Legend 1.12 – Skeletons in the Closet

Well, I wouldn’t say this show went out with a bang. For its final episode, completing its midseason of thirteen hours, the producers of Legend finally remembered that they could do something with the third member of the team. Ramos, played by Mark Adair Rios, has been very much in the background. He’s a Harvard-educated and humorless scientist, all business and never smiling, and usually overlooked. We don’t know anything about him as a person. And this episode proves that this has been a problem: Ramos provides a perfect opportunity to tell stories about the bigotry that all people of Mexican or native descent faced at that time.

This time out, Ramos brings the remains of a corpse found in the hills outside the nearby town of Bell to the sheriff, who’s a condescending racist jerk. Veteran actor John Vernon plays the big landowner who knows a lot more than he’s telling about the theft of cultural treasures. Ramos is in over his head, and unfortunately that’s because he’s written astonishingly out of what character we’ve seen before. He’s always been a careful, rational, quiet scientist, but instead of using him in a clever way to build an interesting case against the villain, he’s swearing vengeance and trying to do it alone. Pratt even warns him that he’s talking like a character from one of his crummy books right before that character gets killed, which you’d think would give a man as smart as Ramos pause. It’s a massive missed opportunity. Clearly more needed to be done with Ramos, but this wasn’t it.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this show going in. Despite a couple of misfires, like this one, it more than met my expectations. Legend was whimsical, and occasionally very smart, and I was entertained. Unfortunately, the ratings weren’t strong enough to warrant a full season for the fall of 1995. I think a second season could have been very good. Maybe they could have introduced a couple of regular parts for women, and UPN certainly could have done a better job promoting the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine connections with the writers and producers to get more adventure-teevee fans to tune in. But certainly the opportunity was there for this to build into a sleeper hit if the network had a little patience. But honestly, UPN was in money trouble right out of the gate and they didn’t need sleeper hits, they needed big hits.

But of course, if Legend had turned into a hit, then Richard Dean Anderson wouldn’t have been available for Stargate SG-1 in 1997…

The Barbary Coast (1975)

I kind of enjoy taking a gamble on programs that I don’t really know for this blog. Barbary Coast had been one of those in-one-eye-and-out-the-other shows for many years. I’d seen it listed here and there over time, but when I found it listed cheap, I figured there were only 13 episodes, so it wouldn’t be the big time commitment that its forebear, The Wild Wild West, would be for the blog. (I also don’t really enjoy The Wild Wild West for some reason, despite it being a show that sounds like it was made specifically to appeal to me…)

We’ll start the series proper next month, and just like ABC originally did in 1975, precede it with a look at the pilot movie. The show, created by Douglas Heyes, is a lighthearted secret agent adventure set in the very, very muddy streets of San Francisco in the late 19th Century. It stars William Shatner as a master of disguise named Jeff Cable, and while his whiskers and wigs may not fool any grown-ups watching, our seven year-old son was completely thrown by him several times.

Agent Cable finds a base of operations in a casino run by Cash Conover. Two years before, Cash had killed the son of Louisiana’s governor in a duel and had fled, later winning the casino and becoming a destination on the lawless Barbary Coast. Cable knows Conover’s secret and press-gangs him into working with him to ferret out crime and corruption. In the pilot film, Cash is played by Dennis Cole. He’d be recast when the series started production.

Joining them in this initial outing are a pile of recognizable faces from seventies TV, including Richard Kiel as the casino’s bouncer, and Leo Gordon as the bent chief of police. Lynda Day George is here to cause trouble, as women do, along with Michael Ansara, John Vernon, and, a year before he took the role of Jonah in Ark II, Terry Lester.

Bizarrely, we watched this movie the same week that some bigoted old newspaper editor in Alabama called for the return of the Klan to do something about all these Demmycrats making his life miserable. In the film, Vernon’s character, using the pretty suspect name of “Robin Templar,” has resurrected the eyeholes-in-pillowcase brigade under the name of “the Crusaders” to execute criminals that the law won’t touch. It’s all a scam, of course, because Templar and his closest associates are really scheming to just lynch a couple of people to get the point across, and then extort protection money from all the other targets on their published Death List.

I think our son enjoyed parts of it more than others, and he was a little confused by the opening twenty minutes. They introduce a lot of characters before the plot becomes apparent, and we don’t meet Agent Cable under his real identity for a surprisingly long time. I think they missed a terrific complication: Lynda Day George’s character stumbles on Cash’s secret and sends word to Louisiana in order to collect the reward. There’s a point in the narrative where the agent from Louisiana really should have arrived and thrown the heroes’ plan to destroy the Crusaders into disarray, but the subplot is forgotten about until the very end. The film doesn’t present much of a challenge for Cable and Conover, really. Hopefully the series will give them meatier stories than this.