Garner had been signed to star as Bret Maverick and the show began with him as the sole lead character. But unlike so many other Westerns on the air that were half-hour shows, shooting this hourlong series on location began to take its toll rather quickly. So, in order to meet the demand of weekly episodes it was decided that another character should be brought in to alternate with Bret, so that the filming of various episodes could overlap. Thus, Bret's brother Bart, as played by Jack Kelly, came onboard.
The first seven episodes star Garner, then he and Kelly are in one together, and after that the alternating begins, although they do pair up for a few more episodes as well. It isn't hard to see that the writers and directors wanted to take advantage of Garner's talent for comedy, and his episodes tend to be more humorous than Kelly's, which lean more toward the serious.
But both characters try to use brains over brawn, and both love to quote their Pappy from time to time with memorably comic aphorisms: "Faint heart never filled a flush." "Marriage is the only game of chance I know of where both people can lose." "Flattery is like perfume; smell it but don't swallow it."
With his matinee-idol good looks, Kelly built his own following, but it was never quite as strong as Garner's. And when Garner eventually left the show after three seasons, Kelly just couldn't keep it afloat on his own. Other Maverick kin were brought in to help, including Roger Moore as an English cousin, but without Garner, the writing was on the wall.
Guests on this first-season set include Oscar-winner Jane Darwell, future "Mannix" Mike Connors, veteran actress (and Utah native) Marie Windsor, and, in a recurring role, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Dandy Jim Buckley (two episodes this season).
But even after all these years, Garner is the draw here. And since he's still around (he participated in last year's PBS "Pioneers of Television" documentary), it's a shame there are no bonus features allowing him to provide context for the series.
But fans won't mind. They'll be happy to have the show at all after such a long wait.
Why it took until 2012 for "Maverick's" first season to arrive on DVD remains a mystery. But here's hoping the second two (and most popular) seasons follow the road to DVD more quickly.
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