Rerun Junkie Confession–Gimme That Found Family Vibe

I’ve written before about how Gilligan’s Island was the first rerun that really made an impression on me, something that I totally fell in love with even though I was so young. It is most likely responsible for my love of reruns today.

It’s also one of the earliest indications that shows with a found family vibe were going to be in my wheelhouse.

Maybe it’s my own strong desire to belong somewhere, but those shows that feature a group of people coming together to form a family get me on a soul level.

Look at Gilligan’s Island. Seven people thrown together in an unlikely and extreme situation, forced to survive. Okay, that’s a dramatic explanation for a sitcom, but it’s not wrong. They have to come together as a family to survive. Sure, they bicker and quarrel and many times want to drown Gilligan after one of his fuck ups, but ultimately, they care about each other. This never would have happened if they hadn’t gotten shipwrecked. They’d have completed their 3 hour tour (with an unnecessary amount of luggage) and then gone their separate ways. Fate (and Sherwood Schwartz) threw them together and gave them a bond that even being rescued couldn’t break.

But it’s not just that extreme found family vibe I’m looking for. Chosen family is a kind of found family and that works for me, too.

Take for example another early love of mine, The Monkees. It’s a show about a band trying to make it. Obviously, these four guys came together to form a band, so they must have at least known and liked each other before they moved into a beach house together. It’s less fate and more struggling dream that has them scraping together rent and playing gigs. But they’re no different than four brothers, squabbling on occasion, but always having each other’s back. Just look at the episode “Success Story”. Davy’s grandfather is going to take him back to England and the fellas do everything they can to keep him in America. After all, they may not be blood, but they love each other like they were.

It’s this found family/chosen family vibe that could account for my love (at least in part) of cop shows. Be it partners, a team, or a whole squad room, you end up with people who come for the job and stay for the family.

Barney Miller is a great example of this. There’s a squad room of detectives who are paid to be there, but the nature of the job means that they have to have each other’s backs. It’s inevitable that this would eventually extend into their personal lives to an extent. When the final episode sees the precinct closed and everyone split up, you still get the sense that even if they aren’t working together, and maybe if they never see each other again, they all hold a very special place in each other’s lives. The way blood bonds family, they’re bonded by experience.

CSI: Miami not only has a similar vibe, but even has Ryan saying that they’re his family in the final episode.

Starsky & Hutch are akin to blood brothers given how many times one has been near death and the other has bailed him out. Adam-12 has a similar feel even though most of the series focused on the mundane aspects of the job. When you’re riding in a car with a guy for 8-12 hours a day, there’s only a couple of ways your relationship is going to go.

Emergency!, The A-Team, The Golden Girls, Stargate: Atlantis, F-Troop, Magnum PI…the one thing they have in common is that they all have a found family/chosen family vibe.

And I simply cannot get enough of it.

Police Involved Shooting

In the world of cop shows, there are two kinds of very special episodes: a cop gets shot or a cop shoots somebody.

This post is about the latter.

Here’s how the episode usually goes: One of our cop heroes shoots somebody. There is then an investigation into the shooting in which there’s an underlying implication that this investigation isn’t fair because our good guys always have good shoots. There’s some drama. Then our shooter is once again declared a cop hero.

Obviously, there are variations and not every episode follows this format, but that’s basically it for many of the episodes I’ve seen.

The police involved shooting episodes of Dragnet and Adam-12 are probably the most technical I’ve ever seen due to Jack Webb’s dedication to the manual. While we do have that little bit of angst that comes from our hero being questioned, there’s still an objectivity about it. This is how the process is supposed to work. Jack Webb very much so believed that police officers were meant to be held to a higher standard which is why these episodes stand out. This treatment of our good guys isn’t exceptional -it’s routine.

Despite Jack Webb’s good intentions, this sort of intense scrutiny is an idealization of what we’d like to believe happens during these investigations, but we know doesn’t.

I pointed this out when I was covering the Hawaii Five-O first season episode “And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin” on Book ‘em, Danno that the investigation into Danny shooting the supposedly unarmed young man and him subsequently getting arrested for murder was idealized. It’s only in the most extreme circumstances that a police officer is arrested for this kind of shooting today. You can’t tell me that it happened more often when there wasn’t the prevalence of video.

A first season episode of Starsky and Hutch called “Pariah” dealt a little with the public fallout of a police involved shooting. Starsky ends up shooting an armed robber who turns out to be only sixteen. The kid’s mom is devastated and Starsky feels incredibly guilty over the death. The public isn’t exactly thrilled with the circumstances, particularly one guy with an agenda who says if Starsky is cleared, he’ll start killing cops. Starsky is cleared of any wrongdoing because of course and the killing spree begins and will continue until Starsky resigns. So this is an example of taking our very special episode and upping the ante by adding in public scorn and then throwing in a vendetta for good measure.

The police involved shooting episodes are always very special episodes because they’re the only episodes in which the violence our heroes inflict on the criminals is ever questioned. In any other episode, they’re offing the bad guys without even the slightest mention of the paperwork. Every other shooting is completely justified, no question.

