Friday, May 15, 2015

B.J. and the Bear S1 E9: Crackers

Originally aired on April 28, 1979
Teleplay by Michael Sloan
Story by Michael Sloan and Glen A. Larson
Directed by Michael Caffey

The first season of B.J. and the Bear begins to wind down. And, possibly, they're out of story ideas. It's a little tough to tell and, frankly, it doesn't really matter. What we have learned is that B.J. sticks up for the underdog and, generally, saves the day with the help of his pal, Bear. That's all we need. Crackers is a completely average but entertaining entry in the Canon.

 The Ferris Wheel. There is a lady hanging off of that

 The inmate who can't help her

B.J. is passing through a small town at night when a drunk jerk, named Jason T. Rockman, almost sends the rig off the road. It causes some damage to our favorite big, red truck. The next morning, B.J. is getting a repair done when 2 things happen: 1) he learns that Rockman is the man who "owns" the town and 2) he is hired to haul some people to a carnival. B.J. responds in two ways: 1) he goes to the jerk to demand repayment for damages and gets in a fistfight and 2) he ends up hauling a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest bunch of mental institution inmates to the carnival. More trouble ensues.

 Who you gonna call?

Bear can't look!

I'm sure this is something that exists all over America but it seems to be a very late-1970s/ early-1980s TV thing to me: the small town completely ruled by one tyrannical man who controls the police and who scares the population. The jerk in this one has just inherited everything from his deceased father and so he is "flexing his power." (I'd like to think his dad's first name is Dick.) Rockman almost causes an accident and expects no consequences. He believes he his above B.J. and doesn't have to pony up to his responsibility. He gleefully sends men to beat B.J. up. (Their asses are handed to them by Mr. McKay.) And, Rockman demands that the Sheriff throw the inmates out of the carnival. Yes, J.T. Rockman is a jackass. And, luckily, in the end, they don't have him repent. He is stopped (not really a Spoiler) but not through Redemption. Which is fine with me.

 B.J., that is one heck of a drop

B.J. starts off singing Just The Way You Are. I am not a fan of his musical tastes but then I always thought Samson's hair was over the top. McKay gets in the auto hassle. Takes the inmates to the carnival. Helps a fellow Vietnam Vet. Saves two people on a stuck Ferris Wheel. And saves the day when angry inmates kidnap Rockman and lead him into a drag race. Actually, it's a pretty standard day for B.J. I do like how angry he gets when someone damages his rig. He rarely gets that angry. And then, there's that scene with the Ferris Wheel.

 This is very high off the ground.
Lady on the right, B.J. on the left

Sometimes a story can be paced wrong. The climax can occur long before the climax is actually supposed to occur. A good example is the James Bond film Octopussy where the final attack sequence is not nearly as thrilling as the chase on the train and the confrontation at the circus. Kenneth Johnson's TV show Cliff Hangers! does the same thing with its Curse of Dracula sequence. The penultimate episode is the emotional end. The final episode is just wrap-up. Crackers does the same thing. B.J.'s rescue of two patients on the Ferris Wheel is thrilling, heroic stuff. Later in the series, there will be a Ferris Wheel fight (I forget which episode) that is somewhat better. But, for pure heroics, this scene wins. Unfortunately it makes the remainder of the episode feel a bit rote. If Rockman isn't convinced by B.J.'s heroics here, there's no hope. Let's wrap this up.

 Climbing down with lady

 Safe and sound on the ground

The episode tends to meander along for quite a bit. Going nowhere fast. There is a whole slew of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in here. Mixed with B.J. and the Bear hanging out and saving the day. The climactic car chase does everything it can to be awesome and it is but the Ferris Wheel scene is tough to beat. And the plot mechanics of the episode don't help. In fact, after the Wheel Rescue, it seems like there may not have been a script and everyone was vamping until the end. Who knows? If you like B.J. and his pal, Bear, this is a fun one...  not great but, simply, fun. Could this be to lull us into a false sense of complacency for the looming Season Finale? What do Larson & Pals have up their sleeves? Will there be a Second Season?

Do Not Go On Wikipedia Until We Meet Next Time!

 Let's give that guy a hand

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