It’s 11:45 am
The Western used to rule the TV landscape. Back in the 1950s and into the 1960s, there was a great chance that if you turned on your TV,you would be either watching a Western series like “Have Gun,Will Travel“,”Rawhide“,”Wyatt Earp” or a Western movie which were called “oaters”. The networks would roll out series after series and while many lasted a long time (Bonanza,Gunsmoke) by the time the 1970s came,only “Gunsmoke” remained and in 1975,CBS canceled it after a 20 year run. The Western appeared dead.
But a funny thing happened in 1988,a movie called “Young Guns” was released. It was full of Hollywood’s hottest young male talent and while it didn’t make a TON of money at the box office,it showed that the Western still had life in it. And as Hollywood is prone to do,once there is a hit…they try and duplicate it. So for us fans of Westerns,”Young Guns” opened the door to a new wave of shows as well as a sequel to the original movie.
“Paradise” came out in 1988 on CBS. It was created by David Jacobs who had also given CBS two of its biggest hits,”Dallas” and its spin-off,”Knot’s Landing” and Robert Porter.
Thanks to Warner Brothers Archives,we can watch “Paradise” Season One on DVD and go back to when the Western was king!
The premise was gunfighter Ethan Allen Cord (Lee Horsley) who has to take in his sister’s four children because she was dying of TB while performing as a singer in St. Louis. She sends the children Claire (Jenny Beck),Joseph (Matthew Newmark),Benjamin (Brian Lando) and George (M.P. Carter) to Ethan because they have no where to go where they can together.
But Paradise,Calif is rough and tumble mining town slowly growing its way to a civilized town but it still has a long ways to go. Cord has made a lot of enemies throughout the years and having a sudden family isn’t ideal for him.
Amelia Lawson (Sigrid Thornton) owns the bank in Paradise and she has little regard for Cord and his kind. But when she sees him trying to do the right thing,she decides to help by giving the family a small farm that Ethan knows that the bank has foreclosed on.
Cord has one trusted ally is John Taylor (Dehl Berti),a Indian shaman who is more of a healer then a fighter….unless pushed too hard.
Paradise was conceived as a family drama and I thought it would be a lot of moral lessons learned as the new family bonded slowly with maybe a few fistfights here and there. Turns out that Paradise is more like the classic “The Rifleman” in which Cord wants peace but is often forced to draw his gun and use it.
I first saw Lee Horsley on another show,a private detective show called “Matt Houston”.
I admit,I watched it because Pamela Hensley was his co-star and us young fanboys all enjoyed watching Ms. Hensley in whatever show she was in. It was sort of like “Vega$” with Houston having a Southern accent.
So this really was my first time watching Horsley as a leading man and he is the heart and soul of “Paradise”. His Ethan Allen Cord is strong,moral man who while loving adventure and much like Paladin of “HGWT” doesn’t enjoy taking a life>
The first season of Paradise has many themes and arcs that run through and one is revealed in the first episode,”The News from St. Louis”. Cord is wanted for a murder in Texas that he is innocent of but has little in the way of proving it.
This story line is touched on in the episode “Hard Choices” as Texas Ranger Matt Grady (John Beck) comes to bring Ethan back. Ethan then tells Grady how the children have changed him…which is another theme through the season,how Ethan and the children bond. “Paradise” wisely shows this is not a easy task as many times throughout the season,it looks like Ethan and the children will be torn from each other.
The third theme is actually the weakest and that is the Cord-Amelia relationship. Quite simply,Sigrid Thornton was badly miscast as Amelia. Amelia is a cold character with no joy or emotion. She doesn’t even SMILE until the 4th episode and her chemistry with Horsley is zero. Ethan Allen Cord has a heart and isn’t afraid to show his feelings while Amelia doesn’t have any to show and its very off putting in their scenes together.
One hopes in the next season,the Lawson-Cord relationship will heat up.
The young actors who played the four Carroll siblings were all very steady,there are a few overly dramatic moments but nothing really worth noting. As the season progressed,they grow more comfortable in their roles and they steady improvement.
One thing Paradise had no lack of and that was the guest stars….season one is packed with a lot of name guest stars with none being bigger then Chuck Connors himself!
Chuck plays “Gideon McKay” a feared gunslinger who taken to the bottle. He has been hired by a local land baron to force folks to sell their land cheap. When he is injured,Ethan,knowing who he is,takes him in and helps him get sober. But when Ethan seeks his help with land baron,McKay reveals his secret,putting him at odds with Cord.
Other notable faces during this first season include Don Stroud,William Smith (who starred in a few Western series himself),Irene Miracle,Milla Jovovich,Buck Taylor (a veteran of Gunsmoke) and from Knot’s Landing,Ted Shackleford.
The series was shot in Columbia,California and its beautiful country. The colors are bright and vibrant,both the outdoors and the set designs are as real looking as if one was there back in 1890.
As for the DVD boxed set,sadly “Paradise” does not come with any special features.
I hope if Season One does well in sales,that Season Two will indeed have a few special features for us fans of Ethan Allen Cord and his new family!
The cheetah and I both enjoyed “Paradise” very much and it was great to see so many well known guest stars pop up on each of the 22 episodes. We gave this release a big thumbs/paws up!!!
You can buy “Paradise” at the Warner Brothers Archive website.
Feedback is always welcome!!!