Rerun Junkie Show–Baa Baa Black Sheep Squadron

Baa Baa Black Sheep title

Before I get into anything, I should clarify the super long combo title.

As I understand it, the first season of the show aired under the title Baa Baa Black Sheep. The show ended up cancelled, then resurrected, and the title changed for the second season to Black Sheep Squadron. It wouldn’t be the only change, but we’ll get to that.

The show was based on the real life war exploits of Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington (who would guest star as General Harrison Kenlay in addition to being the show’s technical advisor), a former Flying Tiger who led an unruly bunch of marine pilots known as the Black Sheep during World War II. Pappy earned his nickname because he was at least a decade older than the twenty-somethings he was flying with. Being a fighter pilot is a young man’s game, I guess.

In the first season, we’re introduced to Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington (Robert Conrad and his contractually obligated tight pants) and his Black Sheep, which include Captain James “Jim” Gutterman (James Whitmore Jr) (who didn’t return for the second season; what happened to his character was never mentioned), 1st Lt. Jerome “Jerry” Bragg (Dirk Blocker), 1st Lt. and later Captain Lawrence “Larry” Casey (W.K. Stratton), 1st Lt. Donald “Don” French (Jeff MacKay), 1st Lt. Thomas Joseph “T.J.” Wily (Robert Ginty), 2nd Lt. Robert “Bob” Anderson (John Laroquette), and Lt. Bob Doyle (Larry Manetti), and later joined by 2nd Lt. Jeb Pruitt (Jeb Stuart Adams) in the second season. Their planes are kept in the air by Sgt. John David “Hutch” Hutchinson (Joey Aresco) and Sgt. Andrew Micklin (Red West) with the assistance of Stan Richards (Steven Richmond) in the second season. The nurses at the hospital on the island also got a bigger role in the second season. Led by Lt. Commander Dottie Dixon (Katherine Cannon), they included Lt. Nancy Gilmore (Nancy Conrad), Lt. Susan Ames (Brianne Leary), Nurse Samantha Greene (Denise DuBarry), and Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Kathy McCullen). The chain of command included Colonel Thomas Lard (Dana Elcar), who wanted nothing more to get rid of Boyington and his Sheep, and Brigadier General Thomas Moore (Simon Oakland), who was as vexed by Boyington and his men as he was impressed -and sometimes entertained- by them.

As this show is set in the Pacific during WWII and features a bunch of guys living up to the Black Sheep name and it was made in the ’70s, you pretty much know what you’re getting. There’s a lot of action, a lot of brawling, a lot of carousing, a lot of drinking, a lot of witty lines, and a dog named Meatball. Honestly, it’s pretty great.

Okay, yes, it is a white man’s show. The women are typically underwritten, plot devices, or props and the minorities are almost all the enemy (but that does accurately reflect the segregation in the military at the time). Though the characters have a distinct prejudice against the Japanese because they’re the enemy, the use of racist language isn’t as bad as it could be. For the most part, they’re treated and presented as faceless targets, but there are episodes when the pilots get to see the men they’re fighting up close. Boyington even has a recurring nemesis in the form of Captain Harachi, played by Byron Chung, a Japanese pilot who plagues Boyington and the Sheep.

The episodes have a fairly nice balance of war action, shenanigans, and personal drama and/or peril. Every guy gets his time to shine, which usually allows Pappy a chance to really work that father-figure role. My personal favorite is “Five the Hard Way” in which French struggles to down his fifth plane and make ace, preferably before his newspaper publisher father makes a visit to camp. It seems that French’s father has a tendency to embellish French’s accomplishments, which makes French resentful. The pressure to make ace before and during his father’s visit, which nearly costs another pilot dearly, breaks him and a drunken incident in the Sheep’s Pen earns him a harsh reality check from Pappy, who also delivers one to dear old dad. Am I a little biased for Jeff MacKay reasons? Absolutely. But to his credit, he delivers a rough, emotional performance that reflects perfectly the toll a strained relationship with his father has taken.

For a super masculine show, it didn’t shy away from showing the men’s emotional vulnerability. Gutterman had a major crisis of faith about his ability to fly which nearly ended his time with the Black Sheep. Casey did leave the squad for a time because he felt like the guys didn’t appreciate his skills, which they didn’t and came to realize that pretty quickly after he left. Wiley accidentally shot down Pappy at one point which led to his own battles as well as leaving Gutterman in charge, which he struggled with. Also, this is war. Not everyone made it out alive. And those left behind had to deal with the losses.

Getting shot down was also a common occurrence. Pappy was shot down more than once. And he wasn’t the only one. Sometimes, the pilot getting shot down was a hefty part of the episode’s story, like when Pappy, Boyle, and Anderson went down on an island populated by nuns, orphans, and the enemy which also happened to be the Allies’ next target. Most of the episode dealt with our three Sheep and their efforts to escape the island with nuns and orphans in tow. However, in some episodes, like one in which Boyle went down alone, we had no idea what was going on with him. We were waiting for information about whether or not he was alive just like the rest of the Sheep.

But just because this is war and an overwhelming male show, that didn’t mean that our guys weren’t falling in love at every given opportunity. They were stationed on an island with nurses, after all. The men all had plenty of chances to have their hearts broken. Casey and Bragg fought over the same girl, who turned out not to be much of a prize. Wiley ended up getting used by a half-Japanese, half-French woman who was used to doing whatever it took to survive due to be abandoned by both cultures. Hell, it took a two-part episode for Pappy to get his heart broken by a nurse who turned out to be married, but her husband was missing, but then he was found and boy, that hurt worse than his burnt hands. French also nearly died in that episode, but what’s near-death compared to a broken heart?

The Sheep also met their match when they were introduced to a group of women pilots called W*A*S*P*S who were flying cargo planes. I was really looking forward to hating this episode, thinking that it was going to be the standard battle of the sexes bullshit, but it surprised me with how equal the ladies were when it came to competing with the men in shenanigans. Of course Wiley had to fall for one of the WASP pilots against orders and ended up coming to her rescue when her plane got shot up, but it was a small price to pay to watch the guys get a taste of their own medicine.

Speaking of shenanigans, there are plenty. Pappy and the Sheep are always on the con, looking to either score something for themselves (booze, food, parts, toilet paper) or finagle themselves out of trouble. And the brawls! Violence is the their go-to way of dealing with any loud mouths from the other military branches. Or with each other. Everybody beat the hell out of everybody. And these aren’t artfully choreographed, well-rehearsed stunt fights. These are full on chaotic brawls. Fake punches, of course, but the dog piles and body tosses are real. I wonder if it wasn’t one of these onscreen clusterfucks that was the reason Jeff MacKay had a cast on his arm for several episodes during the first season. I could be wrong, but if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised.

A marine base during a war makes for an excellent way to temporarily assign some guest stars to the show, some of which include Tim Matheson, Ernie Hudson, and Sheryl Lee Ralph; Linda Scruggs, Charles Napier, and James Saito; General Hospital vets Leslie Charlson and Kin Shriner; Clyde Kusatsu, Peter Donat, Donald Petrie, and Victoria Racimo; Star Trek stars George Takei and Rene Auberjonois; Andi Garrett, Joel Fabiani, Scott Columby, Dale Ishimoto, and Scotty Highlands; musicians James Darren and Peter Frampton; James T. Callahan, Jerry Hardin, Richard Jaeckel, Sab Shimono, and Lance LeGault; Police Academy franchise vets George Gaynes and Kenneth Mars; Ford Rainey, John Fujioka, Sandra Kerns, and Stewart Moss; ’70s/80s TV faces Gordon Jump, Mills Watson, and Sorrell Booke; James Keach, George Wyner, Richard Narita, and Alex Henteloff; TV cops Ken McCord, Joe Santos, and Sharon Gless; James Luisi, Ernest Harada, Craig Wasson, and Lloyd Kino; and legends Soon-Tek Oh and James Hong

Though this series was created by Stephen J. Cannell, Donald Bellisario worked on it as a writer, director, and producer and many of the stars and guest stars on the show ended up on Bellisario productions later, including Jeff MacKay, W.K. Stratton, James Whitemore Jr. (who directed episodes of several Bellisario series as well), Larry Manetti, John Fujioka, Richard Narita, Clyde Kusatsu, Soon-Tek Oh, and Red West.

As much as I like this show, I have to admit that I like Season 2 a lot less than Season 1. Gutterman is gone from the get go and T.J. and Anderson disappear half-way through. In their stead we get Pruitt, who’s 16 posing as 19 and a gifted young pilot. Emphasis on young. He’s like a little brother to the rest of the Black Sheep and his youthful innocence is striking compared to the rowdy older men. And like a little brother, he grows on you.

As I mentioned, the nurses have a more predominate role in the second season, particularly the second half. And as I figured, it’s great in theory, but lousy in practice, another casualty of men writing women. Two of the nurses, Nancy and Susan, are pretty generic in personality; Ellie is so ditzy that you don’t really trust her with the business end of a syringe; Sam is clearly meant to be the “perfect woman” -a beautiful, 22 year old trauma nurse who is also the general’s never before mentioned daughter and all men instantly fall for her, including Pappy, and the one nurse who has the potential to be the most interesting, Lt. Commander Dottie Dixon -SPOILER ALERT- gets killed off.

For the most part, the nurses are there to worry about, swoon over, and be perved on by the men. The sex pest antics really amp up in the second season with Casey pretending to be a doctor to give newbie Sam a physical, talk of the Black Sheep’s version of slipping the nurses a mickey, and Boyle and French’s preoccupation with seeing the nurses in the shower. Boys will be boys in a battle zone.

Sam, though, is there to bring the drama. She and Pappy have a forbidden romance that’s mostly on ice out of respect for Greg’s friendship with the general. And even though Sam used her mother’s maiden name to enlist to avoid her father from finding out she was in the service and she complains that every man she’s dated is either afraid of her dad or one of his bootlickers, she’s not above using dear old dad for favors. She’s the only one who doesn’t like this one jackass army pilot and she knows the dangers of too much publicity, but also nearly gets Jeb killed because she can’t follow directions in regards to the radio. I think they’re supposed to be portraying her as a wise-beyond-her-years nurse, but she comes off as being a convenient, yet annoying plot device. I really just wanted her to stop sticking her nose into things.

Honestly, it’s a shame that they wasted so much potential to do something different with the nurses. Yes, they were only secondary characters, but they still could have been so much more interesting than the boring, predictable paper dolls they ended up being, and in turn, contributed to much richer character interactions with our pilots, producing even more interesting episodes.

Alas, alack, it wasn’t meant to be.

But the show we do get is pretty great and it’s a shame it only lasted two seasons.

