Friday, October 12, 2018

BJ AND THE BEAR S3 E11: S.T.U.N.T.


Originally aired on March 31, 1981
Directed by Daniel Haller
Teleplay by Michael Sloane
Story by Michael Sloane and Richard Lindheim

BJ, Stacks, Callie and Bear are hauling a bunch of equipment to a movie studio. The studio is shooting something called "Nightmare," which is a horror thing with lots of stunts. While there, BJ meets up with Steven Thomas Ulysses Nathaniel Travis, AKA STUNT. His team of stuntmen are doing all the gags for this show. One of the stuntmen is Jake O'Brien (Buster Crabbe), an old time stunt guy who seems to be taking one too many risks. His daughter, Tess, is the star of the show. But, someone seems to be sabotaging the production. And there seem to be some mob guys there. And there's a huge stunt that BJ may end up doing instead of Jake. And, well, lots of things.
 Best stunt in the episode
Oddly enough, they never ask BJ to do anymore.
(Although, he does. But, that's BJ for ya.)

Let's get the not-so-great stuff out of the way. The episode opens with the gang on the way to the studio. They see an out of control car with a woman screaming for help. BJ leaps from the rig into the convertible and saves the day. But, there's a helicopter overhead with a camera and a cameraman in the car! BJ, what have you done? Now we've seen this sort of stuff before. The hero wandering onto a film/ TV set not realizing what's going on. But this one is really dumb.
 Tip to filmmakers: Block off the flippin' road, you ding dongs.

There's that helicopter above their heads for one. There's the fact that the cameras aren't really well hidden. Plus, why isn't the road closed off? If it is, how did BJ get on it? If it's not closed off, then maybe they shouldn't be so angry when a heroic trucker tries to save the day? Maybe the way it was written made more sense. Maybe a roadblock fell over or BJ got lost or something...  But, as it stands, this ends up making everyone look stupid, especially when you see how mad the film people get. This is not how you do stuff like this. Having said that, the rest of this episode is one of the best of this season.

 Bear causes some trouble with the fire and the flame and the Oh Lady!!

It helps by leaving Grant out of it and just featuring two of the gals. Callie is still annoying (and actually doesn't do much). But, Stacks is turning out to be the most interesting new character. Yes, she's a bit dim. But, she's sweet, considerate, very loyal and has a nice streak of curiosity in her makeup. I could watch BJ, Stacks and the Bear for a couple of seasons and always enjoy it.

 There's Stunt and Tess...  and Stacks!

The other element that really helps is that this one feels like a Season One episode. BJ and the gang go somewhere. Make some friends. Get involved in chicanery and save the day. It really hearkens back to the time when the show was going great guns. There should be more episodes like this. Is it Michael Sloane who brings this out in the show? I'm not sure. But this is a more engaging episode than many of the others this season.
March 19, 1981! Where were you?

The plotting itself is good and a bit over-complicated. (In a good way, though.) It seems like a simple "Someone is sabotaging the production" kind of story. There's a lot more going on here, including the O'Brien plot line with some mob-like guys. There's some nice misdirection as to who might be sabotaging the show. And then, just when it seems like things might be slowing down, there's a huge bar-fight that, almost, comes out of nowhere. Hey, in an episode ostensibly about stunt people, why not assemble a ton of them in a bar and have them throw each other around for a while?
 If you're going to fill your bar with stuntmen,
have them fight.

The pace of the episode is nicely done. It sets up the final big stunt early on. First by showing of some fire gags related to it. Then, we see the schematic for it and the actual set-up. Then, BJ and Stunt do the stunt. It's pretty impressive. And it's one of those big story moments where it happens and then, hooray!, everything's all right. It doesn't actually quite wrap up the episode completely but it's exciting enough to bring things to a close.


 There's all kind of stunts going on in here

The character of Tess brings up the continuing problem with the new format of the show. Stacks is constantly flirting with BJ and he's flirting back. But, the producers really don't want him getting involved with his employees so we get Tess. The "Woman BJ falls for and vice versa this week." Back in the day, there was a love 'em and then leave attitude that befit the character's travels and wanderings. But, he's settled now and she lives in Los Angeles where he is. Why can't they see each other more? He's not vanishing halfway across the country. He'll be near her. So what's the problem with the relationship continuing? The two formats clash here and they end up not making much sense alongside one another. As I've mentioned before, it feels like someone didn't think something through.

 Crabbe!
 Burning Crabbe!

