TELEVISION / Smith and Jones: the cowboy years

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The Independent Culture
Mel and Griff need to watch out: they're showing their age. Only about half their target audience even knows that the title of their show is a pun.

But they soon will. Alias Smith and Jones, the seminal comedy western series which sprouted from the iconoclasm of flower power and the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid gets a long overdue revival this afternoon (2.15pm, BBC1). Hannibal Heyes and "Kid" Curry will be brushing down their stetsons and riding the range again.

Alias Smith and Jones (in case you're under 30) is the tale of two villains. They're not very competent villains and they want to go straight but to get their amnesty they have to not break the law for a year. So they ride from county to county getting into scrapes instead.

It's the banter and the whole slightly dodgy background of our heroes that make this series so special. Before this, TV westerns tended towards the Bonanza-style moral vignette: suddenly morals took a low profile but production values were high. And thenthere was Pete Deuel. Like Starsky and Hutch girly opinion was divided roughly evenly between Pete (the dark one) and Ben Murphy (the redhead). Me, I liked the dark chirpy one; but the frightening thing is that I'm now old enough to have had a daughter as old as I was then. And she'd probably have a crush on Ben Murphy.

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