Fly on Black Sheep. Fly on.

black sheep

Rerun Junkie Show–The Middleman

the middle man

When Dan and I were spitballing about doing another short-lived show for Eventually Supertrain, I suggested The Middleman.

You see, back in the long long ago of the 2000s, I was LiveJournal friends with Javier Grillo-Marxuach (he was super cool and friended lots of people; I was not special), who’d been a writer on Lost, and at the time he was working on his own show based on a graphic novel he’d done with Les McClaine. Fast forward to the present day and I recently rediscovered my old LiveJournal friend on Twitter (turns out he’s still super cool and follows lots of people; I continue to be not special), which reminded me of the show.

Now, I’m pretty open about not being the biggest comic book/graphic novel fan. Not that I think they’re lesser forms of literature or anything, it’s just that for the most part, they’re not my bag. And that’s cool. But I watched The Middleman during its run mostly because I wanted to support my internet friend.

Turns out I loved it. Sadly, like most things I love, it only lasted twelve episodes. But they were twelve fabulous episodes.

The Middleman is about, well, the Middleman (Matt Keeslar), his Middle Apprentice Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), and sassy and surly robot Ida (Mary Pat Gleason), who are all employed by a super secret organization intent on keeping the world safe from the bizarre, comic book-type evils that the general public know nothing about. To this end, Wendy keeps her job secret from her best friend and roommate Lacey Thornfield (Brit Morgan), her eventual boyfriend Tyler Ford (Brendan Hines), friend Noser (Jake Smollett), enemy Pip (Drew Tyler Bell), and fellow building resident and mostly friend even though he has a weird fixation with phallic sculpture Joe 90 (Sean Davis). The Middleman and Wendy are occasionally helped by Roxy Wasserman (Elaine Hendrix), a reformed succubus who runs a half-way house for other succubi under the guise of a fashion house, and Wendy’s boyfriend Tyler later gets a job from Manservant Neville (Mark Sheppard), the CEO of Fatboy Industries, whose logo is all over the show and which I feel would have been a bigger deal had the show continued.

The pilot episode wastes no time introducing us to the characters and the world they live in. Wendy, an artist, is making the ends meet through various temp jobs. It’s at one of these temp jobs as a receptionist for some sort of science lab that Wendy is introduced to the Middleman, who comes to save the day when one of the science experiments goes rogue. He notes how Wendy holds her own against the creature, which leads to her recruitment as the Middle Apprentice.

Obviously, Wendy can’t go into details about this temp job, which leads to some tension with her confrontational spoken word performance artists roommate/bestie Lacey. Lacey also has a different kind of tension with Wendy’s boss, one of the romantic variety. Meanwhile, Wendy apparently meets her soulmate in musician Tyler, who we find out was also considered for the job of Middle Apprentice. It looks like they’re destined to be star-crossed when Tyler gets two day amnesia, forgetting Wendy exists, but in his pursuit of regaining his memory, they’re reunited. He’s an improvement over Wendy’s initial boyfriend, who videotapes himself dumping her for his film class and whom the Middleman accurately calls a doorknob.

It’s very much a bad guy of the week show, typically with a personal life B-story. However, the two things I love about this show is that a) the bad guys are so specifically shitty and their plans are elegant in their sheer simplicity and b) something from the B story almost always plays into the A story. As I said multiple times while discussing the show with Dan, nothing is wasted.

For example, in the episode “The Manacoid Teleportation Conundrum”, Lacey urges Wendy to deal with her feelings about ex-boyfriend Ben, who’s just landed a movie deal thanks to his break-up video going viral. Much of Lacey’s advice comes from a television therapist, who later plays into the main story in a big way. And the villain in the episode? His whole motivation is to avenge his father, who died because of his own stupidity. Like I said. Specifically shitty.

The show’s universe is also rich in history and pop culture references. The Middleman is just one in a long line of Middlemen and as a result, has acquired much in the way of intel, a wide variety of weapons, and all sorts of random items. But with all of that inherited experience and an android that’s been there for generations, not even Ida knows who the Middleman works for. The mysterious organization is referred to by Middleman and Ida as O2STK…Organization Too Secret To Know.

As for the pop culture references, there are so many, it’s a challenge to catch them all. “The Clothorian Contamination Protocol” is filled with Die Hard references; “The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation” features several Ghostbusters references; “The Cursed Tuba Contingency” features a mix of references to the Titanic and to Westerns; Noser is a wealth of song lyrics; and there are Dr. Who references throughout which I never would have known if I didn’t cover this show with Dan.

With only twelve episode, the show doesn’t have a long list of guest stars, but it did land some stellar talent including Alan Smyth, Vincent M. Ward, Lance Barber; former Growing Pains and current Critical Role star Ashley Johnson; Todd Stashwick, Michael Oosterum, Stephen Sowan; 24 alum Mary Lynn Rajskub; Joey Kern, Jer Adrianne Lelliot, James Hsu; Stargate fave Eric Avari and Stargate: Atlantis fave Mark Dacascos; Cassandra Jean Amell, Gideon Emery, Lorena Gale; Eden Sher who would go on to star in another middle show, The Middle; Rob Nagle, Leland Crook; (in an unfortunate case of a terrible person being perfect in a role) Hercules vet Kevin Sorbo; Heidi Marnhout, Steve Valentine; and future Big Bang Theory regular Kevin Sussman.

As funny as this show is (and it is laugh out loud), I love the heart it has as well. It’s not just straight action and one-liners (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I love that shit, too). There’s also an emotional depth to the show, particularly when it comes to the relationships between the characters.

Obviously the main relationship is between Wendy and the Middleman. They’re boss and employee, mentor and mentee, but that all evolves into a very strong friendship and platonic bond. In a refreshing twist, there’s nothing even hinted at being romantic between them (at least in these twelve episodes; who knows what they would have done to piss me off down the road). We don’t need them to be quietly pining to smooch each other to know that they care about each other deeply. No doubt accelerated by the life or death situations they find themselves in, the Middleman and Wendy develop this really lovely relationship that’s supportive and honest, but not without its issues because they are different people. The Middleman rarely swears, drinks milk, and resorts to violence only when necessary. Wendy is pretty much the opposite. Usually the friction in their relationship comes from the two of them approaching a problem from different directions. However, in one episode, we actually see the Middleman get jealous of Wendy because she had a better training session with the great Sensei Ping (Mark Dacascos), which is especially needling given the fact that Wendy and Sensei Ping not getting along when they first met led to a whole boatload of trouble with some luchadores. Trust me. It makes sense.

But amidst the good-natured bantering and occasional bickering, we’re also gifted incredibly sweet moments between the two characters, like Wendy telling the Middleman that he’s the closest thing she’s had to a father figure since her own father disappeared under as yet unexplained circumstances. They’re also very supportive of each other and even the Middleman was there to offer violence when Wendy’s art was plagiarized.

The show also provides a solid friendship between Wendy and Lacey. I fully admit that I found Lacey a little annoying in the first few episodes, but she quickly grew on me. She’s a staunch animal rights activist and uses her confrontational spoken word artistry to challenge the people and places who don’t take that seriously. Her drive has landed her in jail numerous times, leaving Wendy to bail her out like it’s no big deal. Trust me when I say I am completely on Wendy’s side with her annoyance here. But Lacey also proves to be a loyal and supportive friend who initially struggles with Wendy’s new job, mostly around her secretive nature about it considering she’s supposed to be a temp. She eventually comes to terms with it, explaining to Wendy as she struggles to handle Tyler’s new job at Fatboy Industries, that it’s not a change of person, just a change of circumstance.

Wendy and Lacey also have a little community in the building they live in. Noser is probably the girls’ closest friend in the building and when he goes missing in one episode, Lacey drops everything to find him because Wendy is worried and is busy at work. Naturally, like most of the B plots, it intersects with the A story in a bittersweet way, at least for Lacey and the Middleman.

It’s obvious from the first time Lacey meets the Middleman that she is attracted and it seems the Middleman is as well, just a little shyly. Their paths cross multiple times thanks to Wendy until they finally find themselves in the same movie theater to see the same flick. The only ones in the theater, they have a little date until the Middleman gets called away. Their first official “date” -watching the same movie again in the same spot, this time the Middleman bringing Lacey the vegan candy the theater didn’t have- ends the same way. It turns out that the Middleman has never seen the end of the movie, so Lacey promises to watch it for him. Their budding romance is cut short, however, by Wendy. Not out of jealousy, and not entirely because it would be weird to have her roommate and best friend dating her boss. Wendy is too aware of the dangers of the job. She doesn’t want to see Lacey get hurt, either because she’s caught in the crossfire or because something happens to the Middleman.

She relents on this position later when it becomes obvious thanks to a couple of vampire puppets (trust me) that Lacey and the Middleman are truly in love. However, the Middleman chooses -at least right then- to keep his distance from Lacey.

At least they appear to get together in an alternate universe.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend at least a paragraph or two talking about what is probably my favorite character and the center of my personality vision board, Ida.

She’s an android whose programming got stuck on snarky librarian (or grumpy schoolmarm) and she dresses like fashion is something that happens to other people. In other words, she’s glorious. Ida’s not only been around forever, but she also has the benefit of not having human emotions or frailties. What she does have is one-liners and insults, which are usually directed at Wendy, whom she’s convinced is a pot smoker and is fully capable of anything as long as it’s failure. Their back and forths in an already jam packed, fast talking show stand out. But don’t think Ida reserved all of her best lines for Wendy. The Middleman is frequently on the receiving end of her barbs.

Though the relationship between Ida and the humans might look entirely antagonistic, the Middleman and yes, even Wendy, are quite fond of her. When it looks like Ida will have to be sacrificed to save the world and they’ll have to continue on Ida-less, both the Middleman and Wendy pay their respects to her…before a new Ida arrives from O2STK with the same look, wardrobe, and personality.

We also get a glimpse of an inner Ida -literally- when Wendy is shrunk in order to get into Ida’s brain (just go with me). Inside, she finds a much more demure, fashionable Ida whose wit is still just as sharp, but overall, she’s just a little softer.

With the mix of humor, action, heart, and characters, this show should have lasted a whole lot longer than twelve episodes, but 2008 slept on it. It’s rare for the first season of a show, no matter how long, not to have a miss, and The Middleman didn’t. Every episode is a banger. Could it have kept that up? Odds are no. But we were robbed of that chance to find out.

The Middleman and Wendy deserved to save the world a whole lot more.

Rerun Junkie Show–CSI: Miami

csi miami

WARNING: This post is just full of spoilers. Like I held back not at all. Viewer discretion is advised.

