Mostly it has been too hot to think lately. Not being able to think, however, invites you to enjoy what is for me a rare pleasure: watching television. We don't have cable or other TV here, as I can't see any reason to spend the money on it. The only things I liked to watch were sports and old movies, and for what it costs to get even basic cable, I can buy the movies I want on DVD. So, I almost never see any television.

However, inspired by finding that George and Gracie show a few weeks ago, I looked to see if I could locate other old programs. I have found a source for a truly great one: the Firefly of the '50s, Maverick.

Maverick is mostly known today through the Mel Gibson movie of several years ago, which was pretty good; and through the one DVD available, with three of the series' episodes. Though two of the three episodes on that DVD are quite good, they don't do the whole series justice because they focus on the comedy of the program.

Consider "Day of Reckoning," which has some very serious moral commentary on issues of courage and rhetoric. Contrast the newspaperman, who has the right principles but lacks the courage to back them up, with Maverick, who lacks the right principles but has the necessary courage. The description the newspaperman gives of his failure of courage is one that anyone who has faced serious danger will recognize: for an audience of WWII veterans, it was a portrayal they could respect and understand.

Something similar is at work in "Passage to Fort Doom," where a man wins back the love of his wife. She had taken a lover, and the two plotted to murder her unimaginative, boring husband; but, seeing how he stands against danger and the lover flees, she begins to reevaluate her decision. Her husband receives her renewed love warmly and, not knowing the other man was her lover, tells her not to be too hard on the one who ran -- for he, the husband, 'thought of her watching him,' while the other man 'had no one he had to be brave for.'

The complexity of that moral issue is created by the fact that the woman knows that the other man did need to be brave for her, and ran instead. It underlines something else about the nature of courage: that it is often not about fear, but about duty. The man who stood was scared, but felt his duty to his wife and to the men beside him, and remained at his post. The man who ran either felt no such duty, or was unable to put that duty before his fear.

I think it's fair to say that the folks of the '50s had a more mature and developed sense of relations between men and women than is common today. For that matter, women characters in the series are on a wider range of types than is common now. You get spirited, talented women, and women who can outsmart the men, as is currently the only kind of woman permitted on a television series. But in the 1950s, women characters were allowed to be weak and foolish as well. They are occasionally so foolish, as the wife above, as to make terrible mistakes; and yet, sometimes, to redeem themselves.

Of course, in a series that ran three seasons, some episodes are better than others; I thought "Escape to Tampico" was one of the best until the last few minutes. "Duel at Sundown" is only amusing, but it does feature a very young Clint Eastwood in a highly unusual role -- that of a swaggering coward. If you do happen to pick up the DVD, "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" is beautiful to behold.

If you find yourself with a few hours to spare while waiting on the heat to break, you might want to give these things a look. If you want to watch it 'on the big screen,' you can download the whole thing before watching it by clicking on the "Download" button. If you don't mind the small window, you can also stream it.

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