Not long ago I discovered that ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ TV series is available on Netflix. I remember seeing a couple of installments of this show in 2007 on Saturday mornings, and I was really impressed by what a great show it was. So I was thrilled to see it available for me and the kids to watch the entire series on Netflix. And after seeing several of the hour-and-a-half long episodes of this series, I must say I’m totally in love with this show! After a brief history, I will tell you why I love ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ so much.
George Lucas created the series that ran from 1992-1993. It was originally called ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ and aired in one hour episodes. The show got great critical acclaim and was nominated for and won several awards; but after three seasons it was canceled due to high production costs and low ratings, although I read that in Europe and other countries the series was very popular. Apparently Americans found it a little too ‘cerebral’, because, wow; along with what I consider some pretty rip-roaring adventures, this show was actually about interesting historical characters, moral dilemmas, history, art, different cultures, religion and philosophy. The purpose of this series was to educate, in an entertaining, personal way, about world history of the early twentieth century by having young Indy meeting many of the great historical figures of the time. A concept, I’m sad to say, that may be even more unappreciated in this country today than it was twenty years ago!
But then in 2007 the series was re-edited (as Mr. Lucas is so fond of doing) and re-packaged as ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’; combining two original episodes into single 2-hour (one and a half without commercials) episodes; leaving out a lot of stuff, but making the time line of events more coherent. Over the years the series has also been shown on several different networks, including The History Channel. There were also four made-for-TV movies of Young Indy a few years later; as well as a series of novels and a Darkhorse comic book series that filled in more of Indiana’s later adventures.
But let’s get back to my mini-review. The series begins when Henry Jones Junior (Indy) is ten years old. The first series involves his father, the famous professor of Medieval History at Princeton taking his family and Indy’s tutor, Miss Seymour, traveling to England, Africa, India, Greece, Italy, China and Russia in 1910 on a whirlwind lecture tour. This was an absolutely brilliant concept for an educational series; based on an adventurous, beloved character who amazingly gets to meet dozens of historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia, young Krishnamurti and Ernest Hemingway, among many others. Later, back home, when Indy is sixteen years old he solves a mystery with the author of ‘The Hardy Boys’ daughter, meets Thomas Edison, joins Pancho Villa’s army (narrowly missing death on numerous occasions), and the last one we watched Indy is just heading off to Europe with his friend Remy to fight in World War I. Much of the later shows involve Indy’s experiences during the Great War.
Every aspect of this series is awesomely done! The production value of each episode is like watching a feature film. The filming locations are breathtaking. The actors are all incredible, not the least of which are the actors who play Indy at age 10 (Corey Carrier) and the older teenage Indiana (Sean Patrick Flanery). Lloyd Owen, who plays Indy’s father, Henry Senior, is also really wonderful. He speaks and sounds so much like Indy’s father from ‘The Last Crusade’ that when I close my eyes I actually see Sean Connery! The way he says “Junior!” is remarkable!
The series adds tremendous richness and character development to the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga and fills in a lot of backstory about the father/son relationship. In some ways I actually enjoy this series more than the original movies. They’re grounded in ‘the real world’ as opposed to the mystical craziness of the films. Actually I love the first and third Indiana Jones movies, but pretend that ‘Temple of Doom’ and ‘Crystal Skull’ never happened! ‘Temple of Doom’ got so damn dark and sadistic (I only have watched it once, when it first came out); and the last Indy film from 2008 (Nuking the Fridge, anyone?) just left me awfully disappointed. I had such high expectations! (It was nice to see Marion again). But watching this wonderful show has been a delightful experience for me, and the kids both love it! It’s entertaining, educational, emotionally moving and funny as hell at times. It shows both the lighter and darker sides of twentieth century history; the rich complexity of clashing cultures and human nature. It shows how a young boy changes through his experiences to become the man we know from the feature films.
I would highly recommend this series for young or old; as entertaining storytelling and as a great way to teach history and culture. It’s also a rich homeschooling resource for me! I’m including some links to much more information below.
Young Indiana Jones Unofficial Home Page: A wonderfully thorough resource for all things Indy!
DVDPlanet: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Good prices for DVDs! Also available on Amazon and other places on-line).