I watched CSI: Miami when it was first run back in the early aughts, jumping into the show in like the third or fourth season and then sort of fading out towards the last few (I was in and out, but I did watch the series finale, of course). When Charge! added the series to the line-up, I wasn’t exactly enthused (it replaced my morning Magnum PI for a time), but ended up putting it on because there was nothing else to watch and quickly found myself reliving the glory that is this show.

Then I realized that the show had been off the air for about 10 years which makes it Rerun Junkie eligible in my book. And that means I justified watching five hours of it every night for months as research.

A spin-off of CSI, the Miami version focuses on crime lab leader Lt. Horatio Caine (David Caruso) and his team which during the course of ten seasons included Calleigh Duquense (Emily Proctor), Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez), Megan Donner (Kim Delaney), Tim Speedle (Rory Cochrane), Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo), Natalia Boa Vista (Eva LaRue), Jesse Cardoza (Eddie Cibrian), and Walter Simmons (Omar Benson Miller). They worked alongside medical examiners Dr. Alexx Woods (Khandi Alexander), Dr. Tara Price (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and Dr. Tom Loman (Christian Clemenson), and detectives Frank Tripp (Rex Linn), Yelina Salas (Sofia Milos), Adell Sevilla (Wanda DeJesus), John Hagen (Holt McCallany), and Jake Berkeley (Johnny Whitworth). And everybody drove around in Hummers. Your first clue that this show as go big because we’re already home.

The first three seasons were pretty standard police procedural fare, cases mixed with personal lives and tragic backstories. Now, these cases were very Miami, of course. The first episode had a plane crash in the Glades that led to Delko and Speed needing to obtain the plane’s pilfered black boxes from a pit of juvie alligators. That sets a tone. There are also crocodiles, air boats, wild fires, night clubs, sex parties, diplomatic immunity, Cuban refugees, sharks, pirates, a hurricane, a tsunami, and boat drive-bys.

However, there were hints of the show it would become.

In the first three seasons, we got the roller coaster that was Horatio Caine’s dead brother Raymond, an undercover narcotics officer killed in the line of duty during a not-so-on-the-books drug deal, casting a shadow over his legacy. Complicating matters is that Horatio has feelings for his widowed sister-in-law Yelina and they are somewhat reciprocated, but then Horatio finds out that his brother had an affair and a daughter named Madison with meth addict Susie (Azura Skye) while undercover and because Horatio takes on the responsibility of supporting them, Yelina thinks the child is Horatio’s and that pretty much ends things for them and so she starts dating IAB Sgt. Rick Stetler (David Lee Smith), who has it in for Horatio and his team, but it all comes out in the wash when it’s revealed that Raymond was so undercover that he’s not only not dead, but also Dean Winters for that episode, and his apparent murderer, who was Susie’s shitty husband, was also deep undercover, and now-alive Raymond takes Yelina and their son Ray Jr. to be safe in Brazil with Horatio’s help, but we never hear about Susie and Madison again after Ray Jr. gives Madison a bone marrow transplant.


So, when Season 4 rolled around, the lab got a face lift, the show leaned into the orange aura and color coordination, and the show mashed that gas pedal to the floor. I swear the writing room philosophy was “Why the fuck not?” and I am not mad about it. The results are pure entertainment.

In Season 4 alone, Horatio had to contend with both a serial killer from his past (who frames him for murder at one point) and the deadly Mala Noche gang. He ended up falling for and marrying Delko’s sister Marisol (Alana De La Garza), who was fighting cancer, something Delko had been keeping from everyone as he struggled to support her financially and emotionally, including scoring pot for her to help her symptoms, which he got in trouble for, but Horatio bailed him out. Delko also wasn’t thrilled with his boss marrying his sister, but he got over it, blessing the happy marriage that lasted until the next episode when Marisol was gunned down by the Mala Noche (you had to see that coming, right?). Meanwhile, the whole lab is plagued by a mole and the feds eventually come crashing down on them. Also, Ryan got shot in the eye with a nail gun at some point. It was very busy.

In the ensuing seasons: Horatio acquired a teenage son named Kyle Harmon (Evan Ellingson) he didn’t know he had as the result of his own undercover work and whose mother Julia Winston (Elizabeth Berkley) had questionable motives and questionable taste in men (outside of Horatio, of course). One of her husbands, Ron Saris (Kim Coates), proved to be a dangerous, underhanded man, and a real pain in Horatio’s ass. Julia ends up being committed after going off her bipolar meds because she’s falsely accused of stealing drugs (it was really Dr. Price, who had a bit of an addiction) and trying to shoot Horatio in front of their son, who later enlists in the military and is sent to the Middle East as a medic. Horatio also fakes his death once with the help of Ryan and David Keith, then in a later season gets shot for real by Ethan Embry, who also puts Natalia in a car trunk and pushes it into the ocean. Does Horatio recover enough from his gunshot wound to save her AND solve the case? You’re damn right.

Natalia and Ryan were also nearly killed when a booby-trapped meth lab blew up and she ended up with some hearing loss as a result. When her abusive ex-husband Nick (Rob Estes) resurfaces and makes her life a living hell by following the abuser playbook, using his smarmy charm and knowledge of the law against her, which forces a shaky truce so she can keep working, he ends up getting murdered (because the dude is a shitbag), which rudely results in both Natalia and beloved DNA analyst Maxine Valera (Boti Bliss) being accused of the crime. Her sister Anya (Natalie Morales) was kidnapped by a murderous photographer (which was based on a real life close call of Eva LaRue’s sister). And Natalia was also kidnapped by a man who wanted her to prove that he was innocent (and nothing says “innocent” like the desperation of a felony). She was also briefly on everyone’s shitlist because she was the Season 4 lab mole. Just as brief was her relationship with Delko, which resulted in a pregnancy scare.

Delko would end up getting shot in the leg and the head (but we only remember the head shot), and the bit of the bullet left lodged in his temporal lobe would prove to be problematic as he recovered with some memory problems and the healing process resulted in him hallucinating a not-dead Speed, and then later the bullet shifting in his brain landed him in a coma. He took a break from being a CSI for a bit after that and sort of alienated everyone when it was discovered he was doing a low key investigation for State’s Attorney Rebecca Niven (Christina Chang) (who also briefly dated Horatio) regarding missing evidence, which got her blown up, and nearly took out Eric as well. And to add insult to energy, he found out that his dad wasn’t his dad and that his real dad was a Russian mobster and his birth certificate was a fake and he almost got deported back to Cuba, except that it was revealed that his Russian dad was actually an American CIA plant from way back in the day so Eric was still an American at the end of the day. He also ended up having an on-again, off-again relationship with Calleigh.

Calleigh would also have relationships with a couple of other detectives, first Hagan and then Berkeley. It was after Hagan’s suicide in front of her in firearms that Calleigh stepped away from her calling as a bullet girl for a bit. There was also a bit of flirtation with an FBI guy by the name of Peter Elliot (Michael B. Silver), but that tanked when she found out he got engaged to Assistant State’s Attorney Monica West (Bellamy Young), who was so hell bent on bringing down the lab, she stole evidence to do it. She was once put on leave for an off-duty officer involved incident in which it looked like an innocent bystander had been killed by her actions, but she was cleared. Calleigh nearly died of smoke inhalation twice, the second time resulting in a near-death experience that had her investigating the crime with the victim. Like Natalia, Calleigh was also kidnapped, but she was taken by criminals who wanted her to help them cover up a crime (thanks to a disgraced Cooper’s website targeting her because he blamed her for getting fired and not his own dispshit, thievery actions), but she was smart enough to leave a clue for every clue she removed, which led to the cavalry arriving just in time. While Ethan Embry was on the run after trying to take out Horatio and Natalia, Calleigh ended up forming a bond with his two kids, particularly his son Austin, and ended up later adopting him and his sister Patty.

After getting shot in the eye with a nail gun, Ryan sort of careened out of control, leaking information to reporter Erica Sykes (Amy Laughlin), assaulting lab rat Dan Cooper (Brendan Fehr) and a police officer, and then developing a gambling problem, which resulted in his debt being potentially held over an investigation. He paid it off just in time…by gambling on the clock. As a result, he got fired and spent quite a bit of time working his way back to the team. But his gambling past caught up with him through a support group buddy. Because of him he ended up being kidnapped and tortured (including some Marathon Man dentistry) by some Russian mob guys who wanted him to dispose of evidence in a crime. He was also framed for murder once by Stetler and then accused of a murder which was actually committed by late-comer CSI Samantha Owens (Taylor Cole), who left him to take the rap, breaking his heart because Ryan struggled to fall for anyone outside the lab. Oh, and he also got blown away by a tornado once, but despite landing on a car, was right back to work to help solve the case. Horatio was right. It’s in his blood.

Before we even got to the fifth season, Alexx had already survived two wild fires, being taken hostage by an escaped convict, and an explosion. So naturally she survives a rocket launcher attack, a meth lab fire (along with Ryan, who seems to have some questionable luck in the meth lab department), and the bad mojo of a solar eclipse. Prescribing antibiotics for Ryan’s nail gunned eye infection lands her in hot water with her boss, but she chooses loyalty to her friends over career politics. However, the job ends up getting to her and after her son ends up a murder suspect (the team clears him, of course), she decides to choose life over death and leaves the morgue, eventually taking a part time job at the hospital.

Within the span of a couple of episodes, Frank ends up stepping on a landmine (he’s okay!) and then a house explosion lands a water heater directly onto his new car. He ends up getting promoted to sergeant and during his time in uniform, he’s on a prison bus that crashes. The resulting head injury from the crash and an assault by one of the prisoners combined with the mob rush around the bus, disorients Frank to the point that he shoots at a man pointing a gun at him. In reality, it’s an unarmed deaf woman. Frank is distraught, but ballistics quickly reveals he didn’t shoot her. He eventually returns to plain clothes work, for which we are grateful because Frank has the best ties.

Jesse was only with us for a single season, but we find out this wife was murdered by a porn producer who also murdered his own wife and a big part of the reason Jesse’s in Florida is because he’s stalking the killer’s new unsuspecting woman in an attempt to keep her safe. Horatio and Delko end up going out to LA to clear Jesse’s reputation which as been besmirched by the killer and his attorney, Malcolm McDowell. Only Horatio Caine can best Malcolm McDowell. That’s like a law. And they eventually get said killer. Sadly, Jesse’s time in Miami ends with his unfortunate death after the entire lab is gassed by a serial killer high on his own genius and Jesse hits his head when he collapses.

Walter was lucky. He was mostly drama-free and with the exception of being put on the hot seat during an investigation into some missing diamonds (thanks to Delko’s big mouth) and feeling really guilty about Ryan’s tornado experience since he felt it was his fault, he was mostly left to deal with other people’s drama. Which is fine. Walter is precious and should be protected at all costs. Same for Dr. Loman. I love them and I will fight you if you say otherwise.

