The Adventurer (1972-73) was an ITC production that ran for just one season, producing 26 half hour episodes. The series featured Gene Barry (1919-2009) as Gene Bradley, an actor, pilot, businessman, and part time "agent" for the British government. The jet setting Bradley lives in London, but could easily be found almost anywhere in Europe. Bradley's various "adventures" come about due to his active lifestyle, and also because of his association with Mr. Parminter (Barry Morse), who works for the Ministry of External Affairs.
Gene Barry had a very successful television career, starring in Bat Masterson (1958-61), Burke's Law (1963-65), and The Name of the Game (1968-1971). On the face of it, Barry appeared a decent choice, for the rather tricky task of starring in a British TV series, aimed at appealing to an American audience. ITC had tried this approach before and failed, most notably with The Baron (1965-66), and Man in a Suitcase (1967-68), two well written and very entertaining series with American stars, that each failed to last beyond a single season. For various reasons, The Adventurer also met a similar fate.
Like other familiar ITC productions like The Saint, The Adventurer features interesting stories and exotic locations, mostly in Britain, but also in Europe. The featured guest stars are impressive, and includes a solid string of attractive women, although there isn't much time for serious romance. Gene Barry (War Of The Worlds) might not have the greatest range, but he's pretty solid playing the affluent, affable type. Some of the fashion choices for Bradley's wardrobe however, are quite appalling, particularly early on. And his oversized sunglasses are hideous.
The writing is rather uneven, sometimes good, while other times appearing quite silly, as some episodes feature strange twists, awkward transitions, and abrupt endings. Particularly in the second half, the comedic aspects begin to make a mockery of what was supposedly a serious drama. Action scenes were not Barry's forte, and they were often "softened" to accommodate his limitations. Barry was also frequently doubled.
What is really interesting and unique about this 2006 DVD release, are the interviews with other members of the cast, Barry Morse (The Fugitive), Catherine Schell (The Return of the Pink Panther, On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and Stuart Damon (The Champions, General Hospital). The testimonials, universally paint a most unflattering picture of Gene Barry, as a vain, insecure, egomaniac. Schell and Damon were originally signed to co-star in the series, as part of Parminter's team. Apparently extremely sensitive about his height, the 5'-9" Barry reportedly had Damon fired from the show, simply because he was 6'-3". Damon was replaced by the shorter and smaller, Garrick Hagon (Star Wars). Damon's recollections are truly moving, as this incident nearly destroyed him professionally.
Barry and Schell worked together closely only a couple of times. Barry apparently didn't appreciate her either, and she was soon written out of the show. Due to pressure from the American TV affliate, Schell was brought back, but just briefly. Barry apparently made things difficult for the show's various directors. Summing things up is Barry Morse's comment that, Gene Barry believed that "he was the most important person on this planet". In the interest of balance, it is stated several times, that Gene Barry declined to be interviewed for The Adventurer DVD release, still it is quite remarkable for the star of a series to be pointedly portrayed in such a negative light. Sometimes karma can be a real bitch!
While perhaps not the most "giving" actor, Barry's grabbing more of the spotlight did result in some pretty good stories. Nearing the midpoint of the season, the series had settled into a decent groove, when the reappearance of Schell and Hagon caused the writing to shift again. The pair are teamed with Parminter in the episodes "I'll Get There Sometime", and "To The Lowest Bidder", but neither actor appears in any scenes with Gene Barry. During these episodes, it is Parminter who is the lead operative, and begins the transition from a behind the scenes bureaucratic type. While not quite the British equivalent of Inspector Clouseau, Parminter is pretty close to a complete disaster as a field operative, bumbling around, nattering useless orders, waving his cane, and muttering "oh dear". The trend of featuring the incompetent Parminter on the frontlines would continue, pulling the series more toward the absurd. Still, when Bradley remained the primary focus, The Adventurer was decent action series.
Granada does a good job with the four disc Region 2 DVD release (region free DVD player required), providing a nice color booklet, with a detailed synopsis and credits for each episode. While watchable, image quality isn't the greatest, as the series was shot in 16mm, and the quality of transferred images are rather soft, and prints shows noticeable signs of dirt, damage, and deterioration.
While many things went wrong regarding The Adventurer, the program still managed to be quite good at times. Gene Barry may have been a jerk, but despite character flaws, bad wardrobe, and some self-indulgent moments, he had enough talent to carry the series, even with some lackluster scripts. ITC certainly bears much responsibility for what transpired. Stuart Damon had already proved his worth to them on The Champions, yet ITC apparently did little to support him, and do not even list his name in the credits, of the two episodes that he briefly appears in.