The Hardy Boys 3.7 – Defection to Paradise (part one)

The weird finger of coincidence was at work again. Last time we watched a Hardy Boys episode, I thought it was cute that the stars of two big 1950s TV series were appearing together, but I came embarrassingly close to misidentifying Craig Stevens’ hit show. The post nearly went out claiming that Stevens was the star of 77 Sunset Strip, not Peter Gunn. So who shows up in the very next episode? Edd Byrnes, from 77 Sunset Strip.

In the season opener, we got to hear “If” by Bread about a half-dozen times. This time, David Gates and Bread – the show was filmed during a short period they were billed under that name – appear as characters in the show. The plot centers around a defector who gets smuggled out of the Soviet Union in one of Bread’s speaker cabinets, but as soon as the tour lands in Honolulu, she gets cold feet and loses her bodyguard. Nehemiah Persoff plays a KGB officer who comes to Hawaii to execute her rather than let her secrets into American hands, and for the first time, the Hardy Boys have some conflict with their boss, because Harry is keeping lots of secrets.

I thought this one was clumsy and sloppy and full of characters having very easy access to each other, but it was probably just one rewrite from shining. However, no amount of rewriting would convince me that Bread’s manager was going to book them to fly from Moscow to Honolulu for a gig that very night! There’s a good story in here, just one told clumsily. Our son wasn’t really engaged with it, but maybe he’ll enjoy part two a little more…?

The Bugaloos 1.1 – Firefly, Light My Fire (take two)

Proving that good things come to those who wait, and that four years is an eternity in a kid’s development, we sat down this morning to watch the first episode of The Bugaloos this morning. Four years ago (!), we showed our son bootlegs of the first three episodes on YouTube. He liked Sparky the Firefly, but he hated, hated, hated Martha Raye’s villain, Benita Bizarre. This morning, he could not believe that he ever found her dopey character frightening. He had one good laugh and several chuckles. He wouldn’t say that he really liked it, but it was an acceptable and silly Saturday morning distraction.

As for me finally obtaining a legit copy, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been hunting high and low for one, but I have kept an eye open. Second-hand copies of Rhino’s old DVD set are typically offered for between $120 and $250 on eBay, although I don’t believe very many are actually being sold for that price. There’s a lot of Crazy Grandma Price Guide action on eBay. I bet some algorithm pushed one that high and now everybody with a copy thinks that’s what the set is “worth.” I finally landed one in extremely good condition for $30, which feels much more reasonable.

Sadly, the only real disappointment in looking at this noisy, silly, and incredibly lovable show is realizing that it isn’t just the YouTube bootlegs: like the rest of Sid and Marty Krofft’s ’70s videotape productions, the master tapes of The Bugaloos are in terrible shape. The colors are badly faded and there are several places with some picture interference. It’s a real shame that these weren’t kept in better condition. The high cost of restoring these to their original, incredibly colorful presentation would probably be far more than the return.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.24 – And Baby Makes Three

With tonight’s episode, we say farewell to a pair of the show’s recurring players. This is the last installment for both Kelly Rutherford’s character of Dixie Cousins and for James Hong’s Lee Pow. After saving the life of the future emperor of China, Dixie is invited to come visit the nation, and so she and Brisco part with a last kiss. Lee Pow had only appeared a couple of times, very briefly, and this was his biggest role in the show.

Our son really enjoyed this one, especially when the story brings us to a big, beautifully-choreographed martial arts brawl with about thirty fighters, but I think that John Pyper-Ferguson stole it. As always, Pete is dreaming big and using five dollar words, which people with fifty-cent intellects shouldn’t always do.

At one point, Pete’s been captured and is getting the old Chinese water torture, with one drop at a time landing on his forehead. We’ve seen this from time to time on television, most memorably when Tara King gets captured in the classic Avengers installment “Legacy of Death,” which reminds me of a funny story. I didn’t mention it in the blog post about “Death” because I didn’t want to derail it, but here goes.

In the late nineties, a friend of mine ran an Avengers website. He got an email once from somebody desperate to know in which episode Tara King gets tickle-tortured. He thought about it, double-checked with me, and concluded that there isn’t one. The writer had misremembered somehow, because there isn’t such a moment. However, Tara does get the Chinese water torture treatment in “Legacy of Death,” and perhaps that’s what he was thinking of.