Now take all of this and weave in cases that feature politicians (including Ed Beagley Jr.), judges, spring breakers, weapons that can vaporize people, Russian mobsters (including Andrew Divoff), reality stars, guns that can shoot around corners, dirty bombs, repeat offenders (like Clavo Cruz, played by Gonzalo Menendez), Santeria, serial killers, cougars, con artists, identity theft, boa constrictors, then-current pop culture trends, sex workers, models, cartels, wannabes, and baby, you got yourself a good time.

Some familiar faces that popped up during the series run include: soap vets Wes Ramsey (who first played a baddie before coming back much later in a recurring role as video guy Dave Benton), Rena Sofer, Jennifer Sky, James Patrick Stewart, Amber Tamblyn, Jamie Luner, and Kirsten Storms; Lauren Holly, Natasha Henstridge, Judy Greer, Tia Carrere, Maria Conchita Alonso; future Lost alums Ian Sommerholder, Maggie Grace, Emilie de Ravin, and Mark Pelligrino; future Arrow stars Stephen Amell, Rick Gonzalez, Paul Blackthorne, and David Ramsey; Castle stars Stana Katic, Tamala Jones, and Seamus Deaver; John Schneider, Patrick Cassidy, Greg Evigan, Anthony Michael Hall, Alan Ruck; Candyman himself, Tony Todd, and his lady love Virginia Madsen; Stargate-ers Ben Browder, Michael Shanks, Corin Nemic, David DeLuise, Louis Ferreira, Alaina Huffman, and Willie Garson; Star Trek-ers Chris Pine (who will never be as cool as his dad), Robert Beltran, Anson Mount, and Tim Russ; BSG stars Callum Keith Rennie, Michael Trucco, and Jamie Bamber; Aisha Tyler, Missy Crider, Debi Mazar, Brooke Burns; Alien franchise victims Mark Rolston (as pain in the ass fed Glen Cole) and Raymond Cruz; in addition to Dean Winters, other Oz alums included Dean’s brother Scott William Winters, Lance Reddick (as yet another recurring fed), and Brian Bloom; Sean “Diddy” combs, Rich Eisen, Sticky Fingaz, Zac Effron; Hawaii Five-0/Magnum PI reboot contributors Ian Anthony Dale, Katrina Law, William Forsythe, Sung Kang, Taryn Manning, and James Remar (who was also a Warrior); Lucy Lawless, Terry Crews, Joe Manganiello, Timothy Omundson, Jon Hamm; fellow Miami show Burn Notice stars Jeffrey Donovan and Coby Bell; future Breaking Bad stars Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito; NCIS: New Orleans folks Rob Kerkovich and Necar Zadegan; Firefly‘s Adam Baldwin and Sean Maher; Christopher Titus, Elaine Hendrix, Jake Busey, Jsu Garcia, Beth Brodrick, Orlando Jones, Alica Witt; Walking Dead zombie dodgers Michael Cudlitz, Michael Rooker, and John Bernthal; legends in my mind Daniel Roebuck, Ned Bellamy, Wings Hauser, Don Swayze, and Jeff Fahey; and legit goddesses Bo Derrick, Cheryl Ladd, and Raquel Welch.

I couldn’t include all of the guest stars I wanted to because I could go on forever. A lot of fabulous people strolled through this part of Miami.

Also, special shout out to our recurring lab folks that I haven’t mentioned yet because this evidence isn’t going to analyze itself: Brian Poth (Tyler Jenson), Christopher Redman (Michael Travers), Brooke Bloom (Cynthia Wells), Cristián de la Fuente (Sam Belmontes), Armando Valdes-Kennedy (Aaron Peters), Leslie Odom Jr. (Joseph Kayle), and Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Laura); a nod to a few of our other officers and detectives: Shelli Burgh (Officer Paula Muro), Joel West (Officer Jessop…blown up by the Mala Noche, RIP), and Michael Whaley (Detective Bernstein); and special consideration to Stephen Tobolowsky whose State’s Attorney Don Haffman seemed to be the only one who didn’t end up dead or in jail.

Though the show was known for its tendency to be soapy, over the top, maybe even a bit camp (all of these are good points as far as I’m concerned), it still managed to have some interesting storytelling and emotional weight.

Speed’s death in a shootout at the beginning of Season 3 mirroring his involvement in a shootout in the first season, not just his gun failing to fire because he didn’t clean it (dammit, Speed), but also him getting hit in the same spot on his chest, the lack of a bullet proof vest dooming him the second time is a beautiful piece of symmetry and Speed’s final moments are terribly upsetting, especially given how senseless it was in the context of the case. But his death was allowed to resonate, not just for that season, but later seasons as well. Delko was deeply impacted by Speed’s death, which led to him engaging in some really risky behaviors. When Delko hallucinates Speed in Season 6 because of the way his brain is healing after being shot, he ends up having to grieve him all over again.

Speed’s name comes up later in Season 8 when Delko is in a coma and Horatio pleads with him to stay around because after losing Marisol and Raymond and Speed, he can’t bear to lose him, too. It’s such a beautiful scene in the middle of a nostalgic episode that gives us the story of how the band got together. A tricky thing to execute in such a late season, it does a great job of showing how everyone connected as Horatio and his partner John “Sully” Sullivan (Brad Leland), who would be pretty relevant in Season 8, investigate a murder, with Horatio encouraging a very not-CSI Delko to pursue the career, Calleigh just transferring to the lab, Cardoza fixing to leave the lab in Miami to go to LA and recommending a guy named Speed on the way out the door, Frank in uniform, Alexx back in the morgue, and Natalia still with the FBI. Ryan and Walter aren’t around in the flashbacks, of course, but they’re in the present and that’s good, too.

Delko and Calleigh weren’t the only ones with near-death experiences and hallucinations. After Horatio was shot by Ethan Embry, he found himself back with Marisol again. I so love when shows don’t shy away from things outside the realm of known reality, particularly when they’re shows like this that are so science, fact, and evidence driven.

One other storyline that I particularly love that played out over the first few seasons was that of Calleigh and her dad, lawyer Kenwall Duquense (John Heard). It was obvious that she was daddy’s girl and loved the man very much, but his alcoholism and inability to stay on the wagon created such a sad strain on their relationship. When his drinking inevitably leads to an incident in which it looks like he may have killed someone (but of course didn’t), Calleigh puts her foot down. If she can’t stop him from drinking, she’ll stop him from driving and takes his keys. In his last appearance, he seems to be doing better.

The fact that the show wasn’t above having some intentional fun is great, too. The episode titles themselves got punny, like “Bang Bang Your Debt” (a shady credit card company preying on college kids leads to murder), “Smoke Gets in Your CSIs” (the first time Calleigh suffers smoke inhalation), “Chip/Tuck” (a plastic surgeon gets put into a wood chipper), “Grizzly Murder” (a bear attack on some hunters), “Won’t Get Fueled Again” (a guy involved in a fuel smuggling ring is set on fire), and “Look Who’s Taunting” (the first episode featuring the Miami Taunter serial killer suspected to be Esteban Navarro, played by Kuno Becker). Seriously. Just inject that sort of thing straight into my veins.

There’s a Rashomon-style episode that has Ryan, Calleigh, and Delko coming to very different conclusions on who killed their victim before Horatio steps in to help them tie it all together. There’s also an episode in which Ryan starts to believe that he’s been cursed by a little coffin that Eric won’t touch due to his respect for the Santeria alter in the victim’s room. In the end, Ryan’s not cursed…but someone else might be.

There’s also an episode in which Ryan is certain he sees a floating hat at a crime scene and even though everyone else gives him shit about it, the mystery of the floating hat is actually relevant to the crime. Doesn’t stop Walter from messing with him later, though.

I really do love the relationships between the characters on the show, particularly the Delko/Speed friendship (I love those two on cases together), the Walter/Ryan friendship (the two of them being confronted with a bear is legit one of my favorite laugh out loud moments), and the Natalia/Ryan friendship (I love how they support each other). None of them are above getting pissy with each other (Delko and Ryan could get particularly bitchy, especially with each other, and Frank was never above busting Ryan’s balls), but there’s something subtly refreshing about how that almost never happens between Calleigh and Natalia, and something gently reassuring about how Horatio always has everyone’s back, whether they want it or not.

At the end of the day, they’re all family.

And the show is a bonkers good time.


horatio caine

Rerun Junkie Show–David Cassidy: Man Undercover

david cassidy man undercover

I first remember coming across David Cassidy: Man Undercover when I was doing guest star research for Book ’em, Danno. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to watch it. David Cassidy playing an undercover cop in the ’70s bridge between The Mod Squad and 21 Jump Street? Yes, please! It became one of my Holy Grail shows. It hasn’t been released on DVD, so streaming was my only hope.

I lucked out when it showed up on Crackle. The only hitch in the giddy-up? Episode 5 is missing for some reason (EDIT: Thanks to Gail for providing a link to Episode 5 in the comments). Missing an episode or two in a 200 episode show is no big deal (there are two eps of Hawaii Five-O I haven’t seen because they don’t get play in syndication, but one of them I’ll be able to watch thanks to streaming; bootleg is the only way I’ll ever see the lost episode); in a 10 episode short-lived series, it can be more significant. However, I think my binge watch of the nine available episodes is sufficient, at least for this little write-up.

As the title so expertly explains, David Cassidy plays undercover officer Dan Shay. He and his fellow undercover officers including Paul Sanchez (Michael A. Salcido) and T.J. Epps (Ray Vitte) answer to tough, loud, and supportive Sargent Abrams (Simon Oakland), while his wife Joanne (Wendy Rastattar) takes care of their daughter Cindy (Elizabeth Reddin), worries about his safety, and wonders if he’ll ever get to attend family events like a normal husband.

Every episode Dan Shay goes undercover as someone else named Dan (and I’m pretty sure every last name started with an S, but it might have just seemed that way) to infiltrate some sort of crime group and bring them down from the inside. Now, we’re talking about heartthrob David Cassidy here. Even four years after The Partridge Family, he was still something of a baby-faced hunk, which played in his favor for some undercover assignments and against him in others.

He was believable as a street racer, a college student in a baby-making scheme (yes, you read that right), and as a junkie. He was really good as the junkie, something you wouldn’t expect from such a normally clean-cut guy.

It was a stretch of believability when he went undercover as a pimp (yes), a motorcycle gang member, and an arms dealer. It’s no fault of his own. David Cassidy pulled off the acting, but when you put him next to another arms dealer played by James Whitmore Jr., the difference is glaring. He just didn’t have the right look.

