TV networks are always making shows that are “inspired” by recently-popular movies, but they usually try to disguise their “inspiration” a little bit. But with Tales of the Gold Monkey, a one-season cult flop from 1982, there was very little disguise: this was an adventure story set in the ’30s about a rugged, gruff globe-trotting adventurer (Stephen Collins) in a beat-up jacket and boots and a hat. Oh, and there are Nazis and snakes.
Donald P. Bellisario, who created the show — he’s better known for creating Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, Airwolf, JAG and NCIS — claimed that he thought of the idea (“inspired” by many of the same movies and serials that Indiana Jones borrowed from) before Indiana Jones existed. And that’s true, on a purely chronological basis. He was trying to get this show made for three years before the advent of Raiders of the Lost Ark (and Don Bellisario’s newfound success as the creator of Magnum) got ABC to buy it. But that just demonstrates what we still see today: no matter when you came up with an idea, you have a better chance of getting a pilot and series order from a network if that idea is similar to a movie that’s just come out.
The show itself was pretty silly, and the endless ripoffs of other movies — not just Raiders but The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Only Angels Have Wings, etc — was very crass. But it does have a bit of a cult following, as I said. I think it’s the plane. Most action shows from that era had a really cool car, or a really cool helicopter; this was one of the few that had an airplane as the vehicle, and unofficial star of the show.
The guy who posted this to YouTube hasn’t posted the whole pilot, just the first 20 minutes and the last 10 minutes, but that gives you the idea. Note that like many double-length pilots of the era, this has a different opening-credits sequence, one that’s intended to make the episode look like a movie (so that in case it’s not picked up, the pilot can be sold as a feature film overseas).
Conclusion of the pilot: