With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert offer this farcical fantasy as half of the “Back 2 Back Action Hour” which, along with “Cleopatra 2525,” replaces the departing hour “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” For Herc fans still mourning the loss of their show, take heart. Although “Jack” star and co-executive producer Bruce Campbell isn’t a hunk a la Kevin Sorbo, there’s enough swashbuckling adventure and salty humor here to ease most withdrawal pangs.
Campbell, known best for the critically lauded but short-lived “The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr.” has a knack for comedy and embraces the role of Jack Stiles, a colonial era undercover agent, with just the right amount of whimsy and sarcasm. We’re not talking an early model of James Bond or even James West. Campbell’s super spy Stiles, although wily and inventive, has the libido of Austin Powers and the prowess of Don Knotts.
Assigned to the East Indies by President Thomas Jefferson (Charles Pierard) to keep track of Napoleon’s advances, Jack is dismayed at such a dull assignment until he meets his new partner, Emilia Rothschild (Angela Dotchin), a secret agent for the Crown. Unlikely allies, the two barely stop bickering long enough to accomplish their mission and thwart the plans of the corrupt Governor Croque (Stuart Devenie).
To keep Croque and his men from discovering his real identify, Jack dresses as the Daring Dragoon, a local folk hero, as he carries out his assignments and sets in motion the perfect disguise for future assignments.
Campbell and Dotchin have chemistry, but it’s more in the vein of an off-color Tracy and Hepburn. The barbs fly fast, and most of them are racy. Although an acquired taste, the show should do well with the young male demos that it’s aimed to.
Writer and creator Eric Morris makes great use of his historical settings, not for accuracy’s sake, but rather for laughs. For instance, it’s doubtful that Thomas Jefferson ever said “Touch my niece and I’ll have George Washington cut off your cherry tree,” but the goofs are there, especially at Napoleon’s expense.
Period costumes by Jane Holland and elaborate sets by Robert Gillies also add a great deal to the show.
Director Josh Becker occasionally follows the action to dizzying extremes, but tech credits are top-notch and the show boasts one of the most inventive and rousing opening sequences since “Drew Carey.”