Other guest stars include James Whitmore Jr.’s Baa Baa Black Sheep Squadron co-star WK Stratton (who was also almost too sweet-faced to play the bad guy he was playing); Ty Hardin, Norman Alden, Frank Campanella, Gerald Berns, Donald Petrie; soon to be TV names Heather Thomas, Gary Graham, and Randi Oakes; J. Jay Saunders, Jenny O’Hara, Alan Vint; voice artist king Michael Bell; Lana Wood, Ed Harris, Ed Nelson, Barry Nelson; horror faces Christopher Stone and Cliff Emmich; Jacques Aubuchon, Vince Howard, Joe Santos, Ken Swofford; ladies Jenny Sherman, Robin Dearden, Barbara Tarbuck, and Christina Hart; Paul Koslo, Vincent Bagetta, Tom Simcox, Craig Stevens, Carl Weintraub, Justin Lord, and Frank Converse.

Even if David Cassidy couldn’t always pull off the undercover assignments to my expectations, the episodes for the most part were decent to good. I particularly liked the twist of the college baby ring. Instead of coercing knocked up college girls to give their babies up for adoption to couples who could pay the huge fees, they solicited willing college students to make designer babies the old-fashioned way. Paying couples could flip through a book of headshots and pick the DNA they wanted. Then the chosen two would bow chicka wow wow their way to a baby and a payday. The problem was there was no take-backs and those who tried to back out of the deal were dealt with harshly. And that’s where Dan came in.

The episode in which Dan goes undercover as a junkie was also quite good, but more for the relationship that Dan established with another junkie. Sure, he used and manipulated him, but it was also clear that Dan cared about the man, too.

That’s the thing about the show. It’s very earnest. Dan is not only big on getting justice, but also on doing the right thing. The show humanizes addicts and sex workers, when most shows at the time still treated them as castoffs, undesirables, and garden variety criminals. That doesn’t stop them from playing Joanne as a petty, insecure wife when Dan is undercover as a pimp (I know) and working closely with a sex worker. Which is a shame because most of the time, their relationship is pretty grounded. She worries for him and gets frustrated with his work, but they also have silly, loving moments together that work really nicely to keep her from being a typical serious police wife.

I think the show would have benefited by keeping Dan’s undercover assignments toward his strengths of looking like a young, hip guy and/or derelict, juxtaposing that with his home life as a husband and father, but apparently, there’s more excitement in trying to convince us that Dan is a tough prison thug (I was not convinced; nothing to do with the acting, everything to do with the looks).

The show does tend dampen any climax peril for Dan. The only time I ever actually feared for him was when he was nearly molested in prison (which wasn’t the climax) and even then he quickly dispatched the offender. Most of the time the episodes wrap up pretty quickly and neatly with the bad guys not fighting back a whole lot. Sometimes it makes sense, but I expect James Whitmore Jr. not to go so quietly.

Even so, I enjoyed the show.

It’s just more evidence that I’ll watch Simon Oakland yell in anything.

Rerun Junkie Show–CHiPs


Back in the long long ago of my childhood of the late ’80s/early ’90s, I discovered many of my beloved reruns thanks to my grandma’s much better cable and living close enough that I could spend weeks in the summer at her house. One of those shows was CHiPs. Oh yes. My love of ’70s cops shows started when I was quite young. I can remember watching this show during the summer at grandma’s house (along with a slew of other reruns) and then being thrilled a few years later when it ended up on a line-up on a channel I got at home and could watch after school. I believe it was on after Starsky and Hutch.


CHiPs follows two officers of the California Highway Patrol, Officer Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and his partner Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada) as they fight crime under the watchful eye of Sgt. Joseph Getraer (Robert Pine) and alongside their fellow officers including Officer Arthur Grossman (Paul Linke), Officer Barry Barizca (Brodie Greer), Officer Bonnie Clark (Randi Oakes), Officer Jebediah Turner (Michael Dorn), Officer Gene Fritz (Lew Saunders), Officer Kathy Linahan (Tina Gayle), Officer Sindy Cahill (Brianne Leary), and Officer Benjamin Webster (Clarence Gilyard Jr.). Baker also partnered with Officer Steve McLeish (Caitlyn Jenner) for some episodes (Estrada was sitting out due to a contract dispute) and Officer Bobby “Hot Dog” Nelson (Tom Reilly) stepped in after Baker left the CHP to go back to Wyoming (Wilcox left the show), bringing along brother Officer Bruce Nelson (Bruce Penhall) as a trainee. And of course, the whole squad was kept running by the brilliant Harlan Arliss (Lou Wagner). It should be noted that Michael Dorn sported a magnificent cop mustache during his run on the show and I appreciate that dedication.

Since the show is all about the highway patrol, there was a lot hot freeway action with chases and accidents. And while many of the crimes dealt with some sort of moving violation, be it speeding, racing, car theft, or trafficking of some sort, some of the storylines moved off the road, so to speak. There was always a main story weaved into the other minor crimes along with whatever shenanigans Ponch and/or Jon were getting into. Sometimes everyone got in on the shenanigans. For example, I just watched an episode that involved the CHP helping to care for a bunch of orphaned babies. Yes, really. Robert Pine demonstrating how to most effectively soothe a baby (“skate and sway”) is something we all need in our lives.

But there were also drag racers, stunt drivers, off-road racers, and demolition derbies, and we need that in our lives, too. Thank goodness this show provided. Not one to shy away from the things that made the ’70s great, Ponch and Jon often found themselves doing the latest hip things, like land boarding or hang gliding, either undercover or just for fun.

Because of the nature of the show, it was easy to work in guest stars for not only the main storylines, but for the smaller crimes, too. And since the show’s six seasons ran during the late ’70s and early ’80s, we’re talking the cream of the rerun crop here.

Just a scant few of the guest stars that cruised through include Gwynne Gilford (Robert Pine’s wife playing Sgt. Getraer’s wife); Larry Linville, Herb Edelman, William Schallert, Shelley Berman, Tom Poston, George Lindsey; teenagers Danny Bonaduce, Robbie Rist, Leif Garrett, Christopher Knight, and Moosie Drier; William Smith, Robert F. Lyons, Don Stroud, Mills Watson; Halloween franchise alums Pamela Susan Shoop, Nancy Stephens, Tony Moran, Hunter von Leer, Cliff Emmich, and Kyle Richards; Katherine Cannon, Christine Belford, Mary Crosby, Joanne Linville; future Growing Pains stars Tracey Gold and Joanna Kerns; Reb Brown, Richard Roundtree, Alex Rocco, Brion James; Emergency! vets William Boyett, Tim Donnelly, and Vince Howard; Jenny O’Hara, Elaine Joyce, Anne Lockhart, Anne Francis; Escape to Witch Mountain kids Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann; The Howling stars Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone; Troy Donahue, Rudy Vallee, Dough McClure, Edd Byrnes; Poltergeist stars Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke; Ed Harris, David Caruso, Michelle Pfeifer, Kelly Preston, Bryan Cranston; Black Sheep Squadron vets Simon Oakland, Robert Ginty, and Dirk Blocker; Clu Gulager, Robert Englund, Kip Niven; Welcome Back, Kotter graduates Ron Palillo and Robert Hegyes; Dwight Schultz, A Martinez, Fred Dryer, Gary Sandy, Edward James Olmos, Gerald McRaney, Markie Post, Martin Kove, Anne Ramsey, Soleil Moon Frye, Moon Unit Zappa, Keenan Ivory Wayans; Ironside alums Don Galloway and Don Mitchell; Sonny Bono, Eric Braeden, Julie Newmar, Miguel Ferrer, Royal Dano, Ellen Travolta; Gilligan’s Island castaways Tina Louise and Jim Backus; Alice Ghostly, Richard Deacon, Don Most, Alan Sues; F-Troop vets Ken Berry and Larry Storch; and comedy legends Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Rich Little, and Phyllis Diller.

Believe me when I say that I didn’t include everyone I wanted to. The show really is a gold mine for guest stars.

Part of that is because it was easy for celebs to do a cameo or in the case of a couple of episodes, uncredited appearances thanks to the CHP charity efforts.

There are at least two of these episodes I can think of off the top of my head. Both of them were two-parters, but one is legend.

The Season 4 episode “The Great 5K Race and Boulder Wrap” features Ponch trying to recruit celebrities for a charity function, a couple of thieves with a fancy motorcycle and side car, and a boulder threatening Milton Berle’s house. Don’t worry, everything works out okay, of course, and we get treated to our CHP officers getting dunked in a dunk tank by the likes of Michael Cole, Todd Bridges, Richard Kline, and one of the Landers sisters. The fun and games is also attended by Cindy Williams, Rose Marie, Peter Marshall, Ruth Buzzi, Vic Tayback, Betsy Palmer, Marcia Wallace, Merlin Olsen, Conrad Bain, and Dean Butler.

However, the Season 3 opener “Roller Disco” is the ’70s glam and WTF that dreams are made of. In addition to a group of roller skating thieves (Jim Brown and Fred Williamson on skates!), a really annoying roller skating brat, a whiplash guy looking for revenge, and a burnt out rock star, Ponch is in charge of the Skate with the Stars charity event. That’s right! Stars on skates! Melissa Sue Anderson, Richard Hatch, Victor French, Wesley Eure, Nancy Kulp, Phillip McKeon, Brett Somers, Dick Van Patten, George Peppard, Jo Anne Worley, and more. Yes, it is as glorious as it sounds. Only a disco ball glitters more.

Of course, most episodes weren’t this glitzy. Even though Ponch and Jon were the focus of the show, the secondary characters got their chances to shine in episodes, too. Bonnie thought about joining a stunt show; Barizca helped out his parents; Getraer had his hands full with his own kids as well as Ponch and Jon; and Grossman…well, he’s Grossman.

And since this is a cop show featuring traffic, there were also plenty of peril episodes. Everybody wrecked at least once, and some of those wrecks weren’t accidents. In one episode, someone deliberately targeted our CHiPs and ended up taking out Jon and Grossman. Some wrecked worse than others. Ponch, Jon, Bonnie, Sindy, Gertraer, and Grossman all ended up in the hospital at one point in time or another. Poor Sindy ended up being accused of causing an 11 car pile-up and it took the Chippies working the MAIT team investigation to clear her.

One of the more memorable wrecks, at least memorable to me, was when Ponch ended up crashing into a store and ended up with a display case poised to decapitate him. Thanks to Jon, Barizca, Turner, and Grossman, Ponch escaped without a physical scratch, but the mental wounds nearly kept him from doing his job. And there were episodes that were a little more emotionally involved for our CHiPs, in between the romances, daredevils, wayward kids, pranks, motor cycle gangs, martial arts, pot farmers, and road rage.