Weeks passed, and, proving that you just can’t force people to read an email, the guy wrote back, furious, because he bought the DVD set with “Legacy of Death” on it, and Tara is not tickle-tortured in it, she is Chinese water-tortured! Time and memory may have elevated the tone and the tenor of the correspondent, but I recall him absolutely demanding that my friend stop holding out and tell him where he can see the tickling scene. I don’t remember what happened next, but I remember my friend being exasperated with this idiot’s tickling fetish, and I hope he blocked him.

It was probably a Girl From UNCLE anyway…

Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.14 – The Trevi Collection

On the casting front alone, Rudolph Borchert’s “The Trevi Collection” would be worth a spotlight for all the great actors and actresses who appear in it. Familiar faces that we’ve seen and heard before include Richard Bakalyan, Bernie Kopell, and Marvin Miller, who’d be providing the voice of the Zarn a few months later for Sid and Marty Krofft. They provide some background color for Nina Foch and Lara Parker, who I don’t believe that we’ve seen before at our blog, and who are playing a pair of witches locked in a magical struggle that’s leaving a lot of corpses around Chicago.

Lara Parker had played the witch Angelique in the popular Dark Shadows for a few years prior to this episode. Maybe that was obvious casting, but she knew how to cackle and laugh like she’d lost her mind. I remember thinking that she went over the top in a couple of scenes when I watched this ages ago, but she scared the pants off our kid. She ends the episode screaming and laughing maniacally while charging after Karl, and I could feel the poor fellow tense up so much that he was shifting the sofa.

But it wasn’t all terrors from the witchcraft story. Bakalyan is in only one scene, as a hood who wants Carl to turn over some evidence about a union shakedown, but the heavies come back to the INS offices after hours to smash up the place, write threats on the windows, and, just to be obnoxious, smear peanut butter all over Tony’s homburg. Poor Tony complains “My favorite hat smells like a kid’s lunchbox,” and our son laughed so hard that he begged me to pause and wind it back so he could hear it again.

The Hardy Boys 3.6 – Scorpion’s Sting

I thought this was a pretty neat moment: Jack Kelly playing a cop arresting Craig Stevens as an international criminal. Twenty years previously, they had been the stars of two hit series: Maverick and Peter Gunn. Shame these two vets didn’t get any dialogue scenes, but the series isn’t really about these old men, is it?

“Scorpion’s Sting” is easily the best of the third season stories that we have watched. Our son loved the climax, in which the Hardy Boys use a helicopter to keep a small private plane from taking off, and I enjoyed the location spotting. That same hotel that they used for the Hawaii episode in season one gets used again as Puerto Rico, and they even use the same stretch of beach where Joe nearly had a hang gliding accident in season two.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.23 – Wild Card

I think I enjoyed this morning’s episode of Brisco County, Jr. more than everybody else did. It’s certainly nowhere as over-the-top and ridiculous as the previous one. It’s a slower story about New York mobsters moving into the casinos of Reno, with much of the tension coming down to a high-stakes poker game, which is still over our kid’s head. He did love one of the bad guys’ comeuppance at the end. Rather than shooting the fellow, they use the town’s newfangled electric power lines as a trap, keeping him caught in an alley with sparking wires acting like steel bars.

The episode, co-written by Brad Kern and John Wirth, introduces Dixie’s sister Dolly, played by Elaine Hendrix, who was the best thing about Fox’s short-lived relaunch of Get Smart the following season. The main baddies are played by Paul Ben-Victor, who’s been either a cop or a criminal in everything made for American TV since about 1990, and Peter Dobson. The summer before Brisco launched, Dobson had starred in an absolutely delightful flop that nobody but me remembers. Johnny Bago was an really silly show about a New Jersey mobster who turns state’s evidence but gets recognized and becomes a fugitive on the lam in an RV, chased by the Mafia and his downright mean ex-wife. It only lasted eight episodes, but if it ever shows up streaming or on DVD, you should definitely check it out.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.13 – Primal Scream

Score another one for Marie tonight. She correctly spotted that the old tunnel set from this episode’s climax is the same sewer set from “The Spanish Moss Murders,” mildly redressed, with a lot less water running through it, and radically relit in the bright red of some flares. I didn’t notice it at all, which pleased her that she caught a production thing that I missed. On the other hand, she was a lot less taken with the very, very silly science in this story. Our old pal Doctor Science was not impressed.

