The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (1992-1999) was a labor of love from producer George Lucas. Originally broadcast on ABC as The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, each episode of hour-long weekly series took viewers on a globetrotting journey with young Indiana Jones and his parents, landing in historical hotspots and meeting legendary figures. Lucas himself wrote the stories for nearly half of the episodes and gave the show impressive production values to match the scope of the stories.
The original TV run jumped around the historical timeline and bounced between stories of the adolescent and the teenage/young adult Indy. By the time it ended in 1996 it had morphed into a shorter season of feature-length TV movies. Lucas subsequently combined and reedited the earlier episodes, shot some new dramatic scenes, and transformed the hour-long series into a collection of 22 feature-length productions.
In “My First Adventure,” the thirteen-year-old Indy (played by Corey Carrier) takes a field trip with T.E. Lawrence through Arabia, specifically an archeological dig in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. In “Passion For Life,” he meets former President Teddy Roosevelt on safari in Kenya, and Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas in Paris. Max von Sydow plays Sigmund Freud in “The Perils of Cupid,” where the founders of modern psychoanalysis (Carl Jung and Alfred Adler join Freud) explain love to the infatuated Indy.
Sean Patrick Flanery takes the character through young adulthood for adventures with Thomas Edison, Pancho Villa, Sean O’Casey, Winston Churchill, and others. During the turbulent years of World War I, he fights as a soldier and a spy and crosses paths with the likes of Vladimir Lenin, Charles de Gaulle, The Red Baron, Albert Schweitzer, and Ernest Hemingway.
The series ends with Indy back in USA, finishing college and working his way through the great movements in popular culture, which oddly enough are my favorite episodes. “The Mystery of the Blues” features Harrison Ford as Indy in the framing sequence (his only TV appearance as the character) and Jeffrey Wright as Sidney Bechet, who gives young Indy lessons in the roots of jazz as well as the realities of racism and segregation. Indy hits Broadway (and meets the Algonquin Round Table) in “Scandal of 1920” and goes to west in “Hollywood Follies,” where he clashes with Erich von Stroheim and helps John Ford find his signature style. Truly, it seems that Indiana Jones was somehow involved in practically every major cultural and historical event of the early 20th century!
Flanery is a fine actor and it’s fun to watch him navigate 20th century history but it’s hard to imagine this plucky, eager young man as the seed that becomes the flinty adventurer played by Harrison Ford. There’s little in the writing or the performance that channel the character of the movies. That aside, the shows are entertaining and colorful and good fun. The drama was not always riveting but was a handsome show, shot on location around the world with great production values and a playful approach to history. And Lucas attracted an impressive list of international directors; the roster includes Bille August, Deepa Mehta, Mike Newell, Nicolas Roeg, Michael Schultz, Simon Wincer, and Joe Johnston.
The 22 feature-length episodes were first released on home video and that is the version that streams on Disney+.
Also on DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Complete Series [DVD]
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume One: The Early Years [DVD]
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume Two: The War Years [DVD]
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume Three: The Years of Change [DVD]
The DVD releases of the series also feature dozens of original companion documentaries on the people and places and historical details of the episodes, historical overviews, and interactive timelines.