With last week’s news about Bruce Campbell reprising his iconic role as Ashley J. Williams in Ash vs. The Evil Dead on Starz in 2015, I thought it might be fun to take a look at Mr. Campbell’s most notable roles on television. And so, This week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesday focuses on the television roles of Bruce Campbell. A quick note, I am not counting his upcoming Evil Dead TV series as it hasn’t yet aired.
10. Weird Science – Gene the Genie
Appearing in a late episode of the 1990s NBC series Weird Science (a TV adaptation of the 1985 film classic of the same name). In the episode, I Dream of Gene, Campbell played Gene, a 4000 year old genie who romanced fellow genie Lisa before running off with his old master’s maid.
09. Psych – Dr. Ashford N. Simpson
The last season of Psych was ripe with high profile guest stars. My favorite? an appearance by Bruce Campbell himself in the series penultimate episode A Nightmare on State Street. In the episode, Gus traverses a dreamscape, guided by dream therapist Dr. Ashford N. Simpson (Bruce Campbell).
08. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Bill Church Jr.
Yes, Bruce Campbell played a Superman villain. As a leader of Intergang, Campbell’s Bill Church Jr. was a corrupt businessman who conspired with his step mother to steal his father’s business before she turned on him, allowing father and son to reunite in jail. Bill Church Jr. most notably used red kryptonite on Superman to make him apathetic towards crime.
07. American Gothic – Lt. Drey
Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert produced series American Gothic was trying to capture the sinister small town vibe of Twin Peaks. As with most Raimi/Tapert productions, a guest role from Bruce Campbell was a necessity. In the episode Meet the Beetles, Campbell played Lt. Drey, a detective who visits the mysterious town of Trinity to investigate his sister’s death. While in town he runs afoul of the evil sheriff Lucas Buck, and ends up suffering a horrific fate. While his role was small, his death was memorable.
06. The X-Files – Wayne Weinsider
Campbell’s 1 episode appearance in The X-Files 6th season episode Terms of Endearment acted as a sort of deconstruction of the classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby. As Wayne Weinsider, Campbell played a demon desperate to have a normal human child. Wayne had been terminating the pregnancies of his many wives, when the fetuses exhibit demonic traits. In a shocking twist, one of his wives turns out to be a demon herself, who was terminating the pregnancies of the children she conceived without demonic traits.
05. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess – Autolycus
Now we begin to get to his Mr. Campbell’s more interesting television roles. Raimi/Tapert’s syndicated TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess needed a recurring Bruce Campbell role. The role in question turned out to be that of Autolycus, the King of Thieves, a suave, adventurous thief that routinely crossed paths with both Hercules and Xena. My favorite moment? A time traveling episode in which older Autolycus teams with younger Autolycus to pull off a heist he failed in his youth. The episode, The End of the Beginning, featured one of my favorite Campbell quotes. “Autolycus, you are going to age like a fine wine.”
04. Burn Notice – Sam Axe
In perhaps his most notable TV role, Bruce Campbell portrayed retired Navy Seal Sam Axe in the USA spy drama Burn Notice. Burn Notice ran for 7 seasons, and a TV movie spin-off focusing on Campbell’s character. Campbell appeared in all 111 episodes of the series, as well as the spin-off that focused on his character. Sam Axe was a resourceful asset and best friend for series protagonist Michael Westen. As Westen’s right hand man, Sam Axe shot a variety of guns, participated in high speed chases, and took on the notorious alias of Chuck Finley. Oh yeah, he also drank a fortune worth of alcohol, and slept with a number of rich older women. Sam Axe was all class.
03. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess – Rob Tapert
Bruce Campbell played another role (besides that of Autolycus) in both Hercules and Xena. He played the fictionalized version of his real life friend and partner Rob Tapert in 3 meta episodes from the 2 series. This ranks so highly on our list because it is hilarious for anybody who knows about the working relationship of Campbell, Tapert, and Raimi to see one of them portray another. In the episodes, which take place in modern times, Campbell (as Tapert) is working as the head of Renaissance Pictures (the real production company behind many of Raimi and Tapert’s works), struggling to create stories for the Hercules and Xena TV series. I do not think any other show has gotten as meta as Hercules and Xena did with those 3 episodes, the closest would perhaps be Supernatural. Both series were significantly ahead of their time.
02. Jack of All Trades – Jack Stiles / Daring Dragoon
In yet another Renaissance Pictures, Sam Raimi/Rob Tapert production, Bruce Campbell played post Revolutionary War spy Jack Stiles in the syndicated series Jack of All Trades. Borrowing much from Hercules and Xena’s loose basis on history and mythology. Jack of All Trades was a hilarious comedy adventure series with Campbell in the lead role. The series featured acrobatic wire fights with Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from Austin Powers) as Napoleon Bonaparte, formidable sexual innuendo, and hilarious historical inaccuracies. In addition to acting as a spy for Jefferson, Jack Stiles donned a mask as the zoro-esque The Daring Dragoon. There isn’t much else to say about this mostly unknown action comedy gem. Unfortunately, Jack of All Trades is not currently available to stream, though the DVD set of the complete 2 season series is still available through various retailers.
01. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. – Brisco County Jr.
This sci fi/fantasy/western/adventure/mystery series was co-created by Carlton Cuse (LOST), and featured a dashing young cowboy caught up in a plot involving time travel and giant orbs of immense power in the old west. A short lived cult favorite, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. followed the titular character, a Harvard-educated Lawyer, who becomes a Bounty Hunter after the death of his famous father, U.S. Marshall Brisco County Sr.. Brisco Jr. is hunting his father’s murderer, the outlaw John Bly. Bly is in fact a traveler from the future who is seeking mysteriously powerful orbs. The series only lasted 27 episodes. Like Jack of All Trades, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is currently unavailable on any legitimate streaming service, though the single complete season is still available on DVD through various retailers.
Do you agree with our list? Do you disagree? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of Bruce Campbell, his shows, and all of your favorite TV stars and shows.