Friday, July 14, 2017

BJ and the Bear Season 2 Recap

The season begins
(Those awful stretchy screenshots were, in fact, awful)

In the Autumn of 1979, BJ and the Bear was on top of the world. (Well, not really but it was popular enough for NBC, which was the lowest-rated network at the time.) It had been renewed for a second season. It spawned a spin-off in The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. It seemed like Mr. McKay and his best friend Bear would be travelling the roads for a very long time. Hooray!

Remember when Bear started his own
lawn-mowing service?

The season began by giving the normally itinerant BJ a home, more or less, in Country Comfort. A truck stop that included hot tubs and banquet halls and (I'm guessing) hotel rooms. He had lots of friends, including Andre the Giant, and really seemed to enjoy being part of this community. And, of course, the ladies loved him. And, he returned the love in kind.

All The Lovely Ladies Love Billie Joe McKay

Of course, the show lost Lobo (with the exception of Run For The Money Part 1) who was the main nemesis of our hero and his chimp. So, in true Glen A. Larson fashion, they kept it subtle and tasteful and introduced the sophisticated Lt. Whitley Hyde-Smith III, ex-Scotland Yard detective, to bring a touch of class to the show. (That's a lie.) In true Glen A. Larson fashion, they introduced Three new nemeses for our pals. Wiley and The Fox in one county. Captain Cain in another. They were fun foils to BJ but after the big BJ/ Lobo crossover they kind of faded away. Oh, let's not forget Cordell in The 18-Wheel Rip-Off. Thank you, kindly.

Hey Bear!

The first half of the season is a mix of 1st Season-style travelling the country with Bear, getting in adventures, meeting ladies, punching jerks. That kind of thing. But, oddly enough, very few that didn't return to the vicinity of Country Comfort for a visit or two. An episode like Cain's Cruiser feels like it's a "Travelling" episode but then Erin Gray joins B.J. in the Country Comfort hot tub. For the first 14 episodes of the season, almost every episode ties back to this base or has a character that was involved in one of those episodes in it. (For example, I don't remember Mary Ellen having Country Comfort in it but Wiley and The Fox show up for the last time, I believe.)

I won't go to deep into it but this brings up the topic of the geography of everything. I've discussed it before but Country Comfort seems to be everywhere. I thought BJ traveled the country. (He's in Miami at the end of the season.) And yet, Cain & Wiley and the Fox have their jurisdiction within driving distance of The Comfort. (They call it that, right?) Plus, in 18-Wheel Rip-Off, the town where he gets involved in the stolen rig chicanery is one that he's never been in. As he enters it, he says something like "This look like a nice place." Then, when he's immediately pulled over and arrested, he tells the Lady Cop that he's deadheading back to Country Comfort. He's passing through a coastal town he's never been in on the way to Country Comfort? I don't get it. Unless, between seasons, he's started mainly taking hauls in and around the Country Comfort area? Do independent truckers do that? These would be questions I asked while moderating the BJ and the Bear Blu-ray commentary tracks.

Yes, it's more Janet Julian.
Don't like it? Go write your own blog.

I want to rundown what sort of episodes we got this season:

Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers Part 1 - A "soft" reboot. (I think that's a funny term.) It's still BJ and the Bear but they've got a lot of friends at The Comfort, most of them gorgeous women. Plus, there's a new Bad Cop in town and he's got another Bad Cop with him. Plus, Bad Truckers!

Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers Part 2 - More Country Comfort. An episode that becomes an odd amorphous free-for-all that I enjoyed but never fully figured out.

Cain's Cruiser - Fun first season-style show that introduces the other Nemesis. But, Cain ain't a bad guy. He's just a by-the-book hardass who clashes with BJ.

Pogo Lil - Of course, Lil is great. But, this suffers a bit from the 7 Lady Truckers thing where they just throw too much stuff at the wall. You either go with it or stare at it thinking "Why are they here now? What's happening?" My mood determined which path I went down.

Cain's Son-In-Law - The first sighting of a Landers sister! Cain's back very quickly. The episode is a charmer. We rarely get to see BJ in a house just hanging out. Plus, it has the longest wedding brawl in TV history.

Run For The Money Part 1 - Well-done first episode of the three-part crossover. Everyone gets something to do. Everything is set up well. The fact that the big heist doesn't happen until the very end and yet the episode is super fun throughout speaks well of it. The crossover gets slightly darker as it goes along, which is slightly surprising. However, as long as Mills Watson is there, it never gets that serious. This episode (along with one other) is my favorite of this season.

Remember when this happened?

