Jack of All Trades
Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels
If the gods are finally kind to him, Jack of All Trades will finally be Bruce Campbells first successful TV series. He certainly deserves it after Foxs 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 wont 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 Napoleons 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.
Or at least thats the excuse for their quarrelling. Emilia and Jack obviously find each other intriguing, even if they wont admit it, and its 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 isnt 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 whats a swashbuckling adventure if you dont have a larger than life hero in a mask?
Created by Rob Tapert and Sam Raimis 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 Ill 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.
Review © 2000 Beth Hannan Rimmels.