When I was in the 5th grade, there was a show on TV called Then Came Bronson. (If you remember this show, you get 5 Justhumorme points. Because if no one comes forward to say they watched the show, I was a weirder 5th grader than previously thought. Please say you watched it. I don’t want to think that when Then Came Bronson came on, it was me and bunch of 40-59-year-olds watching.)
Then Came Bronson starred the smoking hot Michael Parks as a strong silent type who rode a red Harley around the country, meeting busty women, saving people’s lives and showing working stiffs that you could be free if you shed the chains of a job, food, shelter and a 401k. He was kind of like Don Quixote, Kung Fu and a non-mentally ill homeless guy all rolled into one man in a beanie and a leather jacket.
The show was compared to the movie Easy Rider, but I always thought it was more like The Fugitive without the medical degree. Michael Parks was hailed as the new James Dean, but I thought he looked like my dad.
I think the show was only on for one season. It may even have been a summer replacement show, which, for all of you under 45, was a show that took the place of a regular school-year show. Back in the days before reruns were rampant, regular shows used to be on from September through May and people in the TV biz were like teachers. They went to work every day and put on shows and for their efforts they got a few thousand dollars and the summers off. During the summer breaks, we got to watch all these substitute shows. Sometimes we loved the summer replacement shows so much, they got regular school-year time slots and grew up to become real shows.
Then Came Bronson was one of the shows I watched when everyone else was watching Wild Wild West, Dark Shadows and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (I watched one episode of Wild Kingdom but felt so bad for Jim, who was sent in to the lion’s den - literally sometimes - while Marlin Perkins narrated from an air conditioned glass booth. “Jim will now jump onto the back of this angry, rabid hippo and ride it across the snake-infested river, while I pour myself another highball.” I was far too sympathetic a soul to keep that show on my play list.)
Like a lot of shows I watched as a child, I had no idea what the actual show was about, the message, or the moral of the story. Some weeks I didn’t even get the plot. I watched TV for actors, the opening scene, and the intro, especially the song.
The opening song from Then Came Bronson was forgettable. But the ending song was “Long Lonesome Highway” sung by - yes! - Michael Parks himself! Michael Parks was so super cool, he barely moved his lips when he talked, so he sang with that same lazy, self-confident, cool-as-a-chilled-vodka-shot air. Jim Bronson makes Horatio Caine look like something from a Jerry Lewis movie. Is it any wonder at all that he later appeared in Kill Bill? And he recorded some other songs and put out some albums.
Goin’ down that long, lonesome highway,
Bound for the mountains and the plains
Sure ain’t nothing here gonna tie me
And I’ve got some friends I’d like to see again
One of these days I’m gonna settle down
But ‘til I do I won’t be hangin’ ‘round
Goin’ down that long lonesome highway
Gonna live life my way.
I bought the 45 of that song and did what I did whenever I bought a new 45 and that is listen to it about 700 times until I memorized all the words, absorbed the slipcover art into my eyeball pores and got a buzz off my Pier One vanilla bean candle. I basically Green Beret-tortured myself by repeating the same song over and over again until I was brainwashed.
I was going over to Judy Carano’s house to play records with a bunch of other girls and I happily took my Long Lonesome Highway by Michael Parks. Then I got there and everyone else had brought Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors and the Rolling Stones and I felt like an idiot with my Michael Parks. [If you’re reading this, elderly statesman Michael Parks, I’m sorry I was ashamed of you.]