The Eyes of Texas - The initial stirrings of a backdoor pilot are all over this. Unfortunately, watching the show in order means that this one suffers a bit. It's got its charms. The lady detectives are fun but it's kind of just OK. Nothing fantastic. Every time I start watching I have no recollection of what happens next and not in the good way. In the, "I should remember this so why don't I?" way.

Mary Ellen - It's the last appearance of Wiley and The Fox. It's Abe Vigoda with an elephant. Again, this one is thoroughly OK. You can put it on and be generally entertained throughout.

Gasohol - Country Comfort fun. It is nice to see this place reoccurring (especially with Janet Julian). The story is OK. (That's the third time in a row I've said that. It is a trend.) There's plenty of chasing around and brawling and chicanery happening. Definitely a mid-season episode.

B.J.'s Sweethearts - It's a clip show. But, it adds an extra bit of excitement with the thunderstorm and the jerks creeping around. I enjoy this clip show. The only problem is that it does remind me of how much better, overall, the First Season was, sadly.

Fly A Wild Horse - The first real dud of the season. Some of the episodes have been showing the strain of the formula. At a time when (maybe) the formula needs to be diddled with, they give us an episode that is completely generic. Not only BJ and the Bear-generic but end of the 1970s hour-long drama generic. It could have been written for another show and rewritten for this one at the last minute. And, unfortunately, it's also a little dull.

Remember that boring episode we were in?

Silent Night, Unholy Night - I'm a sucker for Christmas shows and this is a super fun one. I think this is the last episode that I would call above average of the season. The rest range from average/ entertaining episodes to BJ and the Witch.

Fire in the Hole - Seeing Lil back is awesome. She's the best part of this episode. This feels exactly like an episode of BJ and the Bear that they'd already made but actually hadn't. That's how completely generic it is. And, at this point, the formula is beginning to make these episodes feel a little lifeless.The First Season spark is gone.

Siege - The last of the Country Comfort episodes. I wished I loved it. But, much of the second half is BJ and the head bad guy mumbling in the front of the truck in the dark. By this point in the season, I am having a tough time keeping focus.

Through The Past, Darkly - All right. Here we go. This one takes a darker turn and feels more like a Season 1 episode. I quite liked this one. Yes, still very generic but it feels like they're trying again. There are a few nice twists and some fun detective work here. (Maybe this was a leftover 1st season script?)

He's always having fun 
(even with a suspected murderer in his truck)

Bear Bondage - When in doubt, focus on BJ and his best friend Bear. I still don't think making BJ think Bear is dead works as entertainment. But, Bear's antics are always fun. Plus, when BJ finds out what is up, his anger towards the Jerks is very fulfilling.

BJ and the Witch - No. They tweaked the formula on this one a bit. And they made me angry.

The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful - It's nice to see Cain back one more time. But, this episode is so generic and forgettable that I, literally, don't remember a damn thing about it (except Bubba Smith and Cain) and I just reviewed it a week ago. For a show like this, though, that kind of thing happens.

The Girls on the Hollywood High - The backdoor pilot! And it's not bad. It keeps a nice pace and the two leads are very charming. The more I think about it, the less I'd probably watch the show. But, still, it was a good effort.

The 18-Wheel Rip-Off - This is when Generic works right. It throws out a bunch of different things but keeps it moving, keeps it straightforward and keeps the main plot focus on B.J. and his livelihood. I thought this one would let me down but I really liked it.

Friendly Double-Cross - Charming ending to the season. It suffers from the "too much stuff going on" thing at times but, maybe because it's a season closer, I was more forgiving. Also I have that backdoor pilot theory.

Saying goodbye is never easy

The season does have its slides into Overly Generic territory and some episodes that approach dull or bland. However, one of the times when they try to go outside of the formula, they screw up royally. I think, in the end, BJ and the Bear works best within its formula. But, it needs to be energetic. It needs to be lively. And, if possible, it needs to focus on BJ and/ or Bear to give us some personal involvement in the episode. The introduction of all the New Nemeses and the Country Comfort environs is a nice addition to the mythos of the show. Abandoning them in the back half of the season probably happened for a reason but it 's super odd. So much time is spent setting up these worlds. At first, it seems antithetical to the Route 66/ Movin' On feel of the show. But, then it gradually wins the viewer over. Then, it's gone. I do not proclaim to understand the mind of Glen A. Larson.

The boys!

Season 2 ends. The ratings, which were pretty good for NBC but that's not saying much, were dropping. The SAG strike loomed. Everyone wanted to know "Who Shot J.R.?" And, the network decided to take BJ and the Bear and the Kenworth back into the garage for an overhaul. Season 3 will see some changes. (Not to Greg Evigan, who is as awesome as always throughout the season, or Bear, fortunately.) Some good-ish changes and some not so good-ish. Watch this space! Season 3 reviews coming soon.

The season ends

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