This isn't Hooper or Stunt Rock. But, it is a very good episode of the show very late in its run. Although, yes, why they're making something horror-related instead of an action film is slightly confusing. But, it is early 1981, and we are all horror crazy at the time. Anyway, watch this one. You'll be glad you did.
I'd watch the heck out of this show.
(I guess I kind of am.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

BJ and the BEAR S3 E10: Seven Lady Captives

Originally aired on March 24, 1981
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II
Written by Tom Sawyer

In today's episode of lighthearted "comedy" show BJ and the Bear, Captain Grant arranges for the Seven Lady Truckers to be kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. They will be flown to Mexico where they will harvest some guy's marijuana crop and then they'll be shot and killed. How is BJ and his best friend Bear going to get the ladies out of this? And isn't it time to bring back that old couple, the Tiptons, from a few episodes ago?
 1, 2, 3
 4, 5
 6, 7
And this jackball

My opening statement: Mexican Drug Cartels as entertainment soured with me about halfway through Breaking Bad. If I encounter a Mexican Drug Cartel in a movie or TV episode, I will skip it. They long ago stopped being entertaining or even remotely interesting to me. But, for completion's sake, I watched this episode of BJ and the Bear.
 I'm not good with big hugs

Your van is fabulous


"The impossibility is your specialty, B.J." - Hatsie
This looks familiar

Well, she's not wrong there. But, oh boy! The tone of this episode. It's off from the get go and just gets weirder. The ladies arrive at the airport. They are immediately put on a plane at gunpoint. They go to Mexico and are suddenly on this compound-like ranch to harvest weed. That's terrifying! Seven attractive women are kidnapped and taken to the middle of nowhere in a foreign country...  with drug runners! And, the fact that Grant arranged it is extra gross and sleazy. Oh, did I mention one of the guys (they're almost all white) at the ranch is pretty rapey? This is dark stuff.
 Joe
 Sleaze
Stacks

And yet, BJ is having one hell of a good time. Once he arrives in Mexico, he seems giddy or something. He laughs a lot at things. He's having a kickass vacation! He gets to plan a siege on a ranch! It's fun. It's what he does. He meets a priest who helps him out. (The village where the ranch is located is deserted, thanks to the cartel.) He also meets the priest's niece Dolores and they enjoy one another's company. (Wink wink.) When BJ and her are scoping out the compound, they laugh and smile a lot. All the while the ladies are being forced to harvest a crop of pot under threat of death from any number of assault rifles.

A priest, a trucker and a chimp walk into a church...

There have been screwball tone issues in this show but this is a tough one to reconcile. Way back in "The Murphy Contingent" BJ and pals had to storm a gangster's home. But, this feels very different. In "Murphy," they were after something or other in the home. Here it's trying to free BJ's seven lady friends/ employees before they get brutally murdered (and who knows what else) by drug cartel guys. Huh? This episode kept me uneasy throughout. But, not uneasy in a good way that I enjoyed. More like anxious uneasy. Something I'd need to take a pill for to calm me down. And I didn't enjoy that. I am glad that BJ and friends win in the end. I'm glad he got to kiss Dolores a lot. Grant gets off far too easy though. He's completely ineffectual against the bad guys. But, somehow he winds up getting a medal for bringing in this cartel. Again, Huh?
Tiptons are in the house

BJ calls Grant out on this one. He calls Grant a sleaze. BJ is not wrong. In exchange for a bunch of money, he sells our main ladies into, more or less, slavery with death as the outcome. He says 1) that his daughter wasn't supposed to be involved and that was a mistake and 2) he didn't know the gals would get killed. Grant, you're a real douche sometimes. I'll leave it there.
 

Chaos of all kinds, including Chimp-related

OK. So, once the schizophrenic tone is dealt with the question hangs there: Is this a good episode of BJ and the Bear? Um, I guess so.  It does what an episode of the show is supposed to do at this point. It doesn't particularly treat the ladies well or give them a heck of a lot to do. Samantha does a card trick. Callie whines and complains. (And gets slapped by that rapey jackass.) Stacks is flirty and ditzy. But, there's no further character development for anyone. Having the seven of them together doesn't do much but take up lots of space. I guess it's OK to have Hatsie and Fred back. But, after two episodes, their character potential seems tapped. BJ does pull of a crazy coup in the compound and it all ends with a Bear-related joke. So, yes. This is a good episode of the show. Is it one I highly recommend? Not really.
 Dance with me, fools!

