Friday, July 6, 2018

BJ and the Bear S3 E6: Beauties And The Beasts

Originally aired on February 17, 1981
Directed by Christian I. Nyby III
Teleplay by Robert L. McCullough, Tom Sawyer, Michael Halperin and Richard Christian Matheson & Thomas E. Szollosi
Story by Ken Pettus

I can count. And that's 7 ladies all right

Grant is after BJ and the gals again. The gals want to raise money to buy Angie's Nephew Louis and his friends football uniforms and equipment. They throw a mini-carnival/ fair type of thing with a lottery. Steiger arrests all seven of them because they forgot to get a permit for the aforementioned lottery. Grant has them placed in a jail far from Los Angeles so BJ will not have truckers he needs for an upcoming haul. BJ eventually finds the gals and comes up with an idea: A football game between his gals and the female prison guards. The guards win and BJ loses everything. BJ's gals win and Grant leaves everyone alone until the next episode. But, will Grant cheat? Hell, will BJ cheat? Do I feel cheated of 48 minutes of my time after watching this episode?

The answers to those questions are: yes, yes and almost.

The game begins...  with headbands!

Can we all dwell on the fact that 6 people wrote this? There's a story, which is where the original premise came from. But the "and" and "&" in the teleplay credit implies that there may have been more than one story involved that got grafted together. And it shows. The episode starts with all the nephew stuff, which isn't that great. Then, it segues into a Women In Prison segment. Then, it becomes the final football game where...  wait for it...  Grant substitutes guys for the prison guard ladies. Uh oh! But, BJ fills a football with helium! And he does something to another one to make it weigh a lot! Oh the wackiness!

 Normally a game like this is something I can get behind
Sorry, Bear

Except that's the only part of the show played for wacky. The tonal shifts are hurting my neck again. Grant and Steiger are as nasty as ever. The scenes with Louis play like poor Afterschool Special material. The prison scenes are actually kind of unpleasant, which makes all the helium football gags feel odd. It is tough to see where the episode's going to go until BJ makes the deal with Grant. Frankly, it wasn't what I was expecting. It seems to belong to another episode.

 Twins running
And helium balloons

Sadly, the football game comes across as a hodgepodge of randomly edited together moments. The gals get some points. The guys get some points. Stacks loses her shorts. Helium football! Suddenly, BJ's on the team. And then it's over. There's no sense of time to it. There's no sense of urgency. And, worst of all, even though it is flag football, those guys look like they want to kill our gals. And yet they never quite do. And I'm not sure why. The way the whole scene is put together gives the impression that the gals will be crushed. But, it does not happen. Don't get me wrong: I don't want to see any of them crushed but I'm not sure how it happened the way it happens. I guess the moment the "good" team starts ripping off Marx Brothers bits to win then all reality has gone out the window.

The best part of this episode is the screenshots

The Louis/ Abdul (he wants to be called Abdul) section has some amusing bits where he's chatting with BJ and they're sort of picking on one another. And, it's fun when he's on the sidelines with BJ during the game. But, that portion of the episode feels half-baked. (Sort of like the editing in the game.) My favorite part: He hangs out with a "gang" called the Vampires. (They're the ones the gals want to buy uniforms for.) Louis is about 12. The "gang" is a bunch of 12-year-olds. I'm not convinced.

Not quite the same pizzazz

The whole "Gals want to help these kids get equipment" bit of the episode goes by a bit too fast. One minute Louis and Angie say how much money they need. Next minute, the gals are talking about helping "The Vampires." It took me a moment to remember that they weren't talking about actual vampires. Then, they decide to do this fair thing. Then, Grant mentions the permits and I thought he meant trucking permits. Then, we're at the fair where they all get arrested. It took six people to write this strange, lurking mess? How and why?

Oh Louis! You charmer
See you in the next episode...  Wait. What?
He's not in any more...  Oh

The prison sequence is as harrowing as this show gets, which is not very. Until Cindy puts a bowl full of soup on a guard's head and wacky music shows up.

Why me? Why me all the time?

I really have the feeling that this show no longer has any idea what it's up to or what it wants to be. Yes, all seven gals get something to do here. Yes, everyone looks cute in their football outfits. Yes, BJ has some fun moments talking with Louis. Yes, Bear ends up in a football uniform (where'd he get that from?) drinking beer. Those are good things. But, the rest of it is a confused mess that goes too fast and then goes too slow and then has too much going on and then can't stick the big game ending. I'm sorry to say that I think this show is really floundering. Greg Evigan and the gals are doing what they can. (Grant and Steiger are really bordering on unbearable.*) But, the scripts need to be better than this. The set pieces need to be less jumbled. And it needs to be more fun. Adding in "Wooooooo" noises when Callie kicks the helium football doesn't really cut it.

Freeze frame?

