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from Cult Times #59

The Legend: Jason King, flamboyant fop, noble aesthete and inveterate champagne guzzler, enjoys enormous success as both crime writer and crime fighter. His Mark Caine novels are read by an adoring public, but King’s own international adventures are far more improbable. Jason usually manages to prevail and still have time to indulge his unceasing appetite for wine and women. Sophisticated, witty, terribly vain, and with a haughty contempt for officialdom, Jason King is probably what you’d get if you crossed James Bond and Kenneth Williams.

First Run: September 1971 – April 1972

Number of Episodes: 26

Biog: Born in India; the son of a French Countess and a Scottish engineer, he speaks eight languages fluently and five sporadically. He lives, for the most part, in a luxurious apartment in Paris. Jason likes to start the day with a breakfast of strawberries and champagne.

Background: King first appears in Department S, a highly inventive series created by Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner, in which bizarre and baffling mysteries were ably investigated by members of a special branch of Interpol. Peter Wyngarde set about transforming his character from a dusty old professor into an extraordinarily charismatic dandy. His popularity led to a solo venture, a move which some lamented. But while Department S had smarter plots and tighter scripting, it’s only in his own series that you get to see Jason King at his best.

Beauties: Many lovely ladies have caught Jason’s eye. The multitudes who’ve been lucky enough to progress beyond the flirting stage include Kate O’Mara (a beautiful killer), Pamela Salem (a sexy Russian interpreter!), Isla Blair (would you believe an air hostess?) and Ingrid Pitt (comes with own foreign accent). The only regular woman in Jason’s life, however, is his publisher, the strangely cute Nicola Harvester (Anne Sharp).

Beasts: Aside from the requisite badly dubbed foreign villains, Jason’s greatest source of irritation appears to be Ryland (Ronald Lacey), an oily specimen from Whitehall who keeps inviting the ex-golden boy of British Intelligence to do one last job.

And Isn’t That... Yes, it’s Patrick Troughton, in That Isn’t Me, It’s Somebody Else, playing Jason King’s most unlikely double! But there’s generally more excitement about Felicity Kendal’s appearance in the jaw-droppingly silly, but fun, Toki.

Fashion Essentials: Complementing King’s remarkably huge hair, he typically can be seen in extravagant tailor-made suits with raw silk collar and tie and trademark upturned cuffs.

  Flamboyant fop: Peter Wyngarde as Jason King

Wanna Buy a Television Series?
Jason tries to sell a Mark Caine TV series to an American network chief. Sharply observed, with whole scenes being replayed and actors recast to accommodate the peculiar demands imposed by television

If it’s Got to Go, it’s Got to Go
Jason books into a health clinic where secret agents are losing their marbles. But Jason’s worries don’t end there. Where’s the next three course meal coming from? And why has his yo-yo gone limp?


All That Glisters :
The worst episode; a dull two-parter featuring far too much of an American private eye and not enough of King; don’t watch it until you’re on at least your fifth bottle of champagne.


Jason King
available on Carlton Video (and DVD)
at Blackstar


Michael Haslett

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2000.
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