In 1981, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg introduced the world to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a professor of archaeology who swashbuckles his way around the world in a series of adventure movies reminiscent of the old 1930 and 40s serials. The character would continue in 1984s The Temple of Doom, 1989s The Last Crusade, 2008s The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and, coming in June of 2023, The Dial of Destiny. But the character was also the main focus of a television series from 1992 to 1993 titled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which focused on the many adventures Henry Jones jr. had as both a boy and a young man.
The series was designed to be educational in nature, with Indy meeting many famous historical figures. The episodes were bookended by a 93-year-old Indiana Jones (George Hall) in present day (1993) New York, reminiscing about his path to anyone who would listen. The stories told would involve himself as a young 8 – 10-year-old child (Corey Carrier) or as 16 – 21-year- old young adult (Sean Patrick Flanery). While the younger Indy traveled with his parents and tutor, as his father, also a professor, went on a two-year lecture tour of international universities, the older Indy rebelled against his father joining the Belgian army during World War I giving him his own solo adventures. Although the series was meant to alternate between the two different Indianas, the older version soon dominated the series. Along the way, both they meet a variety of different historical characters including (in no particular order): T. E. Lawrence, Pancho Villa, Edgar Degas, Giacomo Puccini, George Patton, Pablo Picasso, Eliot Ness, Al Capone, Annie Besant, Norman Rockwell, Louis Armstrong, George Gershwin, Winston Churchill, a very young Ho Chi Minh, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Ernest Hemingway, Mata Hari, and Theodore Roosevelt (as well as many others).
The show was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards and won 6 and was nominated or received many other accolades, but due to its large budget and lower ratings, the series was cancelled during it’s second season. The Family Channel later produced four two hour long TV movies that were aired between 1994 and 1996. In 1999, the series was re-edited with additional new footage and the unaired episodes were included to create a 22-chapter TV Film set and retitled The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.
My personal feeling on the series is that Lucas tried to recapture that magical quality that existed in the first three Indiana Jones movies, but unfortunately it just didn’t have that spark. Where the production value was high, the stories didn’t have the excitement, humor or heart that the movies encompassed. And even though we should be judging the series on its own merits, it is hard not to compare it to the source material. The scripts weren’t bad and the plot lines were creative in interweaving the historical characters and the stories featuring the older version of Indy were a bit more exciting, but the show in general just lacked that extra “umph” to make it successful.
Forgotten Television: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
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