*Although it is strange to see how they go from being so nasty to goofballs out on the football field. Maybe half of the writers thought they were writing for Lobo and Perkins?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

BJ And The Bear S3 E5: Down And Dirty

Originally aired on February 10, 1981
Directed by Michael Preece
Written by Rogers Turrentine

Note: I use the word "weird" a lot in this review. I believe it is justified.

It gets weirder

It's nice to have some Stacks featured here. But, my theory about the show featuring one of the lady truckers in this episode and another in the next episode to spotlight them all is shot in the foot here. The main gal is Sam, who was the main gal in the last episode. And there's far too much Callie. Oh well.

Stacks Ahoy!

This episode made me anxious. It takes place in Reno. Callie goes two thousand in debt at a casino. Sam is there for a psychic convention. Steiger is hauling some stolen slot machines around. Two federal agents are looking for the machines. BJ and Grant play a big game of Four Card Stud for all or nothing. (Basically, BJ's rig.) Plus, Greg Evigan in his underpants. So, this episode has that going for it.

This image is for all people who love good things
Plus, you can play my new game with Steiger:
Tie, Cravat or Ascot?

This episode is a weird one. (I told ya.) It's structured sort of Sting-esque with lots of twists and turns and double-crosses and that kind of thing. But, events and scenes just kind of happen. Plotlines get resolved... or not. Moments occur that aim to accomplish something but seem kind of hazy and vague. For example: during the big card game with Grant, BJ has a little speaker in his ear. Sam is sending him info on Grant's cards. Right at the moment where BJ is about to win, a guy starts vacuuming nearby causing static on BJ's earpiece. BJ starts to lose. One thinks "Well, the vacuum guy will pass." But, no. He seems to vacuum the same spot on the rug for minutes on end. (And isn't the sound of the vacuum so close annoying to the players?) Literally, it keeps cutting from BJ's ear with static to the guy vacuuming the Same Spot over and over. What?!

Present your badges, men
(The guy on the right thought they were shooting widescreen)

Then, there's some weirdness with the gals. In the previous episode, Sam was the gambler. Callie was just annoying. In this episode, Callie is a gambler with a problem. And Sam is psychic. What?! The same guy wrote both these episodes. Did he accidentally switch Callie and Sam's names on his script and no one bothered to fix them? If they want to establish these gals as anything more than ciphers, that can't pull nonsense like this.

I can't believe Judy Landers wants MY autograph

What about the opening sequence? It feels like we're missing something. BJ, driving at night, goes right through a Grant-placed roadblock causing huge explosions and chaos. After it happens, we cut to Grant's office the next day where we learn that BJ had a sick kid in his rig who would have died if he stopped. What the hell?! He what?! I didn't see a sick kid. There's no mention of a sick kid. It looks like BJ is just doing something crazy. I thought that when the scene was over BJ was going to pull off a mask and reveal himself to be Steiger or Grant. It's such a w*i*d scene.

I've got a sick child (!) on board

And the final scenes are weird too. They pile on a lot of incidents that seem to need explaining. Cheating at the card game, stolen slot machines, BJ beating up Federal agents, getting Callie's rig from the casino...  And then wraps everything up in a really quick scene that has a semi-incoherent twist and seems to leave a lot of stuff hanging. Did I mention that this script is really odd?

Yeah, this script is confusing me too.

Plus, there's the fact that the show has specifically set itself in Los Angeles...  but everyone winds up in the same casino in Reno. It's about 500 miles from Los Angeles to Reno. If the location was changed to specifically allow for a script with gambling, then that is one of the most contrived things I've ever encountered. Why ground your travelling show in a specific place and then have the 4th regular episode be one that can't happen in that place? When Run For The Money went to a casino, it was for a convention that everyone would logically be at. Here...  you guessed it...  it's weird.

There's a face you want to punch

I've got lots of questions here, folks.

Overall, it's not a bad episode. It definitely has a lot going on and it's rarely dumb. Bear is in it a lot. I am not a fan of card games/ gambling and there is a lot of that in here. Your mileage will vary. If you can forgive all the contrivances and the screwy characterizations, it's a breezy 48 or so minutes. It, honestly, did make me a bit anxious. (There's way too much Grant in here.) And the fact that nothing BJ does seems to come with any consequences, except good ones for him, mean that happy endings abound!

Oh, Sam tells BJ to "shove it up your big red Kenworth" at one point. That might be worth the price of admission.

 Gotta love that face
 Who's sleeping in that drawer?
It's Lancelot Link!
Oh wait...

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

BJ And The Bear S3 E4: Intercepted Pass

Originally aired on February 3, 1981
Directed by Georg Fenady
Written by Rogers Turrentine

Callie, Sam(antha), BJ and Bear are heading to some sort of carnival of  to drop of 3 tons of popcorn. BJ sends the gals to the Post Office to get a $200 money order and mail it to his business partner. Through much chicanery, they lose the money and wind up with a briefcase filled with blackmail photos. That relates, through much convolution, to a blackmailing racket run by a guy named Kenton (who has a dating service) and Grant's right hand man, Steiger. BJ and the gals come up with a plan to take them down! But wait! Isn't that Marland Proctor, star of .357 Magnum and Curse of the Headless Horseman? What's he up to? And why are he and his friend tapping Kenton's phone?

