Barbary Coast (1975) DVD Review: Frisco, The Western Frontier

William Shatner is a man of a thousand faces in this lighthearted TV series.
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In between starring in Star Trek and T.J. Hooker, William Shatner also led Barbary Coast, a lesser-known, short-lived TV series in a role where he got to showcase his comedic abilities. Making its debut on DVD thanks to Acorn Media, the TV-movie and 13 episodes have been collected in a four-disc set sans bonus features.   

Owing a bit to The Wild, Wild West, Shatner plays Jeff Cable, former Union soldier and current undercover government agent patrolling the streets of 1880s San Francisco. Like Ross Martin's Artemis Gordon, Cable makes frequent use of costumes and make-up, and Shatner seems to be having a ball getting to play so many different characters.

Golden Gate casino owner Cash Conover (Dennis Cole in the pilot and Doug McClure in the series) and his staff assist Cable. Conover frequently acts put upon because he would rather work at the casino, but is always at the ready to help his friend even if Cable has to apply a little guilt by mentioning how he saved Conover's life. Richard Kiel plays casino bouncer Moose and his comedic timing is underused. 

Each episode is a different case for Cable and Conover. Throughout the series, they deal with counterfeiters, stolen jade cat figurines on loan from the Chinese government (though Cable's Asian costumes might cause more trouble); stolen gun shipments, iron-clad sub plans, arsonist, and extortionists.  The final episode is personal for Cable, as his father took most of the blame for a gold shipment stolen by Confederate soldiers. The Civil War is still a bit tender subject among many Southerners encountered.

Barbary Coast is a lighthearted Western, family-friendly fare one would expect from broadcast network television in the '70s. It's not must-see TV, but is a serviceable way to pass an hour.

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