Tales of the Gold Monkey
A cargo pilot gets pulled into adventure and intrigue in 1938 South Pacific.
Spoiler Level: None
The year is 1938, Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) is an ex-Flying Tigers pilot who now runs a cargo delivery service. After attempting to rescue Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney, Snow White in The Charmings)), he becomes entangled in a plot of espionage, intrigue, and romance, because Sarah is really an American Spy, and with the global tensions running high and a worldwide war expected, both sides are interested in a mythical giant golden monkey statue on an unknown island that supposedly is made of an alloy that can survive the heat of an erupting volcano. Murder, mayhem, and adventure ensues and continues week to week, although only the pilot episode was about the infamous “Gold Monkey”. a brass monkey statue does become the symbol of the bar that Jake is based out of on the fictional island of Bora Gora in the South Pacific. Jake is aided by his best friend and mechanic, Corky (Jeff MacKay), Bon Chance Louie (Roddy McDowall taking over the role for the series) and his one-eyed dog Jack (Leo the Dog). His main adversary is a Nazi spy posing as Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin) and dragon lady Princess Koji (Marta DuBois).
Tales of the Gold Monkey premiered in September of 1982 and was based on the 1939 film, Only Angels Have Wings and a year after the film Raiders of the Lost Ark was released, with the studios hoping that a similar themed series would pull in viewers. Although the show was well received in both the U.S. and overseas, it never drew a large enough audience to justify the expensive production costs and after a single season with twenty-two episodes it was cancelled. Those high production costs went to good use on the technical side of the series, with some great visuals and wonderfully composed music by Frank Denson both creating the appropriate atmosphere reminiscent of the old 1930s cliffhangers. Created by Donald P. Bellisario, who is better known for creating, writing, and producing the hit shows Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, and NCIS. The series garnered four Emmy nominations in 1983 all for technical aspects of the production and won for Outstanding Art Direction for a Series.
I was around twelve when this show came out and I remember watching it and really enjoying it. In fact, I remember the act of watching the show, more than I actually remember the plot of any single episode, and that might be for good reason. In rewatching the pilot, I realized that the series was sort of dull. To be honest, I was bored. For what is supposed to be an action-adventure series, there wasn’t much of either. The action mainly comes from Jake getting punched a lot. I did get a feeling of nostalgia watching the show, but that can only carry me so far. I do think that actor Stephen Collins was a great choice for the lead and did the best with the material he was given. His character is naturally witty and clever with a charismatic charm. Jeff MacKay, as Corky is also well portrayed, as the forgetful yet loveable side kick. I didn’t care for Caitlin O’Heaney as the romantic interest and female spy. She was a bit too squeaky and cute, which worked well for her later role of Snow White in the sitcom The Charmings but didn’t ring true here. She ends up playing the “damsel-in-distress” a bit too much for someone who is supposed to be a trained spy. Overall, the show was technically well produced, but the stories and scripts, just weren’t good enough to hold the audience’s attention long enough, even in the early eighties.
I enjoyed rewatching the show, more for its nostalgic elements than the actual story. It has its good moments, but for the most part was a bit dull for an action adventure series.
Forgotten Television: Tales of the Gold Monkey
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 9/109/10
- Production - 9/109/10
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