Here Come The Brides premierred on ABC on September 25, 1968. The western series was loosely based on the historical figure Asa Mercer’s efforts to bring civilization to frontier Seattle in the 1860s by bringing over marriageable women from the East Coast, where the American Civil war left many towns short of men. The show, despite being somewhat dated by modern standards, is considered to be a classic. Even so, it only aired for two seasons before being canceled in 1970.
While Here Come The Brides only aired for two seasons, it made a very significant mark on television. Keep watching to discover why, despite enjoying a lively fan base, the series ended up getting the ax so early on in it’s run.
The Legend Of The Mercer Girls
Screen Gems got it’s start as an animation studio in the 1930s, but by the 1960s, they were already heavily involved in TV production – primarily producing sitcoms.
Due to the popularity of programs like Gunsmoke, Screen Gems set out to develop a western series of their own. They wanted to incorporate elements of comedy in a similar way to how Bonanza accomplished the same thing.
In 1967, producer Bob Claver was hired on to create a series based on the historical Mercer Girls of Seattle.
In 1864, Seattle pioneer Asa Mercer delivered a rousing speech in Massachusetts celebrating the many virtues of Seattle. In that speech, he noted that the fast-growing Pacific Northwest city desperately needed educated single women of good moral fiber to work as school teachers.
Eleven ladies chose to take Mercer up on his offer, and several months later after making the long and grueling journey out west that included train passage across the Panama isthmus, the first batch of Mercer Girls arrived in Seattle via boat on Elliott Bay.
Immediately, the women had an impact on the male-dominated frontier culture of Seattle. Two years later, Mercer put together a second expedition that brought another 34 single women to Puget Sound. Some of the women stayed in Seattle to teach, while others wound up in schoolhouses in places like Centralia.
The majority of the women eventually got married. One of these ladies became the assistant light keeper on Whidbey Island and several other Puget Sound families can trace their roots directly back to the Mercer Girls.
In Here Come the Brides, many historical points were re-imagined for television. For example, instead of Asa Mercer being the one to bring the girls out west, it was a man named Jason Bolt. This fictional character ran a lumber mill with his two younger brothers, Joshua and Jeremy.
Instead of bringing a few dozen brides-to-be to Seattle, 100 women made the arduous journey west with the strong-willed Candy Pruitt being their de facto leader. The period that the show was set was also switched up. While the Mercer Girls arrived out west in the 1860s, the women in Here Come the Brides showed up in the 1890s.
While the series still took place in Seattle, it was filmed at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank.
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All The Right Ingredients
Actor Robert Brown played Jason Bolt, while his brothers were played by Bobby Sherman and David Soul. Candy Pruitt was played by actress Bridget Hanley. Mark Lenard, who would later play Spock’s Vulcan father, Sarek, in the Star Trek franchise, played sawmill owner Aaron Stempel.
The cast was rounded out by veteran screen actress Joan Blondell who played saloon owner Lottie Hatfield. After the ladies show up in Seattle, it’s Hatfield that steps up to the plate and takes them under her wing.
During the show’s development, Blondell’s character earned the title Mama Damnation. This was likely a subtle nod to Seattle’s Mother Damnable, whose real name was Mary Ann Conklin. This sharp-tongued firebrand was the city’s first hotelier.
By the time that the show’s pilot had been written by N. Richard Nash, Blondell’s character had been softened somewhat to be a little more TV friendly.
After Here Come the Brides premiered on September 25, 1969, it received rave reviews from outlets like TV Guide and Variety. The series received very promising ratings and proved to be particularly popular with young female viewers who couldn’t help but crush over teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman. Families also tended to enjoy the show as it wasn’t afraid to take on major social issues such as women’s rights, poverty, and racial discrimination.
The show was especially popular in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest – a region that rarely got any screen time on TV at the time. Seattlites adored the show’s theme song – especially when lyrics were added to it halfway through the first season. The song, which included the line ‘The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle’, later became a hit for singer Perry Como who put out his rendition of it in 1969.
It’s also worth noting that Bruce Lee, who had attended high school and college in Seattle, made an early appearance in the episode ‘Marriage: Chinese Style’. At the time, Lee was best known for playing the character Kato on the Green Hornet, but not long after making this appearance, he became famous for his martial arts movies.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Here Come The Brides’ ratings were so high during it’s first season that ABC renewed it for a second season. But for it’s second season, the network decided to make a few changes to it’s format. They wanted the show to have more action, so they scaled back the humor. That move, unfortunately, didn’t go over too well with the show’s fans.
The real nail in the coffin came when ABC decided to move it’s broadcast time from 7:30pm on Wednesday nights to the so-called death slot of Friday night at 9:00pm.
Not surprisingly, the show’s ratings rapidly plummeted, and by the end of season two, it was canceled. Following it’s cancellation, KOMO-TV in Seattle received so many angry phone calls that they decided to air reruns of the series before it had entered into syndication.
The Star Trek Connection
Strangely, years after Here Come the Brides wrapped up, another Star Trek connection was made, making the series and it’s cast of characters a minor yet notable part of the Star Trek universe. In 1985 the Star Trek novel Ishmael was published.
In the book, Spock travels back in time to Seattle, where he ends up losing his memory. He gets taken in and cared for by Aaron Stempel. Spock’s presence helps set the ball in the motion that leads to a romance forming between Stempel and one of the brides. The two eventually end up getting married.
Once back in the future, Spock discovers that the Stempels are in fact his great-great-great-grandparents.
Another Star Trek tie-in worth noting is the fact that actress Jane Wyatt, who played Spock’s mom in the original series, made a guest appearance in the last episode of Here Come the Brides, Two Women.
Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry’s wife and the actress who played Nurse Chapel on Star Trek, played a character named Tessa in the first season episode ‘Lovers and Wanderers’.
The French Spin-Off
A French-language adaptation of the series and it’s theme song which was performed by a chorus of male singers, was a massive hit in French Canada.
The French series capitalized on the immense popularity of the American version, but it also benefited by the fact that a similar ‘bride drive’ incident is also a part of the Quebecois mythos.
A Re-Release Took Decades
Although Here Come the Brides proved to be a cultural phenomenon of sorts when it first debuted, it would take many years for the show to get a re-release.
Reruns were aired on CBN in the mid-80s. In early 2011, Antenna TV began airing reruns of the series. In fall 2021, the series began airing on the MeTV+ streaming service. In January of 2022, GetTV started airing episodes on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:15 am Eastern time.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment put out the first season on DVD in 2006. In 2011, Shout! Factory announced that they had acquired the home distribution rights to the series and later released the second season on DVD in 2012.
With that, we’ll go ahead and wrap this video up. But before we close things out, we’d love to hear from you!
Where you a fan of Here Come the Brides? If so, what are some of your favorite episodes of the classic western? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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