Monday, May 9, 2016

BJ And The Bear S2 E3: Cain's Cruiser

Originally aired on October 13, 1979
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II
Written by Robert L. McCullough

(As always, for some reason, I can't the screenshots to stop stretching. Sorry about that.)

Note: There is a new trucker introduced here named Frenchie. He wears a beret.

Second note: I believe Glen A. Larson was given a set of "Comedy Incidental Music" albums for a birthday. And, to possibly save some money, he had the editors score this episode and the two before it with tunes from those records. The wacky music here really has gone through the roof. Almost everything is scored with "wah wah wah" or dippy music...  even moments that shouldn't be "wacky."

 Erin Grey in the Proto-KITT

Erin Grey plays Samantha, an engineer who has designed the most technologically advanced, indestructible police cruiser. It's sort of KITT from Knight Rider but it looks clunkier and it doesn't talk. But, it does everything else. It goes through brick walls. It goes very, very fast. It can monitor tire pressure, vital signs and heartbeats on the people that it follows...  But, it's very expensive and the company who made it needs to sell one now. So, Sam and Mr. Morley, the company rep, go to Bishop County, where the police force is run by the notorious Captain Cain, played by Ed Lauter.


Cain is a 100% by the book officer who overspends hilariously to make sure his county has the finest everything. He is continually harassing the truckers who go through his county, including a young man name B.J. and his best friend Bear. He's also after a trucker who is hauling illegal aliens up "from the Gulf." (The episode keeps calling these people "aliens." My wife expected to see actual X-Files-style aliens. Their terminology may be very topical but it's slightly misleading.) He signs a lease on the Super Cruiser and begins Super Harassing the truckers, including Frenchie, a guy named Cooper and Tommy, the only one of the "7 Lady Truckers" who remains from the season opener.

 Super Car, outside and in

Yes, Country Comfort is back! And they still play terrible Eagles-esque soft rock all the time. (At one point, BJ says "Bear's favorite tape" and pops in The Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975. Bear is a chimp though. So I don't expect him to have good taste in music.) Bullets shows up. As mentioned, Janet Louise Johnson's character Tommy shows up. But, that's it. All the other characters are new ones that we won't see again. That seems a little odd to me. Out of the--  how many? 10, 12--  however many characters they introduced in the last 2-parter, only Bullets and Tommy are back? It seems odd.

 At the Country Comfort hot tub
 "I was just in a hot tub with Erin Grey!"

Cain is clearly ruthless when it comes to ticketing these truckers. In fact, he has to be because the county doesn't have the budget for the cruiser so everyone has to increase their ticket quota. Sam becomes disgusted by Cain and goes to visit BJ at Country Comfort...  in the hot tub...  in a bikini. BJ has great times. A lot of great times. They arrange an elaborate scheme to get the cruiser from Cain and catch the trucker hauling the "aliens." And it is one of those epic chase sequences where they break about 20 or 30 laws but everything's fine in the end. I'm going to refer to the law in these scenes as being "Larson's Law." You're under his jurisdiction now. And things are illegal until they're not.

The episode is pretty standard BJ and the Bear fun. It has action, beautiful women, mean sheriffs, good looking BJ and lots of shots of cars and rigs on dusty, dusty roads. Cain is a formidable character who may be incredibly overzealous but, unlike Lobo and Wiley & The Fox, he's not doing anything illegal. I applaud them trying to top load as many Lobo replacements as they could in the show. Is it repetitive? Well, yes. of course it is. Could it all be the setup for something bigger down the line? Possibly.

 Popsicle Time!

To me, the most fascinating thing about this episode is the geography of everything. So...  BJ passes through Bishop County a lot. Mention is made of the "aliens" coming up from the Gulf. Cain says that a truck filled with the "aliens" was spotted near New Orleans and is going to be passing through Bishop County. So, apparently, Bishop County is near New Orleans. But, Bishop County is a desert-like, dusty place, which doesn't fit being near New Orleans. It looks more the Southwestern United States (maybe in the Los Angeles area). On top of that, the truckers are all able to get to Country Comfort very easy at the end of the day. So, Country Comfort is near Bishop County, which might be near New Orleans.  And, Wiley & The Fox's jurisdiction is near Country Comfort also because they visit the truck stop at the start of the previous episode.

 All's well that ends with cuddles

They go out of their way to be unhelpful on this, apart from the mention of New Orleans and the Gulf. When Tommy is given a ticket, she holds her thumb over the address of the courthouse. So, this is conjecture. It seems odd thought that the past three episodes take place, apparently, in such close proximity. In Season 1, BJ and Bear seemed to travel all over the country (except when they kept ending up in Orly County). Now, things have apparently changed. I'm interested to see how the rest of the season will play out. Is this nitpicking? Sure. Is that the point of doing reviews like this? Absolutely.

So, we have a new Sheriff on the show. We see some reoccurring characters. And, Bear gets to do some stuff here, well, mainly he plays pinball and gets to kiss a lady at the Country Comfort bar. Bear has great times too.

End it with some Erin

Friday, May 6, 2016

B.J. & The Bear S2 E2: Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers, Part II

Originally aired October 6, 1979
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II
Written by Michael Sloan and Glen A. Larson

"I love you, B.J. ...  I'm sorry. I shouldn't have..."
"It's OK. You can love me."
"I can?"

BJ, Snow White and all those kids
(Where did those kids come from?)

