Thursday, August 9, 2018

BJ and the BEAR S3 E10: Seven Lady Captives

Originally aired on March 24, 1981
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II
Written by Tom Sawyer

In today's episode of lighthearted "comedy" show BJ and the Bear, Captain Grant arranges for the Seven Lady Truckers to be kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. They will be flown to Mexico where they will harvest some guy's marijuana crop and then they'll be shot and killed. How is BJ and his best friend Bear going to get the ladies out of this? And isn't it time to bring back that old couple, the Tiptons, from a few episodes ago?
 1, 2, 3
 4, 5
 6, 7
And this jackball

My opening statement: Mexican Drug Cartels as entertainment soured with me about halfway through Breaking Bad. If I encounter a Mexican Drug Cartel in a movie or TV episode, I will skip it. They long ago stopped being entertaining or even remotely interesting to me. But, for completion's sake, I watched this episode of BJ and the Bear.
 I'm not good with big hugs

Your van is fabulous

"The impossibility is your specialty, B.J." - Hatsie
This looks familiar

Well, she's not wrong there. But, oh boy! The tone of this episode. It's off from the get go and just gets weirder. The ladies arrive at the airport. They are immediately put on a plane at gunpoint. They go to Mexico and are suddenly on this compound-like ranch to harvest weed. That's terrifying! Seven attractive women are kidnapped and taken to the middle of nowhere in a foreign country...  with drug runners! And, the fact that Grant arranged it is extra gross and sleazy. Oh, did I mention one of the guys (they're almost all white) at the ranch is pretty rapey? This is dark stuff.

And yet, BJ is having one hell of a good time. Once he arrives in Mexico, he seems giddy or something. He laughs a lot at things. He's having a kickass vacation! He gets to plan a siege on a ranch! It's fun. It's what he does. He meets a priest who helps him out. (The village where the ranch is located is deserted, thanks to the cartel.) He also meets the priest's niece Dolores and they enjoy one another's company. (Wink wink.) When BJ and her are scoping out the compound, they laugh and smile a lot. All the while the ladies are being forced to harvest a crop of pot under threat of death from any number of assault rifles.

A priest, a trucker and a chimp walk into a church...

There have been screwball tone issues in this show but this is a tough one to reconcile. Way back in "The Murphy Contingent" BJ and pals had to storm a gangster's home. But, this feels very different. In "Murphy," they were after something or other in the home. Here it's trying to free BJ's seven lady friends/ employees before they get brutally murdered (and who knows what else) by drug cartel guys. Huh? This episode kept me uneasy throughout. But, not uneasy in a good way that I enjoyed. More like anxious uneasy. Something I'd need to take a pill for to calm me down. And I didn't enjoy that. I am glad that BJ and friends win in the end. I'm glad he got to kiss Dolores a lot. Grant gets off far too easy though. He's completely ineffectual against the bad guys. But, somehow he winds up getting a medal for bringing in this cartel. Again, Huh?
Tiptons are in the house

BJ calls Grant out on this one. He calls Grant a sleaze. BJ is not wrong. In exchange for a bunch of money, he sells our main ladies into, more or less, slavery with death as the outcome. He says 1) that his daughter wasn't supposed to be involved and that was a mistake and 2) he didn't know the gals would get killed. Grant, you're a real douche sometimes. I'll leave it there.

Chaos of all kinds, including Chimp-related

OK. So, once the schizophrenic tone is dealt with the question hangs there: Is this a good episode of BJ and the Bear? Um, I guess so.  It does what an episode of the show is supposed to do at this point. It doesn't particularly treat the ladies well or give them a heck of a lot to do. Samantha does a card trick. Callie whines and complains. (And gets slapped by that rapey jackass.) Stacks is flirty and ditzy. But, there's no further character development for anyone. Having the seven of them together doesn't do much but take up lots of space. I guess it's OK to have Hatsie and Fred back. But, after two episodes, their character potential seems tapped. BJ does pull of a crazy coup in the compound and it all ends with a Bear-related joke. So, yes. This is a good episode of the show. Is it one I highly recommend? Not really.
 Dance with me, fools!

Can't stop the bump

(That air looks a little suspect)*
The director is trying his best. There are lots of great tracking shots and several cool angels. For example, the fight BJ has with the guy at the airport has a great opening shot. And, for another example, watch the long take of Dolores and BJ moving down a hill toward the compound. People are trying. It just feels wonky. One more odd thing: Does it feel like it takes forever for the rescue operation to actually happen? I know it's the climax but portions of the episode feel like "OK, let's slow this down. We've got time to fill here." That could be just me. I wanted the gals out of there. Stat! That weighed on me throughout. Oh, and the rapey guy doesn't get beat up nearly enough. 

