Here’s Why The Adventures of Brisco County Jr is So Important to My Writing Journey

Many times before on this blog, I’ve credited shows of my childhood with fueling my love for historical adventures. Every Wednesday night we would watch Star Trek (or Friday nights depending on what channel it ended up on), and we’d add a smattering of other shows like Lois and Clark, Smallville, Quantum Leap, Firefly and so on. I also loved Young Hercules (uh, hello Ryan Gosling), and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.

There’s one show that most people won’t recognize, as it was on for such a short time. As short as Firefly (but don’t get me started on that). This little one season show was called The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, which I often ended up calling Nabisco County Jr. But of course that was just a preteen me confusing the two names.

I mean, all the fun was right there in its name: adventures. It was slapstick yet serious, whimsical yet dramatic, and, IMHO, a show that was ahead of its time. Some might argue it was a bit too ahead of its time, if its later episodes were any indication. That’s the trap that a lof of shows from that era found themselves in.

So for today’s somewhat unusual blog post, I’m going to take a look at this short-lived television show from the 90s and highlight three reasons why I think it should come back. Let’s begin by first taking a look at what it was all about.

The Premise

In all honesty, I am unsurprised that there’s very little information out there about this one season show. Which is funny considering how much there is for, say, Firefly. I think it has everything to do with their respective fanbases. Or, rather, lack thereof in terms of Brisco. Firefly is considered a science fiction cult classic, and near the end of Brisco County Jr’s run, they were trying everything to boost ratings. Including adding some science fiction into a bar fighting western. Direct from good ol’ Wikipedia:

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., often referred to as just Brisco or Brisco County, is an American weird western television series created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse. It ran for 27 episodes on the Fox network starting in the 1993–94 season. Set in the American West of 1893, the series follows its title character, a Harvard-educated lawyer-turned-bounty hunter hired by a group of wealthy industrialists to track and capture outlaw John Bly and his gang. Bruce Campbell plays Brisco, who is joined by a colorful group of supporting characters, including Julius Carry as fellow bounty hunter Lord Bowler and Christian Clemenson as stick-in-the-mud lawyer Socrates Poole.


I write most of today’s impromptu blog post from the memory of an 8-year-old me. The same year I indulged in this show is the same year my family spent Christmas in Germany while my dad was with the Air Force. I may have forgotten a lot from my childhood, but I can say for certain that The Adventures of Brisco County Jr has stayed with me for a very long time. Let’s take a look at its fun, its heists, its cast, and how it has influenced my writing.

The Fun

I think this television show is one of the reasons I love writing historical adventures myself. It was unapologetically cliche in every way, It took every trope and “troped” it to no end. But you know what? That was all part of the fun.

And part of why I loved it so much, even as a kid. In 1993 I was eight years old and preferred science fiction, fantasy and adventures over Barbie dolls, My Little Pony and whatever else was around back then. Without giving up too much of the show’s plot line, let’s just say it really did get “weird” with a mad scientist to boot.

The pilot episode introduces several characters who make recurring appearances throughout the series. Big Smith’s moll Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford) is a saloon singer and con artist who has a brief romantic encounter with Brisco. In later episodes, Dixie becomes Brisco’s primary love interest. In his first mission, Brisco also meets Professor Albert Wickwire (John Astin), an eccentric scientist who returns to help many times during the series. Wickwire’s ideas and inventions play into Brisco’s interest in technology and the future, something Brisco calls “The Coming Thing”. Pete Hutter (John Pyper-Ferguson) is a hapless mercenary working for Bly. He has a compulsive attachment to his “piece” (pistol), and given any opportunity will pontificate about topics such as art and philosophy. Pete appears throughout the series as a comic foil to trade barbs with the heroes. He appears to be killed three times during the series, but returns each time with a comic excuse for why he didn’t die. The second half of the series includes many episodes with Whip Morgan (Jeff Phillips), a young cardsharp whose attempts to assist Brisco and Bowler often end up causing trouble.


Instead of calling this section “The Fun,” I should’ve labeled it “The Weird.” I don’t think I ever realized as an eight-year-old that the aforementioned “orb” was part of the plot from the very beginning. It makes me wonder if the writers were influenced by BBC’s long running show Dr Who. Don’t get me wrong – I love several seasons of that show (think Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith).