Part 2! That satisfies my questions at the end of the previous review. This is the second of a 2-part story. I had thought if all the Country Comfort characters, along with Sgt. Wiley and the Fox, came back in this episode but under a new title, the season would now be following this huge cast getting in adventures every week. But, "Part 2" means that the show might still have the semi-anthology format of Season 1. The season, itself, will reveal whether this is true.

 BJ, Bear and Bullets

This episode begins (well, it begins with 4 minutes of recap including an interesting moment I missed when I watched the previous episode*)...  It begins immediately following the previous one. Still at Country Comfort. BJ and Hammer have washed all the mud off. Hammer will stand by his bargain. So, the viewer thinks "Hmmm, why not include this scene at the end of the previous episode? Why put it at the beginning of a new one?" All is revealed rather quickly.

The Fight.
Wiley lifting The Fox

Sgt. Wiley and The Fox show up. Wiley gets the news about the fight. And, Hammer says, more or less, "Don't talk to me. Talk to Riker." Riker? The semi-psychotic, poorly mustachioed second-in-command of the Highballers? Yes. It turns out that only Hammer is going to stop bothering the ladies. For the rest of the jerks, it's business as usual. Sigh... And then, we get more of Wiley and The Fox arguing, more of the Sheriff being dopey. About 17 minutes in, this reviewer realized that he was re-watching Part 1 but he wasn't. It was Part 2. They were just doing the same thing over again.

 Wiley And The Fox

Examples: Snow White is going to lose everything if she doesn't get a haul. B.J. helps her get a government-related load. Riker chases her down and harasses her. Just like Hammer did to B.J. in the first episode. Then, in one of the funniest scenes, Wiley and The Fox get into a full on brawl on a dock. B.J. intervenes. He gets arrested and Bullets, the head of Country Comfort, is shown bailing him out a few minutes later. B.J. was arrested and bailed out in the previous episode. How many times can you be arrested and get out on bail within a few short days? (Granted, this could be Wiley being wily.) Then, near the end, a convoy of lady truckers, with BJ and Snow White at the front, gets diverted by Wiley onto a suspicious route.

 Looking good on the phone

Now, the bail thing is left hanging. Does BJ have to go to court twice? The Riker chase bit has a zing at the end, which the first part lacked. But, it is still the exact same sort of scene. And the re-routing of the convoy even has BJ saying "Again?" This made me think of the way a lot of Saturday Morning cartoons (especially Hanna-Barbara ones) would structure their shows. The heroes would meet the exact same villains every week (Drak Pack). The only change would be in the bad guy's MO. Everything else would be the same. I thought, for a moment, that this might be where BJ and the Bear is going...  We'll see on the next episode.

There is as little character development here as there was in the previous episode. But, we know the characters (as well as we'll know them) now so I was able to focus on the revolving nature of the story. Sometimes it revolves within the episode. BJ is called about a government haul. He gives it to Snow White. The next day, another government agency (the one from the TV movie) call him to haul some old money to the furnaces. That employs BJ and all of Snow White's gals. It's a strange bit of plotting because the contents of the first haul dismantles Riker's truck. (I'm trying not to spoil.) Then, the writers go back to a plot thread from the first BJ adventure to provide a conclusion for this one. But, both of these hauls are government-related. It's so convenient that BJ gets these calls so close together that it's almost ham-fisted. The writers may have seen this was odd plotting because BJ goes out of his way to make sure everyone knows that the government agencies don't know about each other. Still weird, though.

 Show White attempts to re-create the opening credits ending
It was better with the billboard

Then, there's the big ending. SPOILERS! Riker and the Highballers hijack the ladies' trucks, filled with old money, with the help of Wiley and the Fox. But, BJ and Hammer are on top of it and help save the day. Except we're not sure why Hammer is there. (A dubbed line from Wiley semi-explains it.) The whole ending becomes a little confusing. Possibly I'm watching a syndicated version and a moment or two is missing. But, it's weird because they spend 3/4 of the episode repeating the previous one but then botch the explanation of the ending. It's easily figured out but not clear in the actual on-screen dialogue. (My episode might be edited. BJ tells Snow White that they have the old money contract. The show cuts immediately to Honey and Riker (apparently they're a couple(!)) and she blabs about it. Trying to find out the details, Riker becomes threatening and semi-violent in a kind of gross scene.)

Guys are jerks

There are a few problems with this episode. Wiley and The Fox get a lot of time to themselves. Does this mean they'll be regulars throughout the season? I can answer that but I'll let it hang there for the moment. The lady truckers, apart from Snow and Honey, do not get developed at all. There's the whole Repeat The Plot thing. (Which might work if this episode had a brand new title and the show was going to repeat itself like this ad nauseam.) It feels like they wanted to start the season big but didn't quite know how. Then, there's the problem with Bear. Bear does nothing here. He drinks a bit. He's there for a gag or two but they've got zero for him to do. Possibly because there are so many supporting characters.

 If it's Glen A. Larson, it'll explode in the end

Now, it sounds like I might have hated this episode. No. It's nicely paced and far too charming and fun to hate. But, that doesn't mean it can't be disappointing. It's not the BJ & The Bear I signed on for for the first season. I understand that things change. I'm willing to carry on. We've got another 19 episodes in Season Two. Let's take this journey together and see where we go. You can travel with Snow White. I'll go pick up Honey.

 Hey You! Keep Watching!

* In the recap of Part 1, there is a moment I didn't mention in the previous review. Wiley is arresting BJ. He stops and says, something like "Red rig. Young man with a leather jacket. Traveling with a chimp. You're the legendary BJ McKay." Yes! The popularity of BJ's first season has followed him into the second. Love it!