I’m sure back in the day women, men, and enbys of the guy-liking persuasion probably sorted themselves into one of two categories: Ponch or Jon. I admit that in my teen years, I went between the two. But ultimately, my heart belonged to Grossman. When it comes to my fictional men, there’s something about a chubby, awkward one that wins me every time. Plus, he was in Motel Hell. My opinion hasn’t really changed much in my elder years, though now I definitely have a thing for Bonnie, too, and I totally see the appeal of Getraer. Take that Chris Pine. Your dad will always be cooler.

But whichever category you fall into, you know that these Chippies will be keeping you safe on the freeway.

Grab your skates.

chips roller disco ad

Rerun Junkie Show-Tales of the Gold Monkey

As I like to say, the only men I fall in love with are either dead or fictional, and unfortunately Lt. “Mac” MacReynolds on Magnum PI ended up being both.

As the story goes, Jeff MacKay, who portrayed the recurring role of Mac, got a regular gig on a new Donald Bellasario show, Tales of the Gold Monkey, and so his character ended up being killed off at the beginning of the third season (much to the chagrin of me who has had a crush on Mac for years). When the new show was cancelled after one season, Jeff MacKay asked to come back and ended up returning to Magnum PI as Mac’s doppelganger, con artist Jim “Mac” Bonnick.

Obviously, I had to watch this one season show that caused Mac’s death and rebirth. And as luck would have it, my library carries this 1982 show. Which is wild when you consider that we don’t even have Magnum PI.


Before I even begin going into this show, I’m going to acknowledge it’s problematic nature upfront.

First of all, it’s a 1982 show set in 1938, apparently inspired by the 1939 movie Only Angels Have Wings. So there ends up being a lot of this show that did not age well. And while I believe in viewing these reruns in their appropriate context as well in current context, there’s some shit that’s just plain cringe-worthy.

Secondly, and more importantly, the lead in this show is portrayed by Stephen Collins, who admitted to “inappropriate sexual conduct with three female minors” in an interview he did with People magazine in December of 2014. So, yeah, knowing that the lead is a creeper definitely casts a shadow over the series, especially since he’s actually really good in the role and almost makes you forget that he’s a shitty person. Almost.

Now on to our feature presentation.

Tales of the Gold Monkey follows the exploits of former Flying Tiger Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins), his mechanic bestie Corky (Jeff MacKay), and his dog Jack (Leo the dog) as he makes a living flying his plane The Goose around the Marivella Islands from his home port of Boragora, which is under the jurisdiction of Bon Louie Chance (Roddy McDowell; Ron Moody in the pilot), who also owns and runs the Monkey Bar with the aid of his right-hand man Gushie (Les Jankey) where newcomer Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) finds a job as a singer. However, only Jake knows that she’s also a spy. Princess Koji (Marta DuBois) rules a nearby island and has something of a fascination with Jake, much to the annoyance of her bodyguard Todo (John Fujioka). The princess and Todo are the only ones who know that the Reverend Willie Tenboom actually isn’t a Dutch man of God, but is really a Nazi soldier in disguise.

And if that sounds like a lot, you should watch the pilot. I said “WTF” at least 12 times starting with the killer monkeys. They aren’t bad WTFs, just genuine ones. I admit that it took several episodes for me to actually get the hang of this show and even then it still found ways to trip me up.

For example, in the episode “Shanghaied”, while Jake is delusional with fever from malaria, Corky gets kidnapped by Guy Stockwell the good ol’ fashioned way that captains acquired crew for their boats -got them loaded and they woke up at sea. So you think, “Ah yes. A sea romp in which Corky is captive and Jake eventually saves him”, which is accurate. Except there’s also a hard left into slavery that’s not exactly anticipated. Guy Stockwell’s slightly-campy captain veers directly into vile with no warning and it’s a bit jarring. Also the depiction of indigenous people in this series isn’t the greatest, so that really brings the ep down from “Oh, this is fun” to “Okay, WTF, I didn’t agree to any of this.”

There are other episodes that balance the tone between serious and fun better. And some that don’t, but end up on the sillier side rather than the uncomfortable side. “Trunk From the Past” tries to give Sarah a tragic backstory with a murdered archaeologist father and a fiance that she never mentioned to anyone, but the visions, mummy, and pyramid in the middle of the jungle send it a little bit over into ridiculous and caps it with a brutal end for someone in the guest cast. It’s not bad, just not hitting the notes it was going for.

Some episodes just go for the serious. “Last Chance Louie” has Bon Louie Chance going to the guillotine for murder and the whole story is rather tragic and heartbreaking (spoiler alert: he keeps his head). Speaking of tugging at the emotions, the fight between Jake and Corky which results in Corky trying to leave Boragora in “Cooked Goose” is incredibly upsetting. The scene between Jake and Corky involving the baseball just hurts.

“Naka Jima Kill” is a straight fun episode that has Jake looking for an assassin while Sarah and her bestie from college who’s now a famous journalist end up getting into a bit of a battle of egos as Sarah can’t reveal to her that she’s a spy and her friend thinks that she’s being generous by letting her tag along to find this Japanese defense minister to interview. It’s a little bit serious, but it’s mostly just fun.

It’s also remarkably like the season 2 Magnum PI episode “The Jororo Kill”. Both feature an assassin that dons women’s clothing, a journalist that’s an old friend, and a plot to murder a high ranking official from another country. And they both also feature Jeff MacKay.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Donald Bellasario ended up utilizing bits of one of his other shows for this one. The plot of “High Stakes Lady” was first used for the season 2 Magnum PI episode “Texas Lightning”. Jeff MacKay wasn’t in that one.

It’s not just plots. Aside from Jeff MacKay (Mac/Jim Bonnick), Marta DuBois (Michelle Hue), John Calvin (3 episodes as various characters), John Fujioka (Nishimoto in “The Taking of Dick McWilliams”), several of the guest stars on Tales of the Gold Monkey showed up on Magnum PI including: Guy Stockwell (in the same ep as John Fujioka), William Lucking, Lance LeGault, Anne Lockhart, Richard Narita, Soon-Tek Oh, Sondra Currie, Henry Darrow, Shelley Smith, John DiSanti, Ray Dotrice, Pamela Susan Shoop, W.K. Stratton, Branscombe Richmond, John McLiam, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and John Hillerman. Yes, Higgins himself showed up in the pilot being a Nazi and wearing a monocle. It was weird.

Other guest stars include: Ken Foree, Nicholas Pryor, James Avery, Reid Shelton, James T. Callahan, Kim Cattrall, Alex Colon, Faye Grant, Michael Ensign, Alexa Hamilton, James Hampton, Charles Napier, Nia Peeples, Sandy Ward, Charles Macaulay, Curt Lowens, and John Reilly.

Of everything questionable about this show, it does manage to pull off one spectacular trick: you end up liking a Nazi.

As I said, only Princess Koji and Todo know that Reverend Tenboom is really a Nazi spy. And Todo seems to delight in torturing him, which I find amusing. But our heroes -Jake, Sarah, Corky, Louie- don’t know that. I can’t imagine it would go over well if they did. Instead, they think of him as a reverend and a good guy. The fact that his “blessing” of the female congregation is just a euphemism seems to miss them (another example of how poorly indigenous folks were portrayed -they were so “uneducated” the women didn’t know the difference between sex and religious practice). As a result of Willie’s disguise -despite his skeeviness- the audience sometimes is lulled into forgetting that the dude is a Nazi. Especially when he does things like helps them look for Sarah when she’s kidnapped or takes care of Corky when he’s banging his head on a pole because he can’t remember something or fights a pimp taking advantage of the young indigenous girls (even though that’s what he does -I guess prostitution is the line in the sand he doesn’t cross). He’s just bizarrely likeable even though he’s a literal Nazi. It makes me wonder how that would have played out had the show lasted several seasons.

If the show had lasted, then I think it would have emerged that Jack was the real star of the show. A dog with an eye patch because Jake gambled away his false eye, an opal with a sapphire star in the middle, and who would bark once for no and twice for yes. Many of the times I laughed out loud were because of that dog. He was brilliant.

As questionable and sometimes cringe-worthy as this show can be, and despite my initial reservations early in the series, I do enjoy it for the most part. Not everyone is going to be able to get past some of the more problematic elements of the series (in particular Stephen Collins) and that’s fine. But it is entertaining overall. For a show set in 1938, it still manages to hit some ’80s tropes, including one of Jake’s old girlfriends coming back as a nun (I do not know why that was a thing) and Jake falling for a single mother, but they just weren’t meant to be. And of course, he’s romancing the leading lady throughout. But there’s also some really on point 1938 elements, such as the fashion and the music, that makes it feel more like an old school adventure.

Also, the pilot is basically one long brass monkey joke. Can’t get better than that.

corky and jack

Rerun Junkie Shows–Stargate: Atlantis

Back in the long long ago of the 2000s, SyFy (then called Sci-Fi) would often marathon shows during the week. Some were older shows like Tales from the Darkside, the ’90s Outer Limits, and Friday the 13th: The Series and some were current (at the time) productions like Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate: SG-1.

This is how I discovered the latter’s spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis.

In this series, Stargate Command sends a team through the gate on a potentially one-way trip to the Pegasus Galaxy and the mythical lost city of Atlantis. The expedition is lead by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Tori Higginson) and includes scientists Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Dr. Radek Zelenka (David Nykl), medical man Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion), and Chuck the Technician (Chuck Campbell). Their military attachment is initially led by Col. Marshall Sumner (Robert Patrick), who unfortunately doesn’t last long, forcing Lt. Col John Shepherd (Joe Flanigan) to assume charge, and whose men include Major Evan Lorne (Kavan Smith), and Lt. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks). They’re aided in their exploration of the new galaxy by local Athosian Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell).

However, this new galaxy has no shortage of dangers and enemies, most notably Wraiths, humanoid creatures that literally suck the life out of humans.

In the course of five seasons, Dr. Elizabeth Weir is replaced by first Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) from SG-1 and then later IOA official Richard Woosley (Robert Picardo). After a tragic encounter with a Wraith, Lt. Ford becomes addicted to Wraith enzyme and goes rogue. His place on Shepherd’s team is filled by Satedan and former runner Specialist Ronan Dex (Jason Momoa). And after a devastating incident, Dr. Beckett is replaced by Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Stait). The expedition is also reconnected with Stargate Command and the Milky Way, sometimes by stargate, but usually by an Asgard ship called the Daedalus that’s commanded by Col. Steven Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi).

Much like SG-1, the point of the expedition is to explore the Pegasus Galaxy, make friends, and fight enemies. Unfortunately, the expedition itself is the reason their biggest enemy, the Wraith, is even around. During one of their first trips looking for friends, they accidentally wake them up. They also find plenty of human enemies as well, most notably the Genii, who covet their technology.