You knew it would end like this, didn't you?
*I guess using the work "looks" in the context of describing air already means there's a problem.
I just love life!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

BJ and the Bear S3 E9: A Bear In The Hand

Originally aired on March 17, 1981
Directed by Chrisatian I. Nyby II
Written by Michael Halperin

Yes, BJ, we all like pants too

Grant and Steiger kidnap Bear! Plus, there's a lady from the government (who is good "friends"*) with Grant investigating S.C.A.T. regarding funds. In order to get Bear back, BJ begins a campaign of shenanigans. Will it be enough?

 Scuzzy Adams tries to kidnap Bear
Steiger brought his Chimp Sack (TM)

Hooray! Another super fun episode. Three in a row! Thank Goodness. I was getting a little lost in the negative for a while there. This one succeeds by simply being fun. At the very start, we get to see an average day in the life of BJ and the seven lady truckers. Coming back from hauling a load. Sending Stacks out to pick something up. All charming. I could have watched an episode of that. Then, people start trying to kidnap Bear. I wasn't fully on board with that at first. However, at the point where Steiger tries to kidnap Bear (and does), I realized that this was wackiness occurring and I hadn't caught on. Huzzah!

We must! We must! We must explode his bust!

Grant has a girlfriend? Gross. Well, he does have a child so he must have had a wife. But, still...

You think this is rough
You should see the European cut

Once BJ has Grant tell him that all bets are off and there are no more rules (not in so many words but more or less that), then the episode becomes fun. Actually, as I'm thinking about it, if they picked up the pace a bit it could have been even more fun. BJ rigs a bust of Grant with explosives and blows it up during a ceremony unveiling it. He ties a chain around Grant's bumper so when he leaves his home wackiness ensues. And he has Stacks sew a receiver into Grant's coat so they can listen to him.

Whomp 'em, BJ!

It's that receiver that provides a nice little twist near the end. (SPOLIER-ish!) BJ and friends learn some info about something at the S.C.A.T. station regarding Bear and the company's books. BJ and one of the gals (Grant's daughter Cindy) plan to sneak in. Grant finds the receiver and loudly announces that he's changing the plan. To trap BJ! Oh no! I honestly didn't expect that. I thought it would be clean sailing for BJ all the way through. It's a nice touch. It makes a perfect excuse for all the fun stunting and nighttime car chases that follow! Hooray again!

Shenanigans, Sexy

There's a very interesting moment in this episode. At the end, BJ has given a copy of S.C.A.T.'s books to the lady. It looks like there might be some trouble for Grant! But, he tells BJ, that there won't be. All the books will show is that $47,000 seem to be unaccounted for and he will make sure that money is accounted for before she comes back. BJ did all that and came up with nothing. BJ points out (setting aside getting Bear back) that it doesn't matter because he had fun and he annoyed Grant. It's very rare for a show like this to state something like that outright. "You think you saved the day but you did very little and I'll still be here next time." Rarer still for the hero to say "I know. I'm having fun." It's a nice moment. Grant and BJ seem to know that this is a game and they enjoy playing it. (Although, Grant does usually get the short end of the stick.)
 Bear Has Got A Gun
Quit Goofing, Steiger

I really enjoyed this episode. It was a little slow... or maybe too long? I'm not sure. It went on a bit longer than I thought it would but that's OK. I do wish (as I mentioned) That they could have come up with some more fun stuff for BJ to do to Grant but you can't have it all. Three good ones in a row! Come on, show. You've got five episode left. You can do this.

Car chase stuff

Do take note: Bear has been "featured" in three episodes of the show. One per season. Each time it's about him getting abducted in some fashion. Hey, if the shoe fits wear it. Hey, if the banana peels, slip on it. Hey, it's a chimp dressed like a guy named Bear! It's everything.

Comedy is funnier when damp

*"Friends" with their mouths, if you know what I mean.

I just felt like more Stacks

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

BJ and the Bear S3 E8: For Adults Only

Originally aired on March 10, 1981
Directed by Daniel Haller
Written by Tom Sawyer

Hatsie and Fred Tipton are having their home foreclosed and are being forced to move into a retirement community. BJ is sent to help them move. But he's taken hostage by the Tiptons, who are big on ordnance. The situation is eventually diffused. The Tiptons are sent to the community. BJ befriends them. Apparently, a lot of older people in the area are being foreclosed upon and forced to move to this place. It's a grand and over complicated scheme that, of course, features Captain Grant heavily. It also features some sort of illegal porno ring on the grounds of the community itself. BJ helps the Tiptons get some missing money back, stops the porno ring and gets everybody their houses! (If I'm remembering everything correctly.)

 It's The Tiptons!

Does BJ ever get a haul that doesn't
involve something like this?
If so, I don't wanna know!

