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Jack of All Trades

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Bruce Campbell

If the gods are finally kind to him, Jack of All Trades will finally be Bruce Campbell’s first successful TV series. He certainly deserves it after Fox’s bungling of the wild and very witty Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Campbell has kept busy directing and doing dramatic guest appearances in Homicide and a scene-stealing recurring role as Autolycus, the self-proclaimed King of Thieves, on Hercules and Xena, but Campbell fans have yearned for his return to a lead role.

In that regard, they won’t be disappointed by this new series designed to replace Hercules. Jack Stiles (Campbell) is an American spy in 1801 sent by President Thomas Jefferson to the East Indies to foil Napoleon’s expansionist schemes in the region. Stiles’ cover is as personal attaché to Emilia Rothschild (Angela Dotchin), a beautiful and wealthy English widow and spy. Coming so soon after the Revolutionary War, the new America is hardly a close ally to England, giving Emilia and Jack quite a bit to quarrel about.

Jack and Emilia

Or at least that’s the excuse for their quarrelling. Emilia and Jack obviously find each other intriguing, even if they won’t admit it, and it’s no accident that there are more than a few parallels to Moonlighting. Emilia is prime, proper, studious and dedicated to duty whereas Jack is quick with a quip, irreverent, laid back and tends to improvise quite a bit. Fortunately, Campbell and Dotchin do seem to have some true chemistry together so with luck, when the couple finally does pair up, it should work better than Moonlighting did.

But the road to partnership isn’t easy. Emilia and Jack nearly split before working things out, which includes Jack bringing to life local legend The Daring Dragoon to cover their spy activities. But what’s a swashbuckling adventure if you don’t have a larger than life hero in a mask?

Created by Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi’s Renaissance Pictures, Jack (airing in syndication the week of Jan. 17. Check local listings for showtimes), like Hercules, has the same tongue-in-cheek sensibility. There are less anachronistic jokes even if the ones that remain are still unlikely (such as Jefferson warning Jack, "Touch my niece and I’ll have George Washington chop down your cherry tree.").

While Brisco County was the better show, Jack is a reasonable successor with a better chance of success, particularly since it follows ratings winner Xena. If Cleopatra 2525 is a guilty pleasure, Jack of All Trades is just plain fun.

Rating: B

Review © 2000 Beth Hannan Rimmels. 
Jack of All Trades
and accompanying photographs  © 1999 Studios USA Television.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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