"Bearcats!" / "Powderkeg"
Rod Taylor played Hank Brackett in the pilot movie, "Powderkeg,"
and the series, "Bearcats!" on CBS.
Thanks to John Boyle for the contents of this page:
"Bearcats!" was Rod Taylor's second attempt at a weekly television
series. It centered on a pair of soldiers of fortune in the American Southwest
circa 1914. That timeframe gave the series a different flavor, being something
other than a traditional Western, or yet another detective series set in
the present. The concept appealed to Taylor when it was presented by series
creator, veteran Hollywood writer/producer Douglas Heyes (who also had worked
with Taylor on a "Twilight Zone" episode).
Taylor's character, Hank Brackett, is a former Army captain, a veteran
of the Spanish-American War campaign in the Philippines. Brackett had left
the Army and settled in the Southwest, where he became known as a troubleshooter.
At some point Brackett saved the young Johnny Reach
(Dennis Cole) from unjustly being lynched as a cattle rustler. Together
they cleaned up a couple of border towns in self-defense, and eventually
people started coming to them for help.
Hank and Johnny had to get a bit mercenary about the jobs they would take and set
their fee as a signed blank check. They would fill in the amount only after
successfully completing their job -- the amount being determined by the
degree of difficulty encountered. Their rationale was simple: If you could
put a dollar amount on your trouble, then you didn't need their help badly
Typically they worked for railroads, landowners or the government. As
private citizens they were able to cross the Mexican border where normal
lawmen or the military could not go.
The period during which "Bearcats!" was set allowed for the
use of unexpected props in what was essentially a Western -- including machine
guns and airplanes. In the first episode, they fought a bandit who stole
an Army tank to rob banks. Another episode saw them fighting a group of
Germans who were attacking Mexican villages dressed as U.S. soldiers, in
an attempt to get Mexico to attack the United States, thus preventing America
from joining the war against Germany.
Brackett was responsible for the clever plans the pair had to come up
with to defeat their well-organized foes. As the younger of the pair, Reach
would often do the more athletic stunts.
The main source of conflict in their relationship was a good-natured
competition for some of the inevitably beautiful (and available) women they
would meet in their adventures.
Taylor played Brackett with his usual light touch and charm. However,
he could be tough and deadly serious if the circumstances demanded. Brackett
reminds me of Taylor's character as Capt. Jack Savage in "Fate is the Hunter" (1964).
Off-screen, Taylor often was less than charming in his fights with CBS.
He was adamant about making the show different, as he told a 1971 TV Guide
The one thing we've got going for us is the era. It was
an interesting and funny era, with old-fashioned melodrama and hissing
the villain. ... Let's play this partly for laughs, with the broad gesture
and even maybe the girl tied to the railroad tracks. ... The show should
have the feeling of looking at daguerreotypes.
He also fought to take the characters away from the Southwest occasionally
and capitalize upon the onset of World War I. And there were fights over
censorship, too, with Taylor roaring, "What do you mean I can't look
euphoric after that night with the beautiful Mexican broad?"
Taylor won most of the battles, but the show lost the ratings war.
Just like "Hong Kong" in 1960-61,
Taylor's show went up against one of the most popular programs on TV: In
its 8 p.m. time slot on Thursdays, "Bearcats" faced "The
Flip Wilson Show" and lost.
Here's a guide to the series, which was produced by Filmways and Taylor's
own Rodlor Inc.
0.1 -- "Powderkeg" -- April 16, 1971
In the series pilot TV movie, Brackett and Reach are hired
by a railroad to rescue 70 hostages on a moving train. Guest stars include
Fernando Lamas and Luciana Paluzzi, who also was Taylor's leading lady in
"Chuka" and an episode of "Hong Kong."
1.1 -- "The Devil Wears Armor" -- Sept.16, 1971
A stolen Army tank is knocking over banks along the border.
John Vernon (Dean Wormer in "Animal House") guest stars.
1.2 -- "Ground Loop at Spanish Wells" -- Sept. 23, 1971
German soldiers -- dressed as American troops -- are raiding
border towns to start a war with Mexico. Henry Darrow ("The High Chaparral")
guest stars as the Mexican Army pilot, Estaban.
1.3 -- "Dos Gringos" -- Sept. 30, 1971
A Mexican Army assassin is out to kill a revolutionary
who's raising money in the United States. Guest star is Eric Braeden of
"The Rat Patrol" and "The Young and the Restless."
1.4 -- "The Feathered Serpent " -- Oct. 7, 1971
A group of would-be revolutionaries hold a town hostage.
Guests include Henry Silva, who appeared with Taylor in "The
Story of Marjorie Reardon" and "A Gathering
1.5 -- "Hostages" -- Oct. 14, 1971
As revenge for his father's hanging five years before,
an ex-convict kidnaps a priest and demands a town to hang one of its citizens.
Guest stars Ed Flanders ("St. Elsewhere"), David Canary ("Bonanza"
and "All My Children") and Erin Moran ("Happy Days").
1.6 -- "Conqueror's Gold" -- Oct. 28, 1971
A newspaperwoman hires Brackett and Reach to rescue workers
being held at an archeological site by bad guys seeking treasure. Kevin
McCarthy ("A Gathering of Eagles," "Hotel" and "The Hell
With Heroes") is among the guest stars.
1.7 -- "Blood Knot" -- Nov. 4, 1971
Tensions erupt between Brackett and Reach when oil well
sabotage -- and murder -- erupt in a town wanting to destroy an Indian village.
1.8 -- "Assault on San Saba" -- Nov. 11, 1971
A German military intelligence officer takes over a Texas
prison for recruiting saboteurs. The puzzle for Brackett and Reach: How
to break into a prison.
1.9 -- "Bitter Flats " -- Nov. 18, 1971
Brackett and Reach take on a ruthless rancher when the
son of a friend disappears on a secret Army mission. Guest starring is Keenan
Wynn, who also appeared with Taylor in "The
1.10 -- "Tiger! Tiger! " -- Nov. 25, 1971
Brackett uses himself as bait to stop a saboteur who's
destroying supply shipments.
1.11 -- "The Big Gun" -- Dec. 2, 1971
A renegade Army colonel steals artillery to destroy a convoy
of explosives bound for England. Leslie Nielsen ("Airplane!" and
"The Naked Gun") guest stars.
1.12 -- "The Return of Estaban " -- Dec. 23, 1971
Pilot Estaban (see Ground Loop at Spanish Wells, episode
1.2) returns to help surprise a gang that's out to rob and destroy a mining
town. Henry Darrow reprises his role as Estaban. Also guest-starring is
William Smith, who appeared with Taylor in "Darker
Than Amber," "The Deadly Trackers"
and an episode of "Masquerade."
1.13 -- "Man in a Cage " -- Dec. 30 1971
Johnny must rely on a convict to help him save Hank and
a gubernatorial candidate.