Your enjoyment of Jason King depends on several things: how much you enjoyed the 1970s, how funny you find 1970s fashion and how much you enjoy 1970s television (especially British television from the 1970s). If it’s one or all of the above then Jason King is for you!
My first interaction with this spin-off series of Department S came in the mid 1990s when the show aired on Bravo television here in the UK. I thought that the show was slightly ridiculous, but an enjoyable enough little timewaster (I was a teenager, so even that is quite an achievement). Now almost fifteen years later I get to see Jason King again, and I must say that the years have aged the series like a fine wine, and the show is immensely enjoyable.
What makes the show a must-see is Peter Wyngarde’s portrayal of Jason King, novelist and adventurer. Camp to the extreme, with a truly astonishing wardrobe Wyngarde’s King is the original prototype for Mike Myers’ Austin Powers. Forget everything that you hear about James Bond being the role model for the character – without Jason King you wouldn’t have Powers (or The Love Guru for that matter, but let’s not hold that against him).
Like most ATV series from the time, King is a globe-trotting playboy (much like The Saint and The Persuaders before him), but most of the time the show didn’t leave the back-lot at Pinewood – however to give the show its credit there are some pretty good second unit inserts featuring Wyngarde in exotic locations that give the series a sense of scope, as well as the obligatory stock footage.
It really is a fun show, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Wyngrade delivers in spades – coming across like an over the top Peter O’Toole (is that even possible?). The stories are somewhat predictable, but the scripts are tight enough to stop them from lagging or getting too boring when the clichés roll around.
It’s a shame that Wyngarde’s professional career was destroyed by scandal, because he truly is a charismatic actor, who should be basking in the shows glory, and starring in other roles that would be well suited to his flamboyant delivery.
There are excellent bonus features on the disc. First up is Wanna Watch a Television series? Chapter 2: Fish out of Water – a pretty in-depth documentary covering the making of the show (I presume Part 1 was featured on the Department S box set). Also included is an old interview with Peter Wyngarde whilst promoting his stage version of The King and I, alternate credits, stills gallery, music sweet and an extra disc with a TV play starring Wyngarde. This is the way that all television shows – new and old should be presented. However, it is a shame that Wyngarde himself isn’t present to contribute to the anecdotes – some of which come off as quite scathing against the star. Overall though, an excellent special features package.
A truly exceptional package – this eight disc set is great for those who love old television and even fans of Austin Powers. A wonderful show and phenomenal extras, this is highly recommended. Although be warned – you may need strong sun glasses to watch Jason King’s fashion!