DANIEL BOONE: A FAN’S REVIEW OF A CLASSIC TV SERIES
By Clare Therese, March 4, 2015
Summary: Clare reviews the classic TV series about the adventures of frontiersman Daniel Boone.
A few years ago, if you had walked into our living room on any given weekday morning, your attention would’ve been drawn to the old television screen by one of seven differing versions of a theme song (depending on the season of the show), heartily declaring that the main character of this show is a man. A big man.
At around 6 foot, 5 inches, I suppose you could say our hero stood out in a crowd (be it a crowd of Shawnee or Cherokee, soldiers British, French, or Spanish, fellow citizens of Boonesborough, inhabitants of Salem, river pirates, slave traders, etc. . . you get the idea). But it wouldn’t take you too long to realize that Daniel, or Dan’l (how you say it does depend largely on the crowd), stood out in ways far surpassing height.
Out of the varied culture of young America, from the bustling, refined life of the east, to the rough-and-rawhide of Kentucky, from the foreign hands grappling for control, to the passionate Indian tribes, Daniel shone as The American. He was simple, smart, and selfless; gentle, country as cornbread, and strong in his convictions—and in tavern brawls (I’m sure the camera crew lost count of licks to his head after about five hundred). Fess Parker played the role loyal citizen, brilliant leader, devoted husband and father, steady peacemaker, and determined defender. I’d love to have Dan for an uncle. (Actually, family lore states he was a distant ancestor.) In the series, his character made him just what the theme song claimed.
So you’ve got an unforgettable theme song (seriously—we’ve sung it over the years at random around our house), and a downright lovable main character. What else does it take to make a classic? Something that had most of us hooked many mornings for a year or so?
Good music, good acting, a variety of adventures. And the side characters, of course. Where would we be without Mingo? What better half-Cherokee, half-English, educated-at-Oxford-yet-still-sporting-his-brave’s-feather sidekick could’ve been imagined for Dan’l?
And then there was the Boone family. The Irish-tempered, soft-hearted Rebecca who balanced Dan perfectly, Jemima, who was totally meant for Jericho Jones (I guess you’d have to watch it to get how awesome that is), and Israel, who wanted to be like Dan and gave his poor mother nightmares. The family complimented each other well and supplied plenty of warmth and conflict (and were sometimes hostages for enemies of Dan).
There were any number of wonderful smaller side characters that came and went, of course. Jimmy Dean played one of my favorites, Josh Clements. He was the perfect never-settle-down, soft-hearted, thick-country-accented frontiersman. In one episode, he found himself in the middle of hostile Native American territory with the one survivor of a group of missionary nuns. He protected her and, in his perfect gentleman-manner, took care of her. She impressed him so much that he asked if she wouldn’t reconsider taking her final vows and marry him. When she said no, he admitted, “I would’ve settled down for you.” The episode ended bittersweetly, but his story did end happily; some time later, he did end up with a family when he adopted two children.
The episode plotlines were very interesting to me, well-written classic adventures, and they were quite varied over the several seasons. There was a wealth of Native American conflicts, including one case in which Daniel was forced to duel Mingo to the death (it didn’t actually go that far, of course). There would be groups of enslaved African people that he helped free, crazed usurpers who would turn the settlement against him, British bridges he would blow up, mobs eager to hang an innocent friend of his, revenge-seekers he would bring to the law, and his hostage family to rescue. Now, I highly doubt that the real Daniel Boone got around to all of that in his lifetime, but you never know. . .
But the very heart of the series is quite obvious. As far as heroic, consistent main characters go, Daniel is pretty high up on my list. As the theme song further says, he was a “dream-comer-truer”– and he certainly was, if not for Kentucky, then at least for a family hoping to find good ‘ole television.