he said. And the bad kind, too!

Young Indiana Jones 1.5 – Vienna, 1908

The Vienna installment was one of six episodes of Young Indy shown in the spring of 1993, and the only Corey Carrier one, before the show was taken off the air ahead of the May sweeps period and quietly cancelled. When the show came back with the highly-publicized appearance of Harrison Ford for the bookends of Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues that March, it was to a very respectable audience of 18.2 million viewers on a Saturday night. But audiences, whose numbers were inflated anyway by a massive snowstorm that paralyzed the East Coast and kept everyone indoors that night, weren’t going to stick around without Ford. Just four weeks later, this episode, written by Matthew Jacobs, only had 6.9 million watching.

Young Indy falls in love a lot during this show, but his first crush is shown in this story, and for a guy with decades of women troubles, he certainly started with a humdinger. He meets Princess Sophie, the daughter of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at a riding school while his parents are staying at the American embassy in Vienna. Sophie would have been about seven at the time of their meeting – the real Sophie passed away at the age of 89 about two years before this was filmed – and Indy almost causes a diplomatic incident by sneaking her away to ice skate, having no idea that there were people in Vienna who’d love to see her dead.

So with the butterflies of puppy love in his stomach, Indy turns to three other guests of the embassy for advice: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler, who are all conveniently in town for a conference. Not only does their frank discussion of sex and biology send the women away from the table, it turns out to be downright terrible advice. Indy is told that he must find balance before his love destroys him, and his literal storming of the palace had our son grumbling “Oh no, he should not do that. This is crazy…”

I had to do a fair amount of walking our son through this one. Everything up to the palace hijinks is very quiet and stately. It looks beautiful – it was helmed by the acclaimed director Bille August, who cast his wife Pernilla in the role of Sophie’s governess – but it’s very talky and hushed. I think he was every bit as confused by the dinner with the psychoanalysts as Indy himself was. Famously, they cast Max von Sydow as Freud. That got a fair amount of publicity in 1993, but it unfortunately didn’t translate to viewers!

Young Indiana Jones 1.4 – Paris, 1908

I think this is the only occasion in all of Young Indiana Jones where the chronology of the stories was rearranged to make the compilation movies. The three European segments originally took place prior to their trip to British East Africa, but after they were re-edited, they met Roosevelt first and then went back to Paris, Vienna, and Florence. The story was written by Reg Gadney and was one of four Corey Carrier episodes to air on ABC during the summer of 1993, just after the network had finally given up and was burning off stories. ABC also required that one of the scenes in this episode was censored when it was shown. French actress Nathalie Cardone has a short nude scene as her character models for Picasso. The broadcast version has a table in front of her.

I really enjoyed this one when it was shown and still think it’s quite good, my favorite of the four we’ve seen so far. In it, Indy and Miss Seymour bump into an American kid, fifteen year-old Norman Rockwell, while visiting the Louvre. Indy and Norman conspire to get away from the tutor, and witness Degas and Picasso having a spirited argument in a cafe. Rockwell defends Degas’s honor after the master has left, and Picasso decides to show them a thing or two about art.

Picasso paints an imitation Degas and conspires to get the old man to sign it as one of his own, while at the same time he doesn’t see anything wrong with putting his own signature to Rockwell’s sketch of his own, as yet unexhibited, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Very amusing hijinks ensue, including a brawl at a cafe, a chase through a graveyard, and cameo appearances by Henri Rousseau, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas, because Indiana Jones has to meet everybody in the 20th Century.

Our son was polite. He certainly didn’t love this, and he was incredibly worried for Indy when he snuck out and traveled across the rooftops to get to Picasso’s party, but the fight pleased him, and he loved the use of a fake ghost to drive off some troublemakers. Plus, Picasso was enough of a nut to go around firing pistols into the ceiling, so the show had enough punctuations to keep his interest.

Above, that’s Lukas Haas as Rockwell, which I think is great casting. Haas was probably best known then for his role in Peter Weir’s film Witness when he was about nine. As Picasso, there’s a face who is very familiar to anybody my age who was watching music videos for hours a day in the early eighties. Danny Webb was that stockbroker-type guy having a horrible, horrible day in Yes’s clip for “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” He’s had almost two hundred bigger and better roles since, but some music video parts are just iconic for the generation that wanted their MTV. Just ask those three girls who drove around in ZZ Top’s old Ford.

Young Indiana Jones 1.3 – British East Africa, 1909

The British East Africa installment, which guest starred James Gammon as President Teddy Roosevelt, was the third episode shown on ABC during its spring 1992 tryout. It would also be the last time anybody would see the Corey Carrier version of Indy for more than a year. Despite piles of merchandising that featured the younger character, ABC was much happier with the more action-packed Sean Patrick Flanery segments and shelved these, even apparently making a last-minute schedule change to get the kid out of the way, as I’ll discuss later this month.

This time out, Indy and his family meet up with Roosevelt during his celebrated year in Africa hunting and cataloging game for the Smithsonian. This gave us a great opportunity to talk with our son about conservation, and how attitudes have changed about wildlife over the last hundred years. We certainly appreciate all that Roosevelt did for conservation and our national parks, but it’s a little hard to get into the mindset of people from that time believing that the best way to “preserve” rare species was to gun them down in absolutely shocking numbers to bring back to American museums. I’m not sure what number I might think is too few, too many, or just right for an expedition like this. I am sure that I think that 11,400 is too many.

It builds to a climax where young Indy realizes that maybe he shouldn’t have enlisted the help of a local kid about his age to track down an elusive species of oryx. Mostly the hour is kind of soft and gentle without much incident, just lots of pretty animals, but seeing the hunters take positions around the antelopes really is shocking, and there’s not a great deal a ten year-old kid can do about it. I wouldn’t call this great television, but it gave us a chance to talk about something important to us.

This was one of a handful of Young Indy episodes written by Matthew Jacobs. Later on, he was announced as the writer of the ’96 Doctor Who TV movie and I remember punching the air because I recognized his name and was ready to expect great things. Stick around the blog for a couple of years and let’s see how he did, okay?

Young Indiana Jones 1.2 – Tangiers, 1908

After Lucas and his team decided to turn the completed hour-long TV episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles into films for home video, they reassembled the cast to put together a few more parts. The Tangiers segment of the first movie is one of these. It was made several years after the Egypt segment. Corey Carrier was about eleven years old when they shot the Egypt part in 1991. He was perhaps eighteen when they shot the Tangiers story.

It’s a remarkably grim hour. Indy and his friend Omar get kidnapped by slavers in Morocco, and they don’t sugarcoat it much. There isn’t anything an eight year-old kid can do to get out of this situation, and Indy hasn’t learned to be a resourceful hero-in-training yet. Fortunately, help is on the way, but this is mainly an hour to note that slavery was still common in Morocco in the early 20th Century. Omar is himself a slave, something else to note with some sobriety.

The episode was written by Jule Selbo, who had previously written five hours of the broadcast Young Indy, and I noted two guest stars I’d seen before, Kevin McNally and Rowena Cooper. Cooper had played the pathetic Mrs. Weldon in the 1987 TV adaptation of Have His Carcase and has such a lovely and distinctive voice that I think I’d recognize her with my eyes closed.

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.