Tales of the Gold Monkey is a 1982 television show broadcast by ABC. Most critics saw it as the network's attempt to capitalize on the fame of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark the previous year, in the same vein as Bring 'Em Back Alive on CBS. In actuality, the premise of the show bears a much stronger resemblance to the 1939 film Only Angels Have Wings. Creator Donald P. Bellisario tried to get the series commissioned since the late 1970s, but executives felt that audiences wouldn't be interested in an adventure series set in the 1930s. It was the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark that changed their minds. The series featured the romance of early aviation, exotic locales and cliff-hanging action.
Set in the South Pacific in 1938, the series is about an ex-Flying Tigers pilot named Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins). Now the operator of an air cargo delivery service based on the fictional South Seas island Bora Gora, he flies a red and white Grumman Goose called Cutter's Goose. Jake's best friend is his mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay), a good-hearted alcoholic whose memory is hazy as a result of the quantity of booze he consumes. However, a one-eyed Jack Russell terrier named Jack, who barks once for "no" and twice for "yes" (or the opposite if it suits him) would dispute just who Jake's best friend really is. Jack wears an eye patch, but used to have a false eye made of opal that Jake lost in a poker game -- and refuses to let Jake forget it.
Jake's love interest/U.S. Government spy contact is Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O'Heaney). She sings in the Monkey Bar as a cover for her espionage activities. The Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin), a phony man of the cloth who likes to "bless" the natives, is in actuality a Nazi spy named Willy, with interests in both sides.
"Bon Chance" Louie (played by Ron Moody in the pilot, Roddy McDowall in the series) is the owner of the Monkey Bar and the French magistrate for Bora Gora. Jake's nemesis is the Japanese princess Koji (Marta DuBois), a Dragon Lady type of character who has eyes for Jake. Koji's devoted bodyguard is Todo (John Fujioka), a fierce practitioner of Bushido and loyal to the princess. (Although Calvin, DuBois and Fujioka were billed on the opening credits of each episode, they actually only appeared on a semi-regular basis in a handful of episodes.)
The title is derived from the bar where the characters gather, which features a golden monkey statue.
Originally, the series was to be called "Tales of the Brass Monkey". There was a cocktail mix at the time called "Brass Monkey." They requested that the show change the title to prevent a confusing association. However, in several episodes it is revealed that the statue at the bar was indeed brass and not really gold. Unknown to the characters, the island where the statue was found does contain a massive structure apparently made of solid gold that does resemble a monkey, but they never learn the truth.
As with most of creator Donald P. Bellisario's projects, there are links to his other shows. The most notable is of the character Gandy Dancer (played by William Lucking) an ace pilot treasure hunter who appears in the episodes 'Legends Are Forever' and - in flashback form - in 'Honor Thy Brother'. Although Gandy dies in 'Legends Are Forever', Bellisario liked the character enough to adapt him to the present day. The third season episode 'Two Birds of a Feather' of Bellisario's hit Magnum, P.I. sees Lucking playing the very similar character of Sam Houston Hunter, also an ace pilot. The episode, which noticeably has little appearance of Magnum or any other regular characters, acted as a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin-off series starring Lucking. However, the series was never picked up, although Bellisario stripped down the 'adventures of an ace pilot' concept and worked it into Airwolf (1984-1986). Jeff MacKay had recurring roles on Magnum, PI, and later JAG (1998-2005). McDowall, MacKay, Calvin and the Goose all had guest appearances on the Bellisario series Quantum Leap (1989-1993).
Although generally well-received in both America and overseas (such as the United Kingdom, where it was broadcast on Monday evenings), the show was not renewed for another season, mostly due to the ratings not justifying the high cost of production.
This show is considered to be a strong inspiration for the Disney animated series Talespin. There are also a number of parallels and character similarities with the 1994 point-and-click adventure game Flight of the Amazon Queen, which may or may not have been influenced by the series.
There is a fictional recursion in "The Sultan of Swat" in which - while waiting for the Boeing 314 Pan Am Clipper - Jake is reading a book with a dustcover titled "Murder on the Footbridge"; which is apparently a key plot reference from the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock Movie "Suspicion".
|1||Tales of the Gold Monkey (2 parts)||Ray Austin||Donald P. Bellisario||September 22, 1982|
|2||Shanghaied||Alan J. Levi||Donald P. Bellisario||September 29, 1982|
|3||Black Pearl||Victor Lobl||Dennis Capps, George Geiger, Bob Foster, Paul Savage, Donald P. Bellisario||October 13, 1982|
|4||Legends Are Forever||Virgil Vogel||Milt Rosen, Reuben Leder, Donald P. Bellisario||October 20, 1982|
|5||Escape From Death Island||James Frawley||Peter Elliot, Stephen Katz||October 27, 1982|
|6||Trunk From the Past||Christian I. Nyby II||John Pashdag, Brady Westwater||November 3, 1982|
|7||Once a Tiger...||Winrich Kolbe||L. Ford Neal, John Huff||November 17, 1982|
|8||Honor Thy Brother||Mike Vejar||Jeff Ray, Danny Lee Cole, Bill Driskill, George Geiger||November 24, 1982|
|9||The Lady and the Tiger||Virgil Vogel||Donald P. Bellisario||December 8, 1982|
|10||The Late Sarah White||Harvey S. Laidman||Mary Ann Kasica, Michael Scheff, Donald P. Bellisario, George Geiger||December 22, 1982|
|11||The Sultan of Swat||Virgil Vogel||David Brown||January 5, 1983|
|12||Ape Boy||Winrich Kolbe||Andrew Schneider, Bill Driskill||January 12, 1983|
|13||God Save the Queen||Virgil Vogel||George Geiger||January 19, 1983|
|14||High Stakes Lady||James Frawley||Bill Driskill||January 26, 1983|
|15||Force of Habit||Harvey S. Laidman||Tom Greene||February 2, 1983|
|16||Cooked Goose||Donald A. Baer||Jay Huguely||March 4, 1983|
|17||Last Chance Louie||James Fargo||Tom Greene, George Geiger||March 11, 1983|
|18||Naka Jima Kill||Jack Whitman||Andrew Schneider, Tom Greene||March 18, 1983|
|19||Boragora or Bust||Ivan Dixon||George Geiger, Tom Greene||March 25, 1983|
|20||A Distant Shout of Thunder||James Fargo||Tom Greene, George Geiger||April 8, 1983|
|21||Mourning Becomes Matuka||David Jones||Jay Huguely, Tom Greene, George Geiger||June 1, 1983|