Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 10 - Buffalo Bill Rides Again

Unaired on the network
Directed by Don McDougall
Written by Frank Telford

An opening note: An edited version of this episode constitutes the second half of the TV movie Riding With Death. It's tenuously linked with the episode Smithereens. And it's easy to mock because of that. The way the two episodes are joined together is sloppy and lackadaisical. On its own, however, Buffalo Bill Rides Again is as entertaining and exciting as its Bill-related predecessor. This one gives us more Bill. Some Bill background. It gives Bill a girlfriend. It gives Bill some new songs, with instrumentation this time and not just Acapella CB singing. It also gives Leonard a nemesis in the elusive Bob Denby.

Pals Meet Up!

...and then Sam meets Cupcake

A second note: Bob Denby is called "elusive" in a Riding With Death audio link. (I didn't hear anyone call him elusive in the actual episode.) And that's become a joke associated with this episode and its airing on Mystery Science Theater 3000. "The elusive Robert Denby" is amusing because Denby is featured heavily throughout the episode. It takes place at a racetrack where Denby has his own trailer. Leonard had a restraining order placed against him so Denby isn't really elusive. He's simply unavailable to Leonard via a court order. It does make for a chuckle. The actual episode, outside of Riding with Death, works better without that addition to Denby's resume.

Man thinking about Denby

Leonard is after Robert Denby. Denby has smuggled a highly volatile explosive, Dutrium, into the U.S. Unfortunately, Leonard does have that restraining order against him. And, an employee from Intersect appears to remind him of that. Often. Why isn't Abby doing this? The gentleman who is in this episode is handsome and charming in his own way but he's no Abby. Regardless, Leonard sends Sam Casey to a local racetrack where Denby is trying out a new car. Sam meets up with his trucking pal, Buffalo Bill, who is on the pit crew. Sam gets a job there. Bill has a girlfriend named Cupcake. Government stuff is being sabotaged with Dutrium. Tension builds when Bill is put in charge of driving the next race...  and we learn that Dutrium was built into the frame of the car! This might not go well. Our heroes could end up in smithereens.

It's a Taster's Choice moment...  with Sam & his co-workers

The plot here, ostensibly, is about Denby & The Dutrium. But, really it's about Sam and Bill rekindling their friendship and becoming sweet pals. They hang out, they brawl... and in this episode, Bill learns that Sam works for Intersect but Bill does not learn about Sam's invisibility. That would have been in their third meeting, no doubt. That would have been the episode where we learn that Bill can stretch himself like Mr. Fantastic. (In my dreams.) By the end of Buffalo Bill Rides Again, Bill is singing a song to Sam at the local bar and grill. And it's very cool. Sam looks a little embarrassed but he clearly likes Bill as a pal. Maybe the fourth episode would have further explored their relationship. We'll never know.

Pals can fight but still be pals

One of the things I noticed when I got near the end of Season 1 of BJ & The Bear is that--- unless the show goes crazy and wacky---  one can run out of meaningful things to say. Sam saves the day again. It's good to see Bill back. There are a few fistfights. There's a great sequence with Sam and Bill trying to get the Soon-To-Be-Exploding car away from the public. The whole adventure is plotted decently and all the way around it fulfills its remit: 50 minutes of entertainment. Gemini Man, after a movie and 10 episodes, has not fallen off the Good Time Wagon. And, there's probably a reason for that.

The more tense it gets, the more relaxed Denby gets

In the 1970s, nobody made entertaining (sometimes thrilling) television as well as the people who made 1970s television. If one isn't in the mood for/ doesn't like/ can't catch the groove of this type of TV, then you will be forever confused as to why a show like Gemini Man would be worth your time in 2015 or beyond. If you can't cultivate an enjoyment for it, that's cool. But, if you want to try a fun one, an unsung one, this show is that one.

 Sam Casey, Racing Fool
 Spread-Eagle Excitement!
That's what Dutrium'll do

Buffalo Bill Rides Again tells the story of a hick and an invisible man saving the Free World from an elusive man with Dutrium. The only drawback I can see to this episode is: No Abby. Zero. (She does appear in the Riding With Death version, however.) The rest of the episode, though, is Primo.