Can't stop the bump

(That air looks a little suspect)*
The director is trying his best. There are lots of great tracking shots and several cool angels. For example, the fight BJ has with the guy at the airport has a great opening shot. And, for another example, watch the long take of Dolores and BJ moving down a hill toward the compound. People are trying. It just feels wonky. One more odd thing: Does it feel like it takes forever for the rescue operation to actually happen? I know it's the climax but portions of the episode feel like "OK, let's slow this down. We've got time to fill here." That could be just me. I wanted the gals out of there. Stat! That weighed on me throughout. Oh, and the rapey guy doesn't get beat up nearly enough. 


You knew it would end like this, didn't you?
 
*I guess using the work "looks" in the context of describing air already means there's a problem.
 
I just love life!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

BJ and the Bear S3 E9: A Bear In The Hand

Originally aired on March 17, 1981
Directed by Chrisatian I. Nyby II
Written by Michael Halperin


Yes, BJ, we all like pants too

Grant and Steiger kidnap Bear! Plus, there's a lady from the government (who is good "friends"*) with Grant investigating S.C.A.T. regarding funds. In order to get Bear back, BJ begins a campaign of shenanigans. Will it be enough?


 Scuzzy Adams tries to kidnap Bear
Steiger brought his Chimp Sack (TM)

Hooray! Another super fun episode. Three in a row! Thank Goodness. I was getting a little lost in the negative for a while there. This one succeeds by simply being fun. At the very start, we get to see an average day in the life of BJ and the seven lady truckers. Coming back from hauling a load. Sending Stacks out to pick something up. All charming. I could have watched an episode of that. Then, people start trying to kidnap Bear. I wasn't fully on board with that at first. However, at the point where Steiger tries to kidnap Bear (and does), I realized that this was wackiness occurring and I hadn't caught on. Huzzah!


We must! We must! We must explode his bust!

Grant has a girlfriend? Gross. Well, he does have a child so he must have had a wife. But, still...

You think this is rough
You should see the European cut

Once BJ has Grant tell him that all bets are off and there are no more rules (not in so many words but more or less that), then the episode becomes fun. Actually, as I'm thinking about it, if they picked up the pace a bit it could have been even more fun. BJ rigs a bust of Grant with explosives and blows it up during a ceremony unveiling it. He ties a chain around Grant's bumper so when he leaves his home wackiness ensues. And he has Stacks sew a receiver into Grant's coat so they can listen to him.


Whomp 'em, BJ!

It's that receiver that provides a nice little twist near the end. (SPOLIER-ish!) BJ and friends learn some info about something at the S.C.A.T. station regarding Bear and the company's books. BJ and one of the gals (Grant's daughter Cindy) plan to sneak in. Grant finds the receiver and loudly announces that he's changing the plan. To trap BJ! Oh no! I honestly didn't expect that. I thought it would be clean sailing for BJ all the way through. It's a nice touch. It makes a perfect excuse for all the fun stunting and nighttime car chases that follow! Hooray again!


Shenanigans, Sexy

There's a very interesting moment in this episode. At the end, BJ has given a copy of S.C.A.T.'s books to the lady. It looks like there might be some trouble for Grant! But, he tells BJ, that there won't be. All the books will show is that $47,000 seem to be unaccounted for and he will make sure that money is accounted for before she comes back. BJ did all that and came up with nothing. BJ points out (setting aside getting Bear back) that it doesn't matter because he had fun and he annoyed Grant. It's very rare for a show like this to state something like that outright. "You think you saved the day but you did very little and I'll still be here next time." Rarer still for the hero to say "I know. I'm having fun." It's a nice moment. Grant and BJ seem to know that this is a game and they enjoy playing it. (Although, Grant does usually get the short end of the stick.)
 Bear Has Got A Gun
Quit Goofing, Steiger

I really enjoyed this episode. It was a little slow... or maybe too long? I'm not sure. It went on a bit longer than I thought it would but that's OK. I do wish (as I mentioned) That they could have come up with some more fun stuff for BJ to do to Grant but you can't have it all. Three good ones in a row! Come on, show. You've got five episode left. You can do this.

Cat chase stuff

Do take note: Bear has been "featured" in three episodes of the show. One per season. Each time it's about him getting abducted in some fashion. Hey, if the shoe fits wear it. Hey, if the banana peels, slip on it. Hey, it's a chimp dressed like a guy named Bear! It's everything.


Comedy is funnier when damp

*"Friends" with their mouths, if you know what I mean.

I just felt like more Stacks