Some folks passing through the Pegasus Galaxy include: SG-1 alums Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black, Ben Browder, Bill Dow, Gary Jones, Beau Bridges, Don S. Davis, and Dan Shea; in recurring roles Sharon Taylor (Amelia Banks), Connor Trineer (Michael Kenmore), Dean Marshall (Sgt. Bates), Craig Veroni (Dr. Peter Grodin), Ben Cotton (Dr. Kavanaugh), Linda Ko (Marie), Patrick Sabongui (Kanaan), David Ogden Stiers (Oberoth), Andree Frizzell (Wraith Queen), Claire Rankin (Dr. Kate Heightmeyer), Michael Beach (Col. Abe Ellis), Kate Hewlett (David Hewlett’s sister playing his sister Jeannie Miller), and Christopher Heyerdahl (as both Athosian Halling and Todd the Wraith because he’s just that damn good); Genii Robert Davi, Ryan Robbins, and Colm Meaney; Mark Dacascos, Richard Kind, Jaime Ray Newman, Jill Wagner, Jodelle Ferland; Mike Dopud and Patrick Gilmore, who hold the distinction of being in episodes of all three Stargate shows as different characters; Kari Wuher, Dominic Zampronga, Laura Harris, Dave Foley, Nicole de Boer, Alan Ruck, Leela Savasta, Janina Gavankar, Christina Cox, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Patrick Gallagher, Steve Schirripa, Frank Vincent, and Danny Trejo.

It’s a fun sci-fi adventure show with plenty of action, a certain measure of wit and one-liners, and just enough emotional weight. The heart of the show lies in the characters and their relationships. Tight bonds are formed in high-pressure situations, especially when cut off from home. The episodes that highlight those relationships are the ones that I tend to like best.

“Tao of Rodney” is a perfect example of this. Rodney is hit with a beam from a piece of Ancient technology that increases his brilliance and gives him telepathy and telekinesis. It also supersizes his already supersized ego, which nearly costs Zelenka is his life. After it’s revealed that the purpose of this machine is to accelerate evolution to the point of ascension (all of this makes perfect sense if you watch the show) and Rodney is going to die, he ends up making very sincere gestures towards the people he cares about as he reconciles his fate.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t actually die. But it’s still meaningful just the same.

Also, it is no secret that Zelenka is my favorite, so many of my favorite episodes have him in them. I’m biased and I don’t care.

One interesting aspect of the show is how often accountability comes up. Obviously, you have the unending accountability of accidentally waking up the Wraith, but there’s also the ramifications of them trying to battle them as well. They attempted to engineer a deterrent to prevent Wraiths from feeding on humans and it caused a plague. They attempted to genetically change the Wraiths into humans and ended up with incredibly bitter Wraith-Human hybrid Michael who causes a whole shitload of problems. They attempted to genetically alter the Wraith so they no longer had to feed and it caused severe issues for their frenemy Todd the Wraith.

We see it again with the Genii and again with the Replicators. Hell, at one point they’re put on trial for it all. Granted, their harm wasn’t intentional, but it was widespread. And in some cases catastrophic.

I feel like that elevates the show. Sure, they’re the heroes. But they’re our heroes, not everyone’s. We know they’re only doing what they think is right, but those decisions have consequences. And we get to see those consequences spread out in the ripple effect that these sorts of decisions tend to create. They’re human, but fallible and we love them.

The show only lasted five seasons, which is a drag.

So much of the Pegasus Galaxy was left to explore.

Rerun Junkie Show–Magnum PI

During one magical, syndicated summer I was fortunate to have one channel spending a couple of hours every afternoon playing Magnum PI and Simon & Simon back-to-back. Talk about a lucky kid.

One day I’ll revisit latter, but for now, let’s talk about the former.

As the story goes, the 1980 series partially got the green light because they wanted to capitalize on the Hawaii production that Hawaii Five-O was leaving behind after ending a successful twelve year run in April of that year. And capitalize they did with a successful eight year run of Magnum PI (as another story goes, Jake and the Fatman was saved from cancellation by relocating the show to Hawaii in order to save CBS from leasing an empty studio; when the lease was up, the show moved back to LA). It was hinted that the shows shared a universe, as there were a few McGarrett references in the early seasons, though Jack Lord declined to cameo as he’d retired. From a slick, be-suited state police task force to an aloha shirt wearing private dick.

Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) is a former Navy special ops and NIA intelligence officer making his living as a private investigator and living at the estate of Robin Masters, much to the annoyance of major domo Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) and his lads, dobermans Zeus and Apollo. Magnum is aided in his cases (and in his life) by his besties and fellow Vietnam vets, chopper pilot Theodore “TC” Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) and gunner-turned-club-manager Orville “Rick” Wright (Larry Manetti). Magnum also cons favors from NIA computer expert Lt. “Mac” MacReynolds (Jeff MacKay, who later returns as Mac’s doppleganger Jim Bonnick in later seasons); assistant district attorney Carol Baldwin (Kathleen Lloyd), though she cons him just as often; Lt. Maggie Poole (Jean Bruce Scott), Mac’s replacement; Francis “Ice Pick” Hofstetler (Elisha Cook Jr.), though those favors were usually asked for by Rick; Doc Ibold (Glenn Cannon); and on rare occasion, Higgins’s fellow Brit Agatha Chumley (Gillian Dobb). Magnum is frequently bedeviled/assisted by HPD Lt. Yoshi Tanaka (Kwan Hi Lim) and he has a major hate hardon for Col. Buck Greene (Lance LeGault), who he holds responsible for keeping him apart from the love of his life, Michelle Hue (Marta DuBois).

Other recurring characters include: Gwen Verdon as Magnum’s mom Katherine Peterson; Eugene Roche as St. Louis PI Luther Gillis (probably my least favorite character because he is so damned annoying, but Eugene Roche is fantastic in the role; he can’t help it that my personality clashes with his character); Clyde Kusatsu as the John Wayne-obsessed HPD Detective Lt. Gordon Katsumoto (he also played a few other characters throughout the show’s run, but I love him unconditionally); Joe Santos as HPD Police Lt. Nolan Page; in later seasons, TC suddenly acquired two mainland children, Martina Stringer as Melody, and Shavar Ross as Bryant, the latter staying with TC for multiple episodes; Fay Hauser as TC’s ex-wife Tina; Deborah Pratt as TC’s girlfriend Gloria; Patrick Bishop as Keoki and Remi Abellira as Moki, two King Kamehameha Club employees; and Phyllis Davis as Rick’s eventual fiancée Cleo Mitchell.

Very much an ’80s action show in most respects, what with the crime-solving and fighting and shootouts and fast cars and witty banter and bedding babes and women characters written by men who didn’t actually know any women, but were just regurgitating the caricatures of women already established by men who’d never met a woman in their lives (yes, this is a sticking point with me because the women tend to be either helpless, annoying, or duplicitous and it’s grating), however, the show was also not afraid to stray from the mundane and into the supernatural (with ghosts, psychics, past lives, and trips to the other side) and didn’t shy away from landing emotional punches.

When it comes to the latter, most people are going to cite “Did You See the Sun Rise?” which saw Magnum and TC revisited by an old friend, Nuzo, who was imprisoned with them in Vietnam by an evil Russian named Ivan (Bo Svenson). The episode put Magnum through the ringer, killing off a friend, putting another one in jeopardy, and forcing both him and TC to relive an incredibly traumatic experience in their lives. The episode ends with Magnum doing something considered morally questionable, but honestly, I was fine with it and on the contrary, thought he could have gone even farther. But that’s just me and my preference for vengeance talking.

This wouldn’t be the only episode to reflect on their Vietnam service and their traumas of war, a daring thing at the time given that the actual war had only ended a few years before the show began, the pain and controversy of it hardly a forgotten thing. Higgins would also recall his times of service in many, many, many stories, however even he gets to face some experiences he’d rather have forgotten.

Personally, “Home from the Sea” kicks my ass the most as Magnum fights for survival while stranded in the ocean during the Fourth of July. He flashes back and forth between the present and his childhood leading up to his father’s death in Korea while TC, Rick, and Higgins have persistent feelings that Magnum is in trouble. The way everything weaves together is so well done and Magnum’s narration of “I made it, Dad. Why didn’t you?” never fails to punch me in the chest and bring tears to my eyes.

Of course, there are lighter episodes, too, and quite a bit of humor in the show, which I love. Poor Rick catches a lot of the comic relief burden. I mean, he got punched by a nun once. Two of my favorite eps are “Operation: Silent Night” and “I, Witness”. Higgins is also blessed with a father who can’t keep it in his pants, which results in multiple half-siblings, three of which we get to meet: Elmo Ziller, Father Paddy McGuinness, and Don Luis Mongueo (all played by John Hillerman). Naturally, the siblings are nothing like the proper Higgins and hilarity tends to ensue. Father Paddy is my favorite.

The series wasn’t afraid to experiment, doing an episode set in 1936, a noir murder mystery episode, an episode that inter-cut Magnum’s investigation of insurance fraud with the novel of a struggling writer, and a send-up of Indiana Jones, a role that Tom Selleck couldn’t take due to the show. And while Selleck was splitting time with the show and movies during the fourth season, we were treated to Rick, TC, and Higgins-centric episodes, including one humorous, yet heartbreaking episode in which Higgins is obsessed with recounting in his memoir the story of his dear friend David Worth (Patrick Macnee) who thought he was Sherlock Holmes. The show also crossed over with two other popular CBS shows during its run: Murder, She Wrote and Simon & Simon.

The eight seasons were star studded when it came to guest stars. Here are a few, except not really : Robert Pine (as Magnum’s dad, further proving he’ll always be cooler than his son Chris), Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra, Robert Loggia, Vera Miles, Celeste Holm, Ernest Borgnine, Darren McGavin; Hawaii Five-O regulars Zulu, Herman Wedemeyer, Harry Endo, Moe Keale, and Kam Fong, as well as Kam’s son Dennis Chun and frequent flyers Douglas Mossman, Tommy Fujiwara, and Josie Over; Robert Forster, Richard Narita, Gregory Sierra, Pat Hingle, Soon-Tek Oh, Nancy Lee Grahn; ’80s ladies Annie Potts, Dana Delany, Tyne Daly, and Erin Gray; Dustin Nguyen, Alfonso Ribeira, Sharon Stone, Morgan Fairchild, Dick Butkus, James Hong, Christine Belford; darlings Shannon Doherty and Kim Richards; Donnelly Rhodes, William Lucking, Keye Luke; Joe Santos’s fellow Rockford Files vets Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin, and Noah Beery Jr.; William Schallert, Robert Ito, Denise Nichols, Sheree North, Leslie Uggams, Roscoe Lee Browne, Jenny Agutter; Return of the Living Dead duo Clu Gulager and James Karen; France Nuyen, Wings Hauser, Beulah Quo, Brock Peters; Cheers alums Ted Danson and John Ratzenberger; Jessica Walter, Dennis Weaver, Mako; Rerun Junkie faves Kenneth Tigar, Robert F. Lyons, Denny Miller, Nehemiah Persoff, and John Saxon; Cameron Mitchell, Scatman Crothers, Pat Morita, Burr DeBenning; ’60s icons James Doohan, Cesare Romero, Henry Gibson,and Alan Hale Jr.; and in my favorite bit of casting ever, Anne Lockhart and Miguel Ferrer playing younger versions of their parents June Lockhart and José Ferrer.