Let me start with this: I really enjoyed this episode. It felt like first season BJ and the Bear to me. BJ is doing a job on his own when he gets mixed up in somebody else's business. There are crooked cops, crooked businessman, people who need saving, crazy car chases and everything is all right in the end. Grant and Steiger are featured in this one but they're not annoying. The seven lady truckers are all underused here (or not used at all) but it's OK. This sort of episode really doesn't fit this format anymore. If they're introducing all these characters and having BJ settle down, that should be the focus of episodes. They should be getting developed as episodes go by. This episode has another agenda. And it's fun.

Guess which one is the porno director and
which one is the businessman whose name I've forgotten

The Tiptons are annoying at first. But, they grew on me. BJ seems taken with them. They probably remind him of his parents. (Hey, do you all remember BJ's sister? Yeah, I don't either.) There is a scene where they are trying to bust into some business/ government guy's office to get back $23,000 that was taken from them for nefarious reasons. (They wind up with a lot more. Grant's slush fund, in fact.) Fred rigs an explosive on the lock and it blows the door of its hinges. The smoke and the chaos and their reactions are actually funny. (Maybe not laugh out loud but certainly worth a smile.) Plus, their reactions in BJ's truck during the final chase are great.


The final chase is a really nicely down one between lots of cop cars and BJ's rig. But, instead of out in the middle of nowhere as per most chases on this show, it's on the streets of Los Angeles. It looks like it's somewhere near LAX or the beach. And it's really nicely done. There's plenty of Lobo-style car crashes, which I missed. It always astounds me how quickly that big rig moves. There are some rather harrowing moments with every vehicle hurtling around through the busy city. And then there's the train scene. The chase is running along some train tracks with a train approaching. In one shot, the rig shoots across the tracks and the train just misses it. It's a great shot. I watched it several times. Best moment of the episode.

I love a good car chase

There are two drawbacks to the episode, which, frankly, you may not consider drawbacks at all:

1) It's one of those episodes that starts of by setting up its world and the situations in it very slowly, regardless of hostage situations. Most shows of this time (well the 50s through the early 90s) did episodes like this. The Tiptons are being evicted. BJ shows up and gets involved. We learn about everything going wrong. Things begin picking up the pace. Moving faster and faster towards the end! BJ is great but at this point his character has kind of stagnated. He's not like Jim Rockford who will be sarcastic or have something funny to do to keep the interest while the story is building. He's not like Columbo with all his quirks and special style. BJ is a good looking heroic guy who has some brains and brawn. And that's it. So until the story really gets going (by about halfway in) one might find the episode a touch dull. The second half is anything but dull, however.
Hey! You forgot to use a lot of us in this episode!
And wait, there are seven of us, right?

2) The plotting in this is wayyyyy too overcomplicated. Real estate grabs, evicting elderly couples, slush funds, strange retirement communities, illegal porno rings, confusing government officials and businessmen plus the appearances of the seven lady truckers on occasion. It's too much. It's unnecessary over-plotting. I watched it twice and still feel like I missed something. When you watch it, just remember who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Keep your focus strong. In the end, every little thing will be all right.
Focus on the big red rig

I have to ask something about the porno production and BJ's response to it. BJ and Stacks sneak in and see what's going on. Then, they leave and BJ incorporates shutting the production down into his elaborate plan. OK, fine. Earlier, however, the director says to Grant that he's been forced to hire "teenyboppers" and if they get caught it's a felony. So, the implication is that they're using underage performers.* That needs to be stopped. Immediately. Why does BJ leave then? I know he's got a grand plan but if there are underage performers in there, they have to be saved. A hero shouldn't be leaving people in distress like that because his plan hasn't fully coalesced. I'll give BJ the benefit of the doubt here. I will say that there are too many people for him to take care of by himself. He makes a decision and his plan is the best way. (Why didn't he call the police then to help the "teenyboppers"? Knock it off, Dan. Benefit of the doubt!)

Shouldn't this be more fun for everyone?
Or, in fact, anyone?

Overall, a fun episode. It gets better as it goes along to the point where you forget that it starts off kind of just OK. Pardon the vagueness of some of my plot points here. The moment I started to feel confused, I just turned off my mind and went along for the ride.

Oh, in case you were wondering: Stacks does almost end up in the porno. BJ saves the day.

Well, here's another nice mess he's gotten her into

*What is going on with that scene where two of the (I imagine) "teeny bopper" actresses pull up to the porno building and leave their car dressed only in lingerie? They look like they're waiting for Benny Hill to run by. Is that meant to show they're young and naive? Frankly, it looks like the most gloriously gratuitous cheesecake the show's ever given us.

I don't get this scene
Ohhhhhh, now I do...