Your RDA of Irony

Happy Trails

“Who is the tall dark stranger there?”

The lyrics to “Maverick” must have been disheartening to the actor Jack Kelly because they obviously did not describe him. Nope, as they said in the Old West, only his-costar James Garner fit that bill. Even when Garner left the western series, the studio did not have the courtesy to change the song lyrics to accommodate the remaining cast member. “Who is the medium, bland stranger there?” Poor Mr. Kelly remained in Garner’s tall dark shadow.

These days when you hear the theme song of “Maverick”, it must be the pundits describing John McCain.

“The maverick John McCain…. ”

I really don’t think that Sen. McCain is “smooth as a handle on a gun, wild as a wind in Oregon.” Furthermore, he actually looks more like Strother Martin than James Garner. The Mavericks brothers–Bret and Bart– were a pair of wily, charming con-artists; you could see how they belong in politics. Could you imagine John McCain as a riverboat gambler, betting 100 years on a victory in Iraq? I think someone would call that bluff.
Perhaps Sen. McCain might be better cast in one of the other classic–or at least ancient–television westerns.

For instance, there is “Have Gun, Will Travel” which sounds like the Republican foreign policy. In that series, Richard Boone played the 19th century equivalent of a business consultant, except that he had a six-shooter instead a MBA. Boone’s character, the black-garbed Paladin, was a man of refinement; he always knew an appropriate Shakespearean quote when gunning you down. Unfortunately, Mr. McCain is more inclined to cite the Beach Boys or Alan Greenspan. Furthermore, the eloquence niche already is occupied by another man in black: Sen. Obama.

The marshall in “Gunsmoke” is the strong, silent type. Just the massive physical presence of James Arness’ Matt Dillon could intimidate and tame the Wild West. Surely he could do the same in the Wild Middle East. (During the 300 years it was on television, “Gunsmoke” always relied on the same actors for character roles and villains–so Harold J. Stone would play Israel, Victor French would be Iraq and Bruce Dern would be Iran.) Dillon’s discreet relationship with the town Madam would fit the Republican approach to corporate ethics. So John McCain would want to be thought of as Marshall Dillon. We just have to ignore the more obvious resemblance to Deputy Festus Hagen. Festus was cantankerous, volatile and stubborn. He was illiterate but would neither admit it nor remedy it. In small doses Festus could be amusing, but for an entire episode he would be stupefying. And for an entire administration, terrifying. And haven’t we just had seven years of Festus Hagen.

Perhaps “Bonanza” would offer Sen. McCain just the right stereotype. Of course, he cannot be Ben Cartwright. The role of the Paternal God figure has been reserved exclusively for Ronald Reagan. The role of Adam Cartwright would be completely inappropriate. Adam was the token intellectual, cool, aloof and so miserably out of place he probably read the New York Times aloud to his horse. Yes, he was too obviously a Democrat to be John McCain. The Republican senator could aspire to be Hoss Cartwright: an ox’s strength with a bovine mind, saintly and lovable. But Rev. Huckabee already has that role. Little Joe Cartwright is just Festus Hagen with a bath, and the niche of the disastrous goof is currently occupied. Nonetheless, “Bonanza” still offers one role appropriate and appealing for today’s Republican candidate. Hop Sing, who may also be the son of Ben Cartwright, is hardworking, competent and affable. He ladles out whatever his employers tell him and he does it with a smile. Our chief public servant might as well be servile. Given the balance of trade and the disintegrating American economy, the next American president will be the Hop Sing for China.

So, forget the theme song for “Maverick.” Our number is “Happy Trails“.

  1. SwanShadow says:

    McCain is the only candidate in the race who can actually remember the heroes of the Old West. Not from television… from personal acquaintance.

  2. He is older than Andy Devine was in “Wild Bill Hickok”. BUT SO ARE WE!

  3. Rene says:

    Little Joe was cute, not goofy. Please don’t confuse him with Festus (any Festus).

  4. Dear Rene?

    Were you in my fifth-grade class? The girls–of Eugene Field Elementary in Chicago–had a crush on Michael Landon. (And their mothers had no objection to a cute Jewish boy.)

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