Monday, November 09, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Trench Coats

Originally a key element of a military wardrobe designed for World War I, a trench coat is a raincoat of considerable length, sometimes covering neck to ankles.

In movie and TV language, the trench coat is synonymous with two things: secret agents, spies, and private dicks, and total, utter, coolness. 

Indeed, I remember owning a awesome black trench coat in college (in the late 1980s) that I wore all the time on campus.  I still have it, but I don’t wear it these days, unless I’m acting in one of Joel’s crazy movies or pretending to be Dr. Loomis.

The 1960s represents, perhaps, the great era of TV trench coats.  

Back then, the coats were not considered a cliché, or a visual joke.  Accordingly, trench coats were worn by the likes of Agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) on Get Smart (1965-1970) and Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968). Even Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) occasionally wore one on Mission: Impossible (1966-1972).

In the 1980s, detective Mike Hammer (Stacy Keach) often wore a beige trench coat, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) memorably donned on to play private detective Dixon Hill in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) titled “The Big Goodbye.”

In the 1990s, the police procedural format took off, and law enforcement officials like Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) on Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) on The X-Files (1993—2002) often wore them.

As styles changed, a new kind of trench-coat – leather in nature – came into fashion.  One was worn by John Crichton (Ben Browder) on Farscape (1999-2003) and by agent Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) on Alias (2001 – 2005).

In 2002, Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) wore a trench-coat in many episodes of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

When Doctor Who (2004 – present) was re-booted in the mid-2000s one of his recurring companions, Captain Jack (John Barrowman) wore a trench coat as part of his unofficial uniform. He continued to do so on the spin-off series Torchwood (2006-2011).

Recently, the Governor, a major villain on The Walking Dead (2010 – present) has also been seen dressing in a trench coat.

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