Bring 'Em Back Alive
"Bring 'Em Back Alive" was one of two television attempts to cash in on the success of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, in 1982 ("Tales of the Gold Monkey" was the other), and it was a marvelous escapist adventure that, sadly, only ran a single season. Based, VERY loosely, on the character of real-life hunter/impresario Frank Buck, who enthralled movie audiences in documentary expeditions to capture big game for zoos in the forties, the stocky, middle-aged hunter was transformed into lean, swashbuckling Bruce Boxleitner (complete with a pencil-thin mustache), headquartered in his own private game preserve outside Singapore, in the late 1930s.
The 'Singapore' of the series was no more intended to represent the actual prewar city than CASABLANCA was intended as an accurate representation of the Moroccan city, a fact that some critics have chosen to ignore. Many Asian ports gave Hollywood filmmakers exotic, mysterious locales in which they could introduce shady, multinational characters and stories heavy on intrigue and 'atmosphere'. This was a Singapore of fantasy, a place where a hero straight out of paperbacks and movie serials would feel right at home.
Not that Buck was looking for adventure, in the series. He was content in his life of protecting wildlife, aided by his trusty right-hand man, Ali (the always entertaining Clyde Kusatsu). But his legendary reputation, in a key world trouble spot, made him the logical choice for the U.S. Government to turn to for dangerous assignments. Represented by agent Gloria Marlowe (the breathtakingly beautiful Cindy Morgan, who'd co-starred with Boxleitner in the Disney cult classic, TRON), Buck would be recruited, reluctantly, into missions that only his special skills could accomplish, much to the amusement of fellow adventurer/competitor H.H., the Sultan Of Johore (Ron O'Neal).
Bruce Boxleitner was fabulous as Frank Buck, swaggering and charismatic, obviously enjoying himself, and he was more fun as the adventurer than in his later, more 'traditional' heroic roles in "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and "Babylon 5". His chemistry with Morgan was reminiscent of Cary Grant and Jean Arthur in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS; edgy, but with an underlying romantic current always present. Add to this the series' wonderful production values, some fairly decent scripts, and, best of all, a truly magnificent, trumpet-punctuated theme and musical score by Arthur B. Rubinstein, who would also score "Scarecrow and Mrs. King", and you had first-class entertainment!
What a loss it was, that television audiences didn't 'discover' it!