One of Monkey‘s running “gags” is that Corky’s alcoholism has destroyed his memory. This time, he’s desperately trying to remember what Jake’s flight plan was, because Jake never files one, and so when he goes down with only a half-heard mayday call, Corky can’t figure out where he could be.
As it turns out, Jake has fallen into a remarkably silly situation. He’s crash-landed on a small island in the Japanese mandate where the emperor, inexplicably, has allowed a small colony of Amish Americans, including one played by Anne Lockhart, to live. The small military garrison on the island, whose sergeant is, inexplicably, obsessed with the Western actor Buck Jones, wants the Amish out. Rather than disobey their emperor’s edict, the sergeant has, inexplicably, just let a tiger loose on the island in the hopes it will eat everybody. It’s a better hour than you’d think with a premise like that. Lockhart and the other main guest star, Richard Morita, are both really entertaining in their roles, and Marta Dubois, who’s been credited in each episode but absent since the second one, returns for a small scene.
Also, the subtitles tell us that Jack barks in hiragana. What a great dog.
Our son was confused by the Amish characters, so I reminded him that we’d seen an episode of MacGyver where Mac crashes into a small community of Amish Americans. He didn’t remember it. After the episode, he asked where we were having lunch, despite us telling him about four times since last night that we were going to our usual Saturday spot, Zarzour’s. Sighing, I said, “Honestly, kid, your memory’s as bad as Corky’s!” And I don’t think our kid can blame the beer…
At its core, there’s a perfectly decent sting story here that might have made for a good hour-long episode. Stretched to two with the plot about Joe’s fiance, with flashback after flashback and even more of Bread on the soundtrack, it’s not as successful.
It was also completely over our son’s head and he asked us twice to explain it to him. The con, involving lots of players and a story about a sure way to make some extra money, is as old as the hills – I seem to recall Jack Kelly being involved in a scam like this once or twice before – but the sports betting angle makes this an interesting ancestor of the MacGyver episode “Jenny’s Chance,” which was about horse racing rather than basketball. That one was also a little dense for our son, which is probably why he doesn’t remember that one particularly well.
And now we time-travel back to October 1978 and the third season of The Hardy Boys. Once again there are a pair of small format changes. For starters, Nancy Drew’s no longer involved, but Bart Maverick is. Jack Kelly starts a semi-regular role this season as a federal agent named Harry Hammond, but all ten episodes – the show was cancelled after a few weeks of terrible ratings opposite 60 Minutes – feature Frank and Joe. Frequent Glen A. Larson guest star Anne Lockhart is here in this opening two-parter written by Larson and Michael Sloan, and for a few minutes it looks like a massive format change might be in the works, because Joe’s fallen in love with a California girl named Jamie, played by Kristie Welch, and proposes to her. But the night before their wedding, Jamie is killed in a car accident. The other driver is a small-time criminal that the feds have been watching for six years, trying to get proof of an old robbery and murder. Joe’s not interested in waiting six years for his revenge…
Well, okay, obviously nobody watching, then or now, was fooled into thinking that Joe was getting married. This girl had a bullseye on her back from the first bars of “If” by the seventies soft-rock combo Bread. I had no idea what that godawful song was, which really surprised Marie, because she figures that’s the first time in twenty-four years of putting up with me that she knew a song and I didn’t. I told her that was her misfortune. (It’s not true, either. I swear I never in my life heard “Last Christmas” by Wham! until this past December when I looked it up to see what the heck everybody complains about every holiday. Turns out the song I thought was “Last Christmas” is actually called “Careless Whisper.”)
Anyway, after far, far more of “If” than anybody wants to hear, and a lot of Shaun Cassidy having flashbacks to his lost love, I thought our son was going to lose his mind from boredom. Things finally pick up at the end with a cliffhanger involving great white sharks. He liked that a lot.
Incidentally, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the image quality of this episode is far, far worse than what we’ve been used to. I appreciate Shout! Factory releasing this season, but they sure didn’t do much remastering of the picture. Shame; there’s one coming up that I’m particularly interested in (finally) seeing…
For those of you curious whether the show would once again impress by seamlessly mixing actual location work with a backlot set after doing it so well in the Egypt episode, the answer is no. It looks like they shot some material at one of those “Lion Country Safari”-type places, but the production didn’t actually go to Kenya. There was a Lion Country Safari south of Atlanta when I was our son’s age. It was rebranded “Kingdoms 3” a year or two before it closed, but nobody seems to remember that. I can’t find precisely where this story was filmed. Possibly the San Diego Wild Animal Park…?
Well, even though they kept production in California, it still looks great, and this one pleasantly surprised me by being the most intelligent installment of the series so far. It prompted me to stop the episode after about twenty minutes for a lengthy discussion with our son about history, and why some of those “ex-colonial governors” that we often see in television from the period might still be hanging around in Africa. I suggested that this one might be a likely source for importing machine parts or air conditioning units or whatever, and I wasn’t too far off course. This one knows how to get tractors and bulldozers moved in to the country, and how to get poached ivory out.
He’s also the only really likely suspect, despite the distraction of a simmering resentment between a character played by Harold Sylvester, above, and one played by Stuart Whitman. They represent the struggle between “the new Africa” and “the old,” which is what prompted me to stop the show to discuss all the representations of Africa that we’ve watched for the blog, from Young Indiana Jones to Black Panther, and why Sylvester’s character might have some reasonable justification for being sick and tired of having Great White Hunters throwing their influence and weight around. Whitman’s character’s daughter, played by Anne Lockhart – a regular casting choice for producer Glen A. Larson – gets caught in the middle, and when the Hardy Boys, who are doing some supposedly discreet investigations while their dad is working another angle on the poacher’s trail, the usual sparks fly.
I enjoyed this one a lot. It shows the heroes as competent and rational detectives, and the politics and resentment of the situation are handled with more tact and sensitivity than I expected for a kids show in the seventies. Engaging our son with a talk about the bigger picture helped, because he really enjoyed it as well, and not just because there were rhinos and lions in it.
I spoke too soon! Last time, I mentioned how there hasn’t been any location filming on this show in several episodes, and tonight’s installment brought a whole gaggle of costumed extras into two separate places. I can’t find a Buck Rogers fan site to confirm my theory, but I think they dressed up one of the gift store and restaurant areas of the pre-Six Flags Magic Mountain park to serve as the “Old Chicago Shopping District.”
And they got a recognizable-to-me guest star again. Anne Lockhart had played the recurring character of Sheba on Battlestar Galactica in the previous season, and she’d been in two different Hardy Boys Mysteries before that, and would later appear more than once in both Magnum PI and Knight Rider, so Glen A. Larson and his team must have enjoyed working with her! Also, she looks exactly like her mom, June. Seriously. Mary Woronov plays a red-skinned alien, and Gino Conforti, who I’ve seen in a dozen things, plays a down-on-his-luck street magician.
Unfortunately, neither my son nor I thought too much of this one. He thought it was too sappy and smoochy, but I at least enjoyed seeing Gil Gerard stretch a little and have the chance to play Buck as a little sad and lovesick for once.