One controversial aspect of the series lies in one particular character: Robin Masters. In the early seasons, he was played (or at least voiced) by Orson Welles. However, in the later seasons, it was supposed that Higgins was actually the never-there owner of Robin’s Nest. Magnum’s reasoning was that Higgins was always working on his memoirs, but was never done, and some of his writing was similar to that of Masters. Plus he was really possessive of the estate. I don’t know what the reasoning was by the actual show writers, though, since it was established in early seasons that Robin Masters was Orson Welles. Yes, Orson Welles died during the series, but they could have worked around it. I mean, Robin was never there. But, in the end, it resulted in a debate among some fans about who Robin Masters really is. In my personal canon, it was Orson Welles. I like Higgins being the idiosyncratic human that he is.

At any rate, it was played like a dangling carrot for Magnum right up until the last episode of the show. Now, if I have the story straight, the show was supposed to end in the seventh season with the episode “Limbo”, but they ended up being renewed for a shorter eighth season which ended with “Resolutions”. My controversial opinion is that I like the idea of the show ending with “Limbo” better, even if it is kind of a downer. But I like “Resolutions” as well. It’s a good high note to go out on.

The show earned itself a reboot in 2018, diversifying the cast with Jay Hernandez taking over the role of Magnum and Perdita Weeks as Higgins (sadly, opposite sex leads mean that the show has taken the well-worn will-they-or-won’t-they path because heteronormativity is a helluva drug); Zachary Knighton as Rick and Stephen Hill as TC (this was the casting that stressed me the most because TC is my guy; they did a fab job, though); and rounding out the main cast is Tim Kang as Gordon Katsumoto (sans John Wayne obsession) and Amy Hill as Kumu, an original character for the series and my role model. I enjoy the reboot despite its flaws, the biggest one being that none of the guys ever wear short-shorts a la the ’80s series. If I’m going to be subjected to Moonlighting-redux, then I should at least get a huge side of guy thighs.

Obviously, though, the ’80 series captured my heart first and I’ve got some happy memories with it, watching it while hanging out in my grandma’s air conditioned den after lunch.

It’s a classic.

Like an aloha shirt, it never goes out of style.

Rerun Junkie Show–Automan

The world’s first automatic man.

Automan is not a show I knew about until recently, coming across the title while doing research on something else. In November of 2017, Red Giant put out a short based on Automan that was written and directed by Aharon Rabinowitz and starring David Hewlett as the title character, Hewlogram. Between this hilarious short (please go watch it and the making-0f video because it’s just as much fun) and watching the opening for the actual series, I put this one on my to-watch list.

And as luck would have it, I received the series on DVD for my birthday.

(I also received Hewlogram poster that I won that same week. My 38th birthday week was lit in a hologram sort of way.)

Automan aired in 1983 for just 13 episodes. Starring Chuck Wagner as Automan, Desi Arnaz Jr. as his creater Walter Nebicher, Heather McNair as Roxanne Caldwell, Gerald S. O’Laughlin as Captain Boyd, Robert Lansing as Lt. Jack Curtis, and Cursor as himself. No, really. The little cursor thing got a credit.

If you bothered watching Hewlogram, then you’d have the basic premise of Automan. Walter Nebicher is a computer programmer and police officer whose captain prefers him in his little computer room and not out on the streets. He creates Automan, a hologram so powerful that it can hit a dude across a room. Only Walter’s co-worker and sort of love interest Roxanne knows that Automan is a hologram. Oh, and Cursor is a little firefly looking thing that can draw anything and make it real, like a suit over Automan’s Tron body or a super fast car. It’s also a bit of a perv. Because Automan requires a certain amount of power to exist, he sometimes has to disappear when he feels his battery getting low or find creative ways to recharge. All of this in the name of fighting crime.

The buddy cop duo we need and deserve.

The show only ran 13 episodes and that’s both criminal and totally understandable. In only 13 episodes, we had mobsters, tropical locations, corrupt cops, corrupt sheriffs, bikers, Laura Branigan, a male exotic dance club called Zippers, bombing threats, diamond smuggling, and I’m pretty sure every episode featured covers of popular songs of the time as well as the laughing freeze frame at the end. You can’t pack that much awesome into such a short run. The star that burns that brightly, burns out too soon.

It also suffers from the some questionable dialogue that boarders on painful, the obvious jokes and cheesiness that permeated the ’80s, and some less-than acting, though I blame the dialogue for a lot of it. Seriously, some of those lines are face-smackingly cringey.

But, it’s an incredibly fun show! Chuck Wagner is adorable as Automan. He embodies this hologram that is, in his own words, an eleven on a scale from one to ten while also being rather naive about the ways of humans. To help him learn about humans, Walter had Auto watch movies and TV shows. Auto inadvertently watching multiple episodes of a soap opera is a highlight.

Speaking of Walter, he’s not just an inept computer nerd. Yeah, in a few episodes things don’t go his way and he gets his ass handed to him, but he’s not incompetent. And he does get in his licks. He’s also not a total loser with the ladies. After all, Roxanne is one hot chick and he doesn’t seem to have any trouble with her.

Together, Walter and Auto are, well, maybe not unstoppable or unbeatable, but they get the job done and they’re entertaining.

Giving a new meaning to the boys in blue.

The plots are typical ’80s grand with titles like “Staying Alive While Running a High Flashdance Fever”,  “Murder MTV”, “Murder, Take One”,  “Death By Design”, and “Club Ten”. In one episode called “Renegade Run”, you have Richard Lynch as a corrupt sheriff that pits him against biker Billy Drago. I know, right? How great is that? Pretty great.

In addition to Richard Lynch, Billy Drago, and Laura Branigan, the show also featured guest stars Clu Gulager, Mary Crosby, Patrick Macnee, Ed Lauter, John Vernon, Anne Lockhart, France Nuyen, Robert F. Lyons, Delta Burke, William Windom, Terry Kiser, Don Galloway, Richard Anderson, Doug McClure, Walter Brooke, Sid Haig, Mickey Jones, and Ola Ray.

Check out that crop. Nothing but cream.

Okay, Automan is a little on the silly side. It’s the early ’80s turned up to eleven. It is glorious.

Just ask Cursor.

The little perv.

Rerun Junkie Show–Gunsmoke

It’s the longest running western. It’s tied for the longest running prime-time drama (thanks, Law & Order). Twenty years is a long time on the air and 635 episodes is a lot of episodes.

Twenty years also means different opening credits.

Twenty years also means different opening credits.

Set in Dodge City, Kansas, Gunsmoke is the story of Marshall Matthew Dillon (James Arness) as he tries to bring justice to the Wild West. Assisted over the years by friends Doc (Milburn Stone), Chester (Dennis Weaver), and Quint Asper (Burt Reynolds), deputies Festus (Ken Curtis), Thad (Roger Ewing), and Newly (Buck Taylor), and the saloon owner Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) and her bartender Sam (Glenn Strange), Matt faced off against a host of bad guys, troubles, injuries, moral quandries, and injustice.

And let me tell you, there was plenty of all of that. I haven’t seen every episode of this show. Probably haven’t even seen half of them (and it started out on the radio with William Conrad as the voice of Matt Dillon, so the saddle bag of history overflows). But I can tell you that they did not skimp on the drama, nor skirt some of the heavier issues. In addition to the usual robbery, revenge, and death you expect on a western, the show had episodes involving rape, white slavery, racism, bigotry, abuse of all kinds, greed of all kinds, murder of all kinds, and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. I think every one of the main cast was falsely accused at one point in time and a few even faced the rope, only to be saved at the last minute. I know Festus was nearly hung on several occasions, head in the noose and all before he was saved, and when he was saved NO ONE EVER APOLOGIZED. Really. Nobody ever bothered to be like, “Hey, sorry we nearly killed you. Our bad.” Nothing. I think if you nearly hang someone  and then find out he’s innocent just before you kick the horse out from under him, you should at least have the decency to say you’re sorry. But that’s just me.

This is the cast configuration I know best. See the smiles? The Wild West wasn't a total downer.

This is the cast configuration I know best. See the smiles? The Wild West wasn’t a total downer.

Not every episode was heavier than a blacksmith’s anvil. Many of them were light and quite funny. Typically, anytime Festus was heavily involved, especially if any member of his family showed up, it’s going to be a good time. Festus episodes tend to be my favorite. But no matter what the nature of the episode is, any conversation between Festus and Doc is going to be gold.

Gunsmoke is one of those shows that could have a post of it’s own on just the guest stars. That’s what happens when you’re on forever. Everyone ends up on your show. But here area  few I find worth mentioning: familiar names Nick Nolte, Gary Busey, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper, Richard Dreyfus, Jodie Foster, Diane Ladd, and Charles Bronson; Bruce Dern, Royal Dano, John Dehner, John Anderson, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Harry Carey Jr, and Claude Akins, who were required by federal law at the time to appear in every western TV show; my favorites Ross Martin and Joyce Jameson; J. Pat O’Malley, Nehemiah Persoff, Virginia Gregg, and Vitto Scotti, who were required by federal law at the time to be in every TV show; Kurt Russell and his daddy Bing; Buck Taylor’s daddy Dub; Brock Peters, Cicely Tyson, Yaphet Kotto, and Keye Luke; Ron Howard and his brother Clint; John Saxon, Sid Haig, and Richard Jaeckel; and leading ladies Bette Davis, Vera Miles, Margaret Hamilton, and Gloria DeHaven.

This isn’t even the tip of the ice berg. It’s a mere clump of snow on an ice planet.

Like many of my reruns, I started watching Gunsmoke because there was nothing else on. Having seen episodes from the last eight or nine seasons multiple times now, I can see why this show was on the air for so long. There was always a problem to be solved, a danger to overcome, a gunslinger to tame, a thirst for revenge to quench. This show had it all, right down to the romantic tension between Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty (how scandalous!).

Dodge City may have faced drought a time or two, the drama well never ran dry.

Bless Festus, his mule, and his abused hat.

Bless Festus, his mule, and his abused hat.