Hi, I'm a douche.

I stand corrected: Grant does NOT appear in this episode. We learn that Steiger has just as many shady things going on as Grant does. This SCAT team is the worst.

I'm Marland Proctor. And, yes, the SCAT team IS the worst.
Things aren't quite as overcomplicated as they were in the two previous episodes. It's presented more of a mystery and less of a "What the heck is going on and why are we here now?" kind of thing. In fact, the gals point out to BJ that he loves a mystery. I don't see how he can disagree. They actually have a long scene (with 6 of the 7 gals) trying to interpret the facts and materials they have. It's a pretty good scene. It is shot in the foot somewhat by the fact that we already know pretty much everything that's going on. There's no mystery for us. Just for them. It's an odd way to tell the story.

 Whose what where?

After the cluster of the previous three episodes with all the new characters, this one focuses on Callie and Samantha. Callie = Annoying. Samantha = Gambling Gal. They spend most of the first half of the episode with BJ. Then, three of the other five gals get something (more or less) substantial to do. Stacks goes to a nudie photographer to find out how he relates to Kenton. Angie helps them get a telephone number from the phone company. Cindy drops in on the dating service to blackmail the blackmailing Kenton. Teri and Geri are there but don't do much. They look cute in their Roman outfits though.

I would like to be right there

So, they, finally, more or less, figured out how to use all the extra characters. Do it Virginian-style. Have some of them featured up front. Have some of them make brief but important contributions. And leave some of them for next time. The one tricky thing with their choice of gals in this one is that Callie is really annoying. And Samantha might be even worse. Sam is a liar and likes cheating folks. At one moment, she opens up to BJ and tells him about her childhood. It's a nice moment and it's a lie. The show took a couple of minutes to let the closed-off, gambling character open up to us but she was lying, which completely proves what we knew of her character and adds nothing. Hmm, I guess that's interesting?
 Stacks In Danger!
 It's nice work if you can get it
"How'd we wind up on the roof?"
(Yes, that is Bear over on the right.)

I liked this episode most of the first four. The second half of it is far above anything we've seen so far this season. From the point where they begin to piece everything together (with the other gals) to the very end is pretty good BJ and the Bear. Not fantastic BJ and the Bear. But, possibly, the best we're going to get this season. It moves fast. It's exciting. It resolves the story nicely. It has some charm. And, it's only slightly dumb. Unfortunately, the first half is the exact opposite of that.

Surprise, we're hiding in a train!
BJ And The Bear in "We're No Hoboes"

All that plot that I skipped in the opening paragraph makes up the first half and, boy, is it dumb! Slap your forehead dumb. Shake your head at the screen dumb. Want to fast forward ahead dumb. BJ is going to send the money to their partner. The gals insist they can do it. The post office is closed. So, somehow, they end up playing a crooked card game and losing BJ's money. (Sam's idea.) This leads to Sam stealing a woman's purse who they saw near the game. That leads to a fight. That leads them to the airport with a key where they find the briefcase...  I know they have to get the briefcase and that this is how they chose to write it. But, Sam is so dumb here. And Callie isn't much better. And BJ doesn't seem to get nearly as mad here as he did at Dolly in the last episode. And Dolly was being blackmailed with her own child! Sam deliberately went out and gambled with his money! What?! Mix that in with a scene where Kenton slaps the woman who lost the purse (which is a moment that a breezy show like this cannot sustain) and you get an episode I almost turned off. Then Stacks appeared...  and everything became all right again.

Three Moments from
"The Worst Plan Ever"

In the end, this is a great half an episode, which, for this season, is pretty darn good. I don't mind the "Feature one or two gals but give the others stuff to do" set-up. I can deal with that. And, it was nice to get a break from Grant. I'm not sure exactly how to rate an episode that starts so bad but ends OK. If you can wade through the opening, things get better. I'm hoping that's the way the rest of this season will go.

Bear even got something to do!
Well, he drank a beer (and stole an appointment book)

One weird thing: The woman who gets slapped is Laura. She features tangentially in the episode. I don't remember her meeting BJ. But, in the end, she goes to his office, retrieves a photo and gushes about how much he helped her and kisses him. Now, there is a chance that I am missing a few minutes of this episode. But, where did that come from? I know they have to give BJ someone he can smooch with in the episodes and it can't be his employees. But this almost seems like someone said "Hey, BJ didn't smooch anyone! Oh wait. We'll have him smooch Laura." "Do they even meet in the episode?" "We'll pretend like they did and no one will notice." Apparently, no one did.

"Sorry, Laura. We forgot you in all the mad rush of the episode.
You can kiss Greg, though."
"I'm in!"