Enjoy these things...

And one more shot of Sam

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 9 - Suspect Your Local Police

Unaired on the network
Directed by Paul Krasny
Teleplay by Steven E. deSouza
Story by Rick Mittleman & Steven E. deSouza

Richard Jaeckel plays Nik Radinski an American Latvian cop who is part of the security for Alex Kadescho, a Litvanian national who will be speaking at a big Litvanian rally in the city. Intersect suspects that Radinski might be planning to assassinate Kadescho. So, Sam Casey cuts his hair and goes undercover as a cop to find out what Nik is up to. Will they save Kadescho? Will Radinski turn out to be an assassin? Will Sam be happy with shorter hair and no huge bellbottoms? Don't tune in tonight and find out! (Because the network never aired it, you see.)

Sorry, Short Hair Sam. You still look good, though.
Sort of like the pilot for Adam-12...
...but with an invisible guy.

This episode takes place mainly on the Universal back lots, which is, apparently, where Litvanians live. I used to be an extra so I recognized some of the twists and turns in the streets and the large area where everybody congregates for Kadescho's speech. It's fun. There's a joy in seeing these same, comfortable streets and storefronts appear again and again. Then suddenly, for the climax, they break out onto the Los Angeles freeway (albeit an unused stretch) and the world opens up and it becomes that much more exciting. (I like to think, although I'm probably wrong, that that stretch of freeway is the same one used in Stunt Rock.) But, my enjoyment of seeing back lots isn't actually indicative of the quality of anything. Is this a good episode?

Please, enjoy some fun faces (and cheap lettuce)

My memory must have gone screwball. I remember being very on the fence about Suspect Your Local Police. I like Richard Jaeckel. Who doesn't? I always imagine him and me having a couple beers. Talking about this, that and the other thing. And the conversation either ends with a hearty handshake or him beating the Ever Lovin' Crap out of me. He's that kind of guy. Have you seen the Ellery Queen he's in? There you go. For the rest of the episode, however, I remember giving it a shrug and a pass.

Who's this beardy guy talking to?

But it works. Sam cuts his hair and fits right in. Nik and he have a cool Adam-12 style relationship. Except it's as if Marty Milner is being blackmailed by Communists to assassinate a man and Kent McCord can turn invisible. (Yes, I know Kent was in Galactica 1980 but he didn't turn invisible.) The episode revolves around Nik and Sam driving around the Litvanian Back Lot and coming up against random thugs trying to extort shop keepers. Then, Nik visits with his fiancee who is in the hospital. She is being drugged by the Jerks who blackmail Nik. Sam sees it all (but they don't see him, if you know what I mean). (And if you don't, I've failed somewhere here in my reviews.) The Jerks force Nik to set up Sam to get shot...  Does Sam get shot and killed? Does Nik succeed? How many questions can I ask and not answer?

The Rally!
It was a good day for Litvanian extras
If you go undercover, don't stand next to your partner
A woman throws her flowers in the air
Traditional Litvanian activity!*

The folks behind Gemini Man were not jerks. They knew how to make a solid, entertaining show that had a few surprises up its sleeve. And, yes, we get some Abby in here for those Abby Fanz out there! Everything builds to the big rally and the Will the Assassination Succeed scene? Then, to add to the fun, there's a car chase. A pretty good car chase consisting of some sweet stunts and kickass driving. The great thing about this car chase is that it's different from the previous Gemini Man car chase in Run Sam, Run. That one was more about cars moving in unison across the screen doing crazy stunts, a la the Brewster McCloud car chase. The chase in Suspect Your Local Police is more a regular sort of high speed/ high tension chase. Both are great.

Never unload a bread truck near an adventure TV show

Stunting fun!

Gemini Man went off the air so quickly. My guess is (although I do not have the ratings) that the show never got a fair chance. Episodes like this one show that anything else going on of this variety  on TV at the time (like The Six Million Dollar Man or The Bionic Woman) was matched by Sam Casey and pals. There are only two episodes remaining. I know one of them is excellent. I'm hoping that the last one (which I remember disliking) will be excellent also.

