Like any true success, Raiders of the Lost Ark was frequently imitated. Tales of the Gold Monkey was frequently lumped in with the ‘Raiders’ clones but it had actually been dreamt up by creator Donald Bellisario two years before Spielberg’s film came out. It was initially rejected by network executives, who thought no one would care for a show set in the 1930’s. However, Tales was quickly snapped up by ABC once Raiders of the Lost Ark proved audiences would respond to a period adventure.
The show was set on the fictional Pacific island of Boragora in 1938. The protagonist was Jake Cutter, a dashing cargo pilot who provided the only inter-island transportation via his plan,e the Grumman Goose. Cutter’s best friends were Corky, his often-drunk mechanic, and Jack, a one-eyed terrier who could communicate with his owner (one bark for ‘no’, two for ‘yes’).
Cutter lived in a room over the Monkey Bar, the island’s central hub of activity. This little waterhole/meeting place/brawl epicenter was owned by Bon Chance Louis, a roguish French magistrate who did a lot of shady business behind closed doors. Also working at the Monkey Bar was Sarah, a torch singer who was secretly an American spy. Our man Jake, her would-be suitor, was the only one who knew her secret. Princess Koji maintained a trading ship fleet on a nearby island, Matuka, with the help of her main henchman Todo. The cast was rounded out by Reverend Tenboom, a German spy masquerading as a Dutch holy man.
Plotlines on the show usually stemmed from Jake’s line of work. Although he was a cargo pilot, Jake would frequently end up using his plane to search for missing people or recover stolen goods. Tying these stories together was the search for the mystical object mentioned in the show’s title, an idol made of alloy that was supposedly heat-resistant. Also, there were a large number of German and Japanese spies around the island chain that Jake would have frequent run-ins with.
The show was canceled in July of 1983 after 21 episodes (including the two-hour pilot). Audiences gave up on the Indiana Jones-ish glut of TV programming (including Bring ‘em Back Alive and The Quest), and all were cancelled within one season. Donald Bellisario recovered nicely, however, going on to create shows like Airwolf and Quantum Leap.
USA / ABC / 21×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 22 September 1982 – 3 August 1983
Creator/Executive Producer: Donald P. Bellisario / Theme Music: Peter Carpenter, Mike Post
Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter
Jeff MacKay as Corky
Ron Moody as Bon Chance Louie
Roddy McDowall as Bon Chance Louie
Caitlin O’Heaney as Sarah Stickney-White
Marta DuBois as Princess Kogi
John Fujioka as Todo
Bernie Ingram as Otto Wolfschmidt
John Calvin as Rev. Willie Tenboom
Les Genky as Gouchie