Both as a child and as an adult, I could only imagine how much fun they must’ve had on set. Though, unless you were part of the cast and crew, one can never know for sure.

The Heists

If you could think of any form of transportation they may have had in the Victorian West, this show had it. There were train car heists, attempted heists, runaway stagecoaches, newfangled automobiles and horses. Where there’s a form of transportation, there’s a gang ready and willing to shoot it up for all its worth.

I never realized that this show was written by the same people who did Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. So much of its craziness and sequences absolutely make sense in my 30s. But do they really? This YouTube video highlights this fact in a way I never could:

Back to the heists. I’d completely forgotten about the giant mechanical spider, orbs, time travelers, Ned Zed and flame throwers, spies, stagecoaches, undercover agents, Chinese emperors, and faked deaths. Whew! I’m not sure every single example could be called a heist, but they certainly added to the adventure element of the show. It’s why all my WIPs start off with a bang, and it’s why pacing is such an important part of the historical adventure genre as a whole.

The Cast

I know it’s a rare thing for cast members to come back, but if That 90s Show has taught us anything: it’s that miracles can happen. While I don’t think that Brisco was Bruce Campbell’s big break, but it certainly made an impression on me. I think that’s what I loved about this cast as a whole. They knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed on, and they really ran with their characters.

Bruce Campbell will also be a name familiar to 90s tv fans. He was in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Ellen. I watched almost all those shows, except for Ellen. I own Lois and Clark on DVD, and we’d watch Hercules and Xena back-to-back the nights they aired. I don’t think I ever realized just how much 90s tv has influenced my writing until this blog post. Let’s take a look at few other characters.

Julius Carry, who sadly passed in 2008, was another familiar actor of the 80s 90s. Having done both film and television throughout his career, I will always remember him for Brisco. However, other viewers may recognize him from Boy Meets World, Cosby, and JAG (which my dad loved).

According to his Wikipedia page, Christian Clemenson seems to have gotten into acting later in life, not landing his first role until 1985 when he was 27. However, you will undoubtedly recognize him from Apollo 13, The Big Lebowski (a favorite of my Uncle Bob’s), Capital News and CSI: Miami.

One has to appreciate not just these three gentlemen, but the cast and crew for making this show what it was. All I can say is I’m glad this show wasn’t produced by Joss Whedon, because from all I’ve heard, his sets were hella toxic. I can only hope that the cast of Brisco had as much fun as the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation did!

How This Show Has Influenced My Writing

I think that The Adventures of Brisco County Jr is just one of the reasons I love writing (and reading) historical adventures so much. I’m sure there are more examples out there; I just gotta remember them! For as short a show as this was, it made a lasting impression on me. It showed me that you can have fun with writing. That you don’t have to take it all so seriously. The only trouble is that the network it originally aired on was infamous for canceling shows before they had a chance to really grow into themselves (yeah, I’m looking at you, Fox!).

I don’t think I ever realized just how much of an impression this show left on me until I began taking my writing seriously. There are some things that will just stick with me forever. Star Trek is one. Firefly is another. But I think I’ll always remember The Adventures of Brisco County Jr as a show that – even with all its weird and crazy – was totally ahead of its time. It was classic 90s television that never got a second season. I’m sure my writing will never be as quirky, but I can most certainly try.

Happy Reading, everybody. And, if you have some spare time in the coming week, I hope you’ll give The Adventures of Brisco County Jr a watch for good laughs, some good adventure, and some great character portrayals.


  1. Iseult Murphy says:

    I loved Brisco County Jnr! It was my introduction to Bruce Campbell, and for years he was Brisco to me (you have to watch this – Brisco is in it!).

    I think if Internet forums were as popular in 93 as they were when Firefly came along, Brisco would have had a bigger cult following.

    Weird western tv shows don’t seem to be very successful on the Fox network.

    1. No show on Fox is ever successful (oooh BURN). They know how to create cult classics, at least!

      1. Iseult Murphy says:

        Haha! Good point

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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