Remember the series “Young Indiana Jones” about the youth of the famous archaeologist-adventurer, formerly broadcast in France on TF1 between 1994 and 1995.
For those who saw the introduction of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with a young Indiana Jones played by River Phoenix, there was clearly room to show more scenes with the character. This is also what George Lucas said to himself, and he immediately started work on a series dedicated to this young hero.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones is a series broadcast from March 1992 to July 1993 on the American channel ABC. Created by George Lucas, as its title suggests, it recounts the early years of Henry Jones Jr., notably his adventures around the world during which he met the most famous personalities of his time.
Each episode of the show is constructed according to a recurring format: old Indy (shown one-eyed, played by George Hall) serves as an introduction and tells a story from his past, from the time when he was a child or young man, then follows a flashback which constitutes the heart of the adventure, then we find old Indy who concludes the story.
The action takes place from 1908 to 1920, and “Indy” is played by Sean Patrick Flanery (young man version) and Corey Carrier (child version). River Phoenix, now a star, left for the movies and could not or would not return to the role.
The series is above all designed to be educational, hence the fact that the episodes will introduce major scientific, historical and/or political figures to Indiana. It is then an opportunity for young audiences to get to know notable celebrities of the early 20th century: Eliot Ness, Charles de Gaulle, Pancho Villa, Bram Stoker, Louis Armstrong and Wyatt Earp among many others.
In terms of Indiana Jones “lore”, we learn during the series that the character lived to at least 93 years old, that he has a daughter and grandchildren. A plot totally ignored by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull then the Dial of Destiny, since Professor Jones has no daughter but a son.
Harrison Ford, the Indiana Jones of the big screen, refuses to appear there, except for one episode, to please his friend Lucas. This is episode 5 of season 2, titled Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues. Ford replaces “old Indy”, because the “contemporary” scene of the episode takes place in 1950, 5 years after the introductory scene of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
Expensive filming and complicated distribution
Filming the first fifteen episodes of season 1 was very expensive, as it was spread over almost a year and in more than 15 countries around the world. The broadcast of the series was completely chaotic, and began with six episodes revealed between March and April 1992, before the audiences, although decent, disappointed ABC, which put a stop to it.
At the start of the 1992 school year, 4 new episodes were still broadcast from September to October as a marker for the start of season 2, with 14 additional episodes from March to July 1993. But, the audiences having plummeted, the last four episodes will never be released. broadcast by ABC.
George Lucas still managed to finance a third season of 4 TV films (each containing two episodes linked as best they could) thanks to The Family Channel from 1994 to 1996, before having to end the adventure prematurely.
Lucas the demiurge
As always with Lucas, the series will be altered twice during its edition on physical media:
- With the VHS release of 1999, which divided the series into TV films, each bringing together two episodes linked by unpublished scenes and added two new episodes.
- During the DVD release in 2008, with the episodes in chronological order (with the adventures of the hero’s child version first) and cutting the parts with old Indy.
Since then, the series has not been reissued, and even less in its original version, which has become very difficult to watch. The recent box office failure of Indiana Jones 5 is not encouraging, because its inability to revive the license means that disinterest in the 90s show is more than certain on the part of Disney.
We can always hope for the series to be put on Disney+, which would be more than welcome so that a new audience can rediscover this ambitious attempt which did not have the success it deserved.