Hooray! Happily Ever After...

Which one of these shots is the freeze frame?

*That's a lie. It's Invisible Guy stuff going on there.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gemini Man Episode Preview

I just watched the next Gemini Man episode for review.

Check this out!

Richard Jaeckel is working security at a rally

Someone is watching him...
 ...OR someone is watching Gemini Man on TV

It's Sam & Leonard!
They're big fans of their own show!

Why not, I say? It's a good show.

The next review is Coming Soon...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 8 - Targets

Unaired by the network
Directed by Michael Caffey
Written by James Carlson & Terrence McDonnell

Abby is only here in the opening and the closing. Take that as you will.

Sam is sent behind enemy lines. (Somewhere in Estonia via the San Fernando Valley.) A British scientist, Dr. Valerie Dawson, wants to defect to the U.S. But, she has a daughter, Nina, who is an archery champ and doesn’t want to go. The scientist also has a “handler” named Victor who keeps a close eye on her. The “handler” is also Nina’s archery coach. (Yes, there is Archery Action in this episode.) Sam sneaks into Estonia quite efficiently but that darn Nina (who seems to have a crush on Victor) causes problems. In the end, mother and daughter get closer together through adversity and Sam turns invisible a lot.
Dr. Dawson avoids a title 
 Dr. D with Carrier pigeon
Victor, Nina and some creepiness

This episode is the sort of thing that I thought Gemini Man was going to be from the start. Superspy Sam sent everywhere to use his invisibility powers to protect the Free World. But, the show Had Been something different than that. The stories felt less impersonal and more like Intersect was a cool gang that we were hanging out with. I liked that show very much. In the last four episodes (with one semi-exception), that show is gone. Super Sam the Super Spy is now here! Leonard is still here. He gets to ride in a helicopter. Unfortunately, as mentioned, Abby doesn’t fit in here, apart from briefings and debriefings. Oh well.
 The Gang!
Sam Likes Abby!
(We know how you feel, Sam.)

The first time I watched this episode I was very disappointed. What was hinted at in the previous episode was now reality…  this is a generic action/ adventure show with an invisible protagonist. For this review, I watched the episode again. Wonders will truly never cease. I quite enjoyed it. I’m not sure I would have stuck with this show beyond the remaining episodes if it had stayed like this. However, I had fun watching Targets.
(Check out the debris in the background.)
 Whistling Action!
The motorcycle is going fast here...

The scientist, the daughter, the coach: they’re all OK. Nina starts off annoying but improves. Dr. Dawson starts out condescending but that wears off. (And why be a jerk to the guy who just crossed enemy lines to rescue you? Adjust that attitude, lady!) Victor starts off scary and then becomes sleazy when he seems to semi-encourage Nina’s affections and then becomes scarier when he realizes what is happening. Dr. Dawson has a semi-nobel reason for what she’s doing. She was on our side and developed a biological weapon that she realized was too much for one side to have alone. So, she went over to the other side to give them the weapon so things would be even. But, things in the totalitarian nation aren’t so great and she wants back.
An invisible man drops a border barrier on a guard's head
If that ain't fun, I don't know what is

Sam is at his best in this episode. Using his invisibility quite often (almost abandoning the 15 minute thing) and pulling off little coups of escapism and fun. Plus, he’s congenial and charming and then pissed when the scientist is rude to him and the daughter threatens everything. We don’t normally see Sam angry and the look on his face when Nina is being whiny is great. He wants to help but he doesn’t want to be captured. Hey, if they take off his DNA stabilizer, they will learn a very big secret about him!
...and tanks!

I’m glad this episode surprised me. It’s basically one long rescue mission and it works. It may take some time to work past the clich├ęs of the characters. But, as long as one keeps their eye on Sam and lets the ride carry them along, it works. It’s good. Again, this surprised the heck out of me. Maybe I’ll love the rest of the episodes as much. And then I’ll really be sad that we only have 12. But, very grateful that they are available. Life is pretty cool sometimes.
One word: Awesome