The Complete Series
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
f I was challenged to compile a list of the five sexiest TV heroines of the 1960s, it’d probably only take me about as many seconds to offer it up. After all, any TV geek worth his salt is working on lists like these whenever he has a free moment, and this one in particular is a real no-brainer: Emma Peel, Agent 99, April Dancer (a.k.a. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.), Batgirl and Honey West.
Thing is, until recently, I’d never actually seen an episode of “Honey West.”
Not that it would’ve mattered one bit when it came to selecting her for the list, since there are plenty of pictures of Anne Francis floating around the net where she’s in her standard Honey West attire: either a slinky black catsuit or, at the very least, something with an animal print. (After all, she had to match her pet ocelot, Bruce, didn’t she?) Even without actually having seen Honey at work, there were so many reports swirling around about how she was the first real female action hero on television that I felt as though I hardly needed to watch the series to know that she could kick some serious ass – but that’s not to say that I didn’t want to. Indeed, when VCI Entertainment announced that they’d be releasing “Honey West: The Complete Series” on DVD, I was giddy with anticipation and positively chomping at the bit to check it out.
Like so many series from the ‘60s, you have to approach “Honey West” from the right perspective, namely a historical one. Though these half-hour episodes blow by fast, they aren’t exactly loaded to the brim with substance – not that anyone ever suggested that the words “an Aaron Spelling production” could serve as an adequate synonym for “substance.” But it hardly matters what’s going on, anyway, since no matter what else may be occurring onscreen, you can’t take your eyes off Anne Francis. John Ericson does his best to make his character of Honey’s assistant, Sam Bolt, stand out, but despite the occasional flirtation between the two of them, it’s clear that he’s not man enough for her; he probably wouldn’t even have been a major part of the show if sexism hadn’t been running so rampant during the ‘60s. (Who could believe a female detective doing it all by herself without the help of a man?) As for the character of Honey’s Aunt Meg (Irene Hervey), it’s the same situation, with her only real purpose being to give Honey someone to come home to at night.
It’s said that “Honey West” met with cancellation not because it wasn’t doing well in the ratings but, rather, because ABC had gotten the rights to air “The Avengers” and couldn’t imagine that anyone would want two series featuring badass broads. Given that this suggestion appears on Wikipedia, it may be wholly inaccurate, but given the climate of the mid-1960s, it certainly could be true. Either way, it’s safe to say that “Honey West” left the airwaves way sooner than it should have.
I’d give a lot to see someone make a feature-length “Honey West” film, set in the ‘60s, with either Elisabeth Moss, Christina Applegate, or even Drew Barrymore playing the title character. In the meantime, however, fans of tough heroines like Sydney Bristow or Buffy Summers should head over to Netflix and secure “Honey West: The Complete Series.” Even if you don’t fall head over heels in love with Honey’s adventures, it’s still a history lesson worth watching.
Special Features: This is one occasion when I won’t be critical of the limited special features on a set, mostly because VCI is a small company who does fantastic work with the budget at their disposal. As with their “Burke’s Law” set, however, they’ve added the nice touch of original commercials from the era, as a bit of a mood-setter, and there are also photo galleries which include shots of Francis as well as some behind-the-scenes shots from the show as well.