Why Seven? Throughout history the number seven has been associated with completeness and perfection. Legends, myths, fables, fairy tales, religious writings and practices have ofttimes made reference to seven. And in this story…
Chris Larabee (Michael Biehn) and Vin Tanner (Eric Close) join forces to rescue Nathan Jackson (Rick Worthy) from a lynch mob. Their actions and quick reactions meet the approval of the representatives of a small village of Seminoles who need help in defending their tribe and who offer as payment a gold idol with a value of thirty-five dollars. The trio then recruits Buck Wilmington (Dale Midkiff), Josiah Sanchez (Ron Perlman), Ezra Standish (Anthony Starke), and tagalong John “J.D.” Dunne (Andrew Kovovit) to become what would be euphemistically known as “The Magnificent Seven.”
So begins the television pilot for the television series The Magnificent Seven which ran from 1988 – 2000. It is set as a precursor to the Western film The Magnificent Seven (1960) which was itself a remake of a Japanese motion picture Seven Samurai (1954) that was directed, co-written and edited by Akira Kurosawa (Another western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964) was an unauthorized version of Akira Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo (1961)).
The 1960 film The Magnificent Seven inspired three sequels [film]:
- The Return of the Seven (1966);
- Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969) ; and
- The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972).
Many of the peccadillos of the television series characters are drawn from these four Western films.
Other film remakes of The Magnificent Seven include:
- The space-based film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980); and
- A film remake, The Magnificent Seven, in 2016
All of these films are based upon the adventure of a group of men who are drawn together to stop a social issue that has plagued mankind throughout the ages – Bullyism. This is the most prevalent social issue explored in the series.
In the evolution of language, pejoration is more common than amelioration. Such is the case with the word “bully.” In the mid-1500’s the Middle Dutch word “boele” translated as “lover.” By the 1600’s, the pejoration of the word was well on it’s way, as it steadily eroded from a term of endearment to a description of a male companion.*
Shakespeare used the term “bully rook” meaning “my fine fellow” or “jolly comrade” in The Merry Wives of Windsor, (Act 1 Scene 3 Line 7, pub. 1602) in a discourse between Falstaff and Host, “What says my bully rook? speak scholarly and wisely.”
By 1710 the word “bullying” experienced semantic deterioration and became associated with the negative connotations of intimidation, insolence, menacing behavior and tyrannicizing.
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt used “bully” in a positive mode when describing his position of President of the United States as a “bully pulpit” in that allowed him to speak out and be heard. He also used the term as an expression of something good or wonderful, such as “Bully for you!”.
By the late 20th and early 21st centuries “bully” had deteriorated to the first definition found in the Webster-Meriam Dictionary: “A blustering, browbeating person especially: one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”
Bullying, as described in the paragraph above, presents in a variety of forms throughout this series and is the main social issue addressed by The Magnificent Seven. (1-5,7-17,19-21)
This is not to say that some do not find a certain level of bullying within the group of seven itself. As Ezra expresses, in a more politically correct manner, the other six members sometime “lack the essential skills of tact and diplomacy.” Josiah interprets this as Ezra saying they are “Rude,” to which Ezra replies, “Rude would be a definite improvement,” and that in fact, “I’m saying you scare people, and perhaps terrorizing them won’t buy you any answers this time… I believe a little subtlety is in order.” (The Magnificent Seven, “Inmate 78” Season 1, Episode 9, 3/21/1998).
Other social issues present in the episodes (indicated by the number within the parentheses in the bullet list below) include:
- The criminal justice systems (crime (14, 17), deterrence (20), isonomy (5,6,19), judicial relevance (10), false imprisonment and convict labor (4), parole (2), and vigilantism (6));
- Cultural awareness, sensitivity, and disrespect (8,12);
- Equality (racism (1,8,12,16,19); (gender (3,7, 10, 11, 18, 20, 21)),
- The famous (or infamous) root of all evil (Money as represented by greed, avarice, abuse of power, and bribery (2,7, 21));
- Economic rationalization (2, 21);
- Historical revisionism (1);
- Immigration (labor relations, abuse, citizenship)(16);
- Parent/child relationships (8,11,16);
- Prostitution (3);
- Mental health (6,18,22);
- Religion (religiocentrism, religious conflict, and “practicing what you preach”)(8); and
- Trust (1-21)
The series also explores the concept of heroism in “Achilles” (Season 2, Episode 17, July 16, 1999):
Josiah asks “J.D.,” “Just what do you think a hero is?”
“Well, it’s someone who shoots straight and true,” responds “J.D.”
“That’s a good shot is all. Takes more than that to be a hero. It takes someone who is willing to sacrifice their life for the greater good,” Josiah expounds.
There is, perhaps, also a reflection in Episode 10 “The New Law” (January 8, 1999) of the way society has sometimes treated returning war veterans. Veterans who, because of what they have seen and experienced, are no longer in tune with the society that sent them off to war. Six of the seven are veterans of a life where morality is determined existentially. They have carved out a niche in a nameless place where the ends justify the means. Perhaps this is why they scatter to the wind when law and order comes to town. They are no longer needed; no longer fit in, even though they had previously put their lives on the line to preserve the “social fabric” of that community (shades of the television movie The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969)).
The majority of the pilot for the series was filmed in Arizona (Mescal and the Dragoon Mountains). The majority of the episodes were filmed in Newhall, California and Old Tucson, Arizona. The background for the closing credits was filmed at Lone Pine, California in the United States of America. One interesting aspect of the filming was that many of the interior scenes are gloomy due to the fact that the episodes were largely filmed in existing natural light.
The series was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series twice. Dan Moore won the award in 1998 for “Working Girls.” The series was also nominated for an Art Directors Guild: Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Series, 2000 and for the CDG Award – Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series by the Costume Designers Guild in 2000.
The erratic pattern of presentation probably made it very difficult for some viewers to understand the story line or to develop an understanding of the motivations of the characters. The series was short on appearances and long in duration, 18 episodes playing out over 3 years (1998-2000) on CBS and 4 episodes first presented on cable. The first season of nine episodes was presented in a semi-consistent manner with the first five episodes on 5 Saturdays in January of 1998 (January 1-January 31, 1998). There were 3 weeks skipped before the next four episodes ran from February 28 to March 21, 1998, also on Saturday. The series was then cancelled by CBS. Due to the success of an organized campaign, a second season began after 41 weeks had passed with six episodes over a period of 7 weeks on Fridays (January 8-February 19, 1999). A space of 19 weeks occurs before the next 2 episodes aired (July 9 & 16, 1999, also a Friday). After thirty-four weeks had passed, the last publicly broadcast episode, “Penance” Episode 18, appeared on a Friday night (March 10, 2000). CBS again cancelled the series and the remaining four episodes finally appeared on the CBS-owned TNN cable network, beginning 8 weeks later ( including a move to Wednesday nights) with “The Trial” Episode 19, on May 10, 2000. Two weeks later “Lady Killers” Episode 20 (May 31, 2000) and “Serpents” Episode 21 (June 7, 2000) ran. Another 3 weeks were skipped before the final episode “Obsession” Episode 22, was presented on a Monday night (July 3, 2000) at which time none of the faux pas of the characters were resolved and viewers were left alternatively swinging in the breeze or twisting in the wind. The series became, as quoted from the end of the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, “like the wind, blowing over the land and passing on.”
To see information about the various episodes, please click on the links below.
The Magnificent Seven episodes (written, spoken and credits)
Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
and others, indicated as links
Note: give credit when credit is due. Suggestions for corrections, additions and deletions are welcome through the Dispatch Rider. Please provide information and the ground(s) on which the claim is based.