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Paul Shipper

Young Indy Chronicles
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The Making of

Chapter 5: The Three Seasons


Season One

click to enlarge
Old Indy telling his
story to the 2 boys.

The series premiered on the United States through ABC on March 4, 1992 with the pilot episode entitled Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal. The pilot was actually two different stories, Egypt 1908 and Mexico 1916, tied together by an Egyptian artifact and Old Indy’s narration. The pilot began at the Metropolitan Museum of New York where Old Indy encounters two school boys trying to cut off from the rest of their class during a visit to the museum. Seeing that the two boys have no interest in the antiquities on display Old Indy decides to indulge them by telling a story how he got in love with archaeology for the first time when he was about their age. It is from that point that the Young Indy Chronicles actually start by taking a trip back to early 1900s.

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Sean Patrick Flanery in
Curse of the Jackal.

The pilot had a fair share of adventure and sense of what the series was going to be. The series fueled by the popularity of both, Lucas and Indy, made a good start and earned many fans. Unfortunately, people who had enjoyed the trilogy purely for its action and adventure content didn’t appreciate the series’ educational value and found the series too educative and… boring! Another element that viewers found unattractive was the appearance of Old Indy as an old man crocheting and preaching in the most unimaginable and irrelevant places. Especially, the apathy with which his audience responded to his stories the exact moment he walked away made viewing a bitter experience. Many of the series’ most impressive episodes were ruined by cutting back to the old man talking to strangers who were at least not interested in his stories. Very soon ratings started to drop and the network started constant reschedules, making it difficult for viewers to follow. Finally and after running it for only six consecutive weeks the network dumped the series leaving 12 episodes unaired.

The explanation offered from the network suggested that the series was more cerebral and less action-oriented than the films upon it was based, by this letting down viewers who expected something similar to them.

Despite its short run the series received five Emmy awards and was nominated for another three the same year. The awards the series received along with George Lucas’ creative and financial status persuaded ABC to enlist the series in its program for a second season, in the autumn of 1992.

Season Two

Despite ABC’s failure to support the series Lucas continued the production of Young Indy’s ventures. "I’m fairly confident that ABC will play the majority of them," said Lucas in Starlog magazine about the future of the series. "If they don’t, obviously I want to continue on with them. I have at least 20 stories I would love to see on the screen. I’ll get them made somehow. I’m just not sure in what venue they would play."

Lucas arranged a new round of meetings with the series’ scriptwriters to create the stories for the new episodes. Some changes had to take place from the writers’ part since Reg Gadney, who had written the Paris 1908 episode, had to bow out and he was replaced by Jule Selbo, a lady who lived in Los Angeles. Soon a new group of episodes began filming.

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Harrison Ford and Lucas working on the special cameo appearance.

For the second season’s first episode Lucas had the idea of making a two-hour movie entitled Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues that featured Harrison Ford in a special cameo appearance. The scene, replacing an already shot sequence with Old Indy and his grandson Spikes, featured Indy and his Indian friend Gray Cloud snowbound in 1950s Wyoming trying to escape their pursuers who are after an ancient Indian pipe in Gray Cloud’s possession.

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Harrison Ford in
Mystery of the Blues.

Lucas phoned Ford, who was shooting The Fugitive at the time and they agreed to film the small part at Ford’s home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. McCallum flew from Prague to Wyoming, got a little crew together and spent a week preparing filming. The actual filming of the scene, although in screen time it did not exceed a total of four minutes, lasted a day. Ford arrived on location on his snowmobile and between takes he talked with his friend George Lucas. Another thing that has to be mentioned is Indiana Jones’ external appearance. Since Ford had grown a heavy beard for The Fugitive and filming on the big-screen film hadn’t rapped up yet he appeared as a 50-year old graybeard Indy. When talked to Entertainment Tonight Ford said about his involvement with the Chronicles, "This show as far as I’m concerned is the best thing on television and has nothing to do with my connection to Indiana Jones." He also had to say a nice word for his life-long collaborator Lucas, "I think he’s taken the great popular success of Indiana Jones and turned it around as something worthy of it." Talking to Starlog magazine about Harrison Ford’s cameo Lucas said, "I liked the idea of including Harrison, because now we’ve got Indy at all ages, everywhere from nine to 93."

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Sean Patrick Flanery in
Mystery of the Blues.

Unfolding the back-story behind the Mystery of the Blues Lucas said, "We established in Raiders of the Lost Ark that he went to University of Chicago and we had put the War in there, too. So, we decided that when the World War I ended and he went to the University of Chicago, it would be 1920, that he would be a freshman. I said, ‘Let’s find out who was at the university then, what was going on in Chicago at the time.’ I knew gangsters were starting up, that Prohibition was also just starting at that point. We had established earlier, throughout the show’s episodes, that Indy liked jazz. That was one of his big things. He was a jazz aficionado. So, I said, ‘Well, Chicago would be a great place for jazz, and maybe we can do an episode about jazz.’ We decided he plays the soprano sax and that he learned to play it from Sidney Bechet. In researching it, we discovered that Al Capone was in Chicago at the time, and that Eliot Ness was going to the University of Chicago at exactly the same time. Those things just pop in and you say, ‘Wow! This is great. Look at all of the people who were there.’ Sometimes an episode just happens by accident, like that one."

The second season was actually a mixture of unaired first season episodes and completely new ones. Only one episode featured the Corey Carrier’s Young Indy while the rest were headlined by Flanery. The bookends with Old Indy became briefer and less frequent before being dropped altogether.

But even this couldn’t make the network happy, so after 21 episodes the series was cancelled, leaving four episodes unaired. What was remarkable though was the fact that the series managed to win critic success only to succumb to the lack of ratings. During its two years on the air the series won 11 Emmy awards and was nominated for 25.

Season Three

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Flanery in Treasure of
the Peacock's Eye

Loyal to his promise that he would find a way to continue Young Indy’s stories Lucas cut a deal with USA (now Fox) Family Channel to broadcast the four unaired episodes plus four new TV movies, three with Sean Patrick Flanery and one with Corey Carrier, in 1996. Actually, what Lucas did was to match eight different stories he had already developed for single episodes to make four TV movies out of them. Unfortunately, these TV movies were noticeably cheaper than the rest of the series. Still, the second of the four, Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye, was perhaps the closest the series ever got to emulate the tone of the feature films.

In total the Young Indy Chronicles crew traveled around the globe for on location filming in 100 cities in 21 countries, including Egypt, Africa, India, England, France, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Greece, China, Turkey and the United States. Producer Rick McCallum, in an interview, asserted that "we actually shot for 152 weeks; we served over 120.000 meals and traveled as a group over 165.000 miles-that’s over six times around the world. We shot with over 50.000 extras, had over 1.500 speaking parts and shot enough 16mm film to go from New York to Phoenix. It was a huge production: The longest location shoot in film history."

Next: Outcome >>


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