Monday, December 3, 2018

BJ and the Bear Season 3 Recap

Most of what I have to say about the episodes is, obviously, in the reviews. I just wanted to make a quick pass over the whole season before we wrap up the show in full.

Returning for its third season to falling ratings, the show gave itself (or was told to from on high) a "soft reboot." No more was this going to be Route 66 with a guy, a chimp and a truck. This was going to be like most shows. It would have a static main setting and then branch out from there. The added addition here was the 9 (!) new supporting cast members with 8 (!) of them featured in the opening credits. Seven lady truckers who are working with B.J. Plus, Grant and Stieger, the final batch of crooked cops that B.J. would come up against. The opening credits that now cram in all these characters is initially jarring. Who the heck are all these people? We had all the Country Comfort gang in the previous season but none of them were in the opening credits. That must mean that this new gang is going to be important. Let's see how they handle all of these people and the new set-up.

Unfortunately, the answer to how they handle it is: They have no idea. The initial 2 hour episode, which should set this new world up nicely, is structured awkwardly. I described it in-depth in the review but I'll mention it again here. The episode begins with BJ working for these seven women at a carnival. Someone steals B.J.'s rig. All their equipment is stolen. The group breaks up. That's the first, I forget, 20 minutes or so. Then, B.J.'s friend, who runs a trucking company, is incapacitated by the same guy who stole BJ's rig. So, BJ takes over the company and has to hire the seven gals to help him with a big haul. So, we initially meet the gals. They separate. Then, BJ has to bring them all back together again. It's very cumbersome and doesn't actually help us differentiate the gals all that much. In fact, it makes for a pretty monotonous episode, sadly.

The rest of the season is pretty hit and miss. The writers seem to have no idea how to use all of the new characters at once. The few times they try, like in Seven Lady Captives, ends up with them becoming sort of a faceless mass of people in distress. It works better when 2 or 3 of them are focused on, along with BJ. The twins seem like they may be a main focus but they fade as the season goes along. It's really Callie and Stacks who get the bulk of the stuff to do. Stacks is charming. Callie, apart from a few moments, is annoying. Not who I would have chosen. The other three gals really don't register much. Grant's daughter comes into play in relation to Grant. (And the few episodes without Grant are kind of a relief.) One of the gals was a DJ and the other rode a motorcycle. I've even forgotten their names now. (They're in the reviews, generally.) It just feels as if the idea to change the format was made and no one really liked it or knew what to do with it. Or maybe they just knew the show was going out so they didn't try. Apart from a few episodes (like Blond In A Gilded Cell, Who is BJ?S.T.U.N.T. and Detective Finger, I Presume?), it sadly doesn't work.

The other big "Oops!" in the new set-up is the producers forgetting that one of the standard draws of each episode was the romance that BJ would have with a lady he met along the way. Luckily, there are seven new female supporting leads. But, it becomes clear in the second episode that they're not going to have BJ fool around with his employees. So, in order to satisfy the "BJ and a lady" thing, they'll have to bring in ANOTHER lady for those episodes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's too much in a season that already has too much in it.

The season does get better as it goes. And, Grant getting arrested at the end of the series promises that maybe things might be different if it had come back for more. But then, I have to ask myself: If they are getting this format down and they did come back, is it one that I wanted to keep watching? I like to think they'd get it right after a time and my answer would be "Yes." But, I love the first season too much. And I think the second season has so much great stuff in it. Having BJ settle down is a mistake. Maybe the fourth season would have seen him hit the road again. I don't know. The frustrating thing is simply this: why change the format if no one seems to know or care how to make it work? The strikes in the summer of 1980 gave them extra time to work out something great. This isn't, say, Galactica 1980 bad by any stretch. At least three or four of these episodes rank near the best of BJ and the Bear. Unfortunately, some of the others are on the bottom.

I'm running myself in circles here. They tried something. It got cancelled before we saw if it really worked. Personally, even if it did, it wasn't a format I was enamored with. (And, hey, where did B.J.'s friend go? I thought BJ was just taking over temporarily.) I'd like to say I'd have stuck around because I like BJ, Bear and Stacks. And the general format change itself isn't really that different. There's still beautiful ladies, car chases, action, "comedy," and all the BJ and the Bear stuff that I love. It's kind of shackled now by this format. I would have loved the show to go on for ten more years. But, it ends here. The least of the seasons but not without some charms. Not enough Bear, though.

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