This is the second episode in a row where the monsters are humans. A lab accident with some millions-of-years-old cells found frozen in the Arctic has resulted in the cells doing a real leap of faith into some prehistoric, carnivorous hominids that hunt at night. The story, by David Chase and Bill S. Ballinger, is about the unscrupulous corporation that is keeping a lid on it, with the police willingly assisting in the coverup. Barbara Rhoades and Jamie Farr have small parts in the episode, which I really enjoyed, regardless of how far-fetched the premise was.

And our son? After bravely facing down the rakshasha in “Horror in the Heights,” which everybody says is one of the scariest Kolchaks, this one left him a mess, pronouncing it both creepy and terrifying. The biggest hide-behind-his-blanket moment comes when Carl realizes that the oil company has another prehistoric ape-creature growing in a small tank, a pink, slimy embryo in a big, fat thermos. That’s fair; that shot was a little icky.

The Hardy Boys 3.5 – Dangerous Waters

They used Anne Lockhart in the two-part season premiere, and Anne’s mother June Lockhart guest stars in this episode, along with Robert Loggia, who was appearing as a tough guy in everything in the late seventies. This one’s a pirate treasure story in Martinique, but it starts as a missing persons story. Our son really enjoyed a rescue from an old fort, and the unearthing of the old treasure chest. The pirates buried that one awfully close to the shore. One good storm and it’d be lost for good.

There’s a surprisingly grim moment when we learn the pirates intend to sell their captive to an auction in China. It immediately seemed out of place on a family hour children’s show like this. Our kid held onto that line and asked us what it meant. The quickest and most satisfying explanation I felt like digging into was that in the same way these bad guys were selling their stolen yachts to other bad guys in South America, they were selling people to other bad guys in China. To be honest, I’m still amazed the show went there.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.22 – Stagecoach

There’s a scene in “Stagecoach” which is such an in-joke that I wondered whether anybody not in on the gag would find any reason to chuckle during it, and, surprisingly, it works perfectly well for all viewers. Asked to say a few words when one of the members of a trouble-plagued stagecoach trip to Mexico dies under mysterious circumstances, our son had a great laugh when the strange old man in the party just says a bunch of gobbledygook. But the grownups had an even greater laugh, because the strange old man is played by Timothy Leary, and his words of wisdom are strung-together lines from Beatles songs.

Our son laughed all the way through this one. John Pyper-Ferguson is back as Pete, who has about as much luck on this adventure as Wile E. Coyote would have, and Debra Jo Rupp, who would later star for years in That ’70s Show, has a great scene where she wakes up handcuffed to our hero. He started guffawing early on and didn’t stop until after Pete’s final kidnapping attempt fails spectacularly. They aimed more for laughs than drama this time, but it really worked well.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.12 – Mr. R.I.N.G.

Stories about robots that are learning the difference between right and wrong and are forced to defend themselves are as old as science fiction itself, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that similar stories are being told on TV on each side of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, I was amused when I realized that “Mr. R.I.N.G.” first aired on ABC at the same time that Tom Baker’s first serial as Doctor Who, “Robot” was being shown. Maybe Professor Kettlewell’s robot and R.I.N.G. could sadly commiserate about how awful soldiers are.

“Mr. R.I.N.G.” is very much a story of its time. It’s more than just the design – he reminds me of some other classic seventies robots, like the Fembots from Universal’s Bionic shows and the Kraal androids from the next season of Who – this is a story about a government coverup. It’s very unlike the usual Kolchak formula. The robot isn’t the monster-of-the-week; the military-industrial complex is. Corrine Michaels isn’t playing a damsel in distress as we’re led to believe. Having killed one of its creators in a bid for survival, R.I.N.G. has found the other one so that it can continue learning.

The inevitable ending – no, our hero doesn’t win this one – really sank our son’s spirits. He couldn’t quite explain why it made him sad, so he and I hashed it out over dessert. It made him unhappy to learn that American soldiers were the bad guys and they killed R.I.N.G. To make this even more of a stark finale, we learn that this time, Carl’s been narrating this story from a drug-induced haze. They’ve pumped him full of brain-wiping chemicals, leaving him to hesitantly dictate his story onto one of his tapes before his last memory of the event slips away. I hope that when they reactivated the dormant R.I.N.G. a few months later, he murdered them all, killed the senator who covered it up, and burned the top secret research establishment to the ground. That would serve them right.