One exception to this rule (at least that I know of because I haven’t seen every cop show–yet) is Barney Miller. Possibly because it’s a comedy that primarily deals with the mundane and oddball aspects of police work, the show had a unique take on the police involved shooting.

For one, perps weren’t getting shot every week. The members of the 12th precinct got shot at more than they shot and even those instances ended up funny and mild. So, they didn’t need a very special episode about a police involved shooting to separate it from all of the other police involved shootings that were never questioned.

Because in the entire run of the show, there were only three episodes in which a member of the 12th shot someone. In the first season “Hero”, Chano infiltrates a hostage situation in a bank and ends up killing the two would-be robbers. It’s quickly apparent that Chano isn’t handling it well at all despite the incident being considered a good shoot. By the end of the episode, he breaks down into sobs in his apartment.

Dietrich has a similar reaction to his shooting in the seventh season episode “Resignation”. After shooting a suspect in the backside, Dietrich decides that this part of the job goes against his morals and attempts to submit his resignation. Though Barney susses out the real root of Dietrich’s angst, which goes a little sideways from just his morals, it still illustrates the negative effect of a shooting on the firing officer.

In the eighth season episode “Inquiry”, Wojo faces an investigation after shooting a suspect, winging him in the arm. In this episode, there’s doubt that Wojo was justified in the shooting, particularly with his history of being rough with suspects. We’re also introduced to the then-current requirements for the investigation: Wojo is suspended, put on desk duty, has his sidearm confiscated, and advised of his rights before he’s questioned. What’s startling is that during the questioning, a clearly frustrated Wojo admits that he was trying to kill the suspect. Which is what the police are trained to do. Center mass. Shoot to kill.

Everything turns out in Wojo’s favor, of course, but he’s still rattled and to be honest, so are we. Our Wojo can be rough, but a killer? It’s hard to believe. It’s harder to acknowledge that our good guys were trained that way.

Which is probably why the police involved shooting episodes of Barney Miller are so much more impactful than the very special episodes from other cop shows. They aren’t shooting it out every episode. There’s barely any shooting during an entire season.

Which is more true to life than you might think.

But this is fiction.

And in fiction, tension comes from putting our heroes under the gun.

So to speak.

Rerun Junkie Confession–I Love to See My Faves in Peril

One of my favorite episodes of The A-Team is the Season 2 finale “Curtain Call”. In it, Murdock is shot during a job and the team has to figure out how to get him help while being pursued by Decker. It’s actually just an excuse to have a clip show. But the whole time, Murdock is bleeding to death and I love it.

See also: Hawaii Five-O Season 1 episode “King of the Hill” (Yaphet Kotto has a psychotic episode which leads to Danny being shot and held hostage); Starsky and Hutch Season 1 episode “Shootout” (Starsky is shot as a killers take everyone in an Italian restaurant hostage); and The Green Hornet episode “Bad Bet on 459-Silent” (Britt Reid is shot while being The Green Hornet and they have to figure out how to get him help while he’s preoccupied with catching the bad guys).

I know. It sounds sick and cruel and while I am both of these things, there is actually a very good, less evil reason for my enjoyment.

What it boils down to is that it’s an emotional extreme happening in a fictional context. Like watching horror movies. You can be terrified, but in the end, it’s a safe environment. You’re never in any real danger. Same deal. I and my faves are being put through it emotionally, but in the end, everybody’s okay!

Take “Home From the Sea” for example, the Season 4 premier of Magnum PI. Probably my favorite episode of the series; the ending is an absolutely gut punch. But the whole thing hinges on the fact that Magnum is stranded in the middle of the ocean, caught in a dangerous current pushing him further out to sea. At one point, he’s even bumped by a shark. Ultimate peril that we all know that he’ll survive, but it’s the getting there that we love. Okay, maybe I love it.

Another one is Adam-12 Season 4 episode “The Search”. Reed and Malloy are called to a robbery in progress. Reed catches one suspect while Malloy chases the other in the squad. However, the squad has a dodgy mic so dispatch and other officers have trouble keeping up with Malloy’s location, which proves to be a problem when he rolls the car and is badly hurt. Obviously, Malloy is going to be found in time, but you still hold your breath when he’s found first by someone with less than honorable intentions.

The peril doesn’t even have to be that immediately deadly either. Take for instance the Season 2 Gilligan’s Island episode “Quick Before It Sinks”. It looks like the castaways are in for a watery doom because the island is apparently sinking. Obviously, not the case because the show went on for another season and a half and a few TV movies. And as per show rules, it was a Gilligan goof that led to the incorrect assessment. Now, it’s a sitcom, so the danger is amusing at best, but there’s still something about watching first the men try to keep it from the women, and then the women coming up with a solution (build an ark!) and everyone working together before the inevitable. The inevitable being finding out that Gilligan is the cause of everyone thinking they’re about to bite it.

“The Sniper” episode of M*A*S*H is another good example. Though the dramedy had its serious moments, in this Season 2 episode, there’s more laughs despite the impending threat of being gunned down by a sniper. Though we know nobody is going to be shot and/or killed, there’s still something about watching the doctors, nurses, and patients cope with a situation that’s out of the life or death scenarios in the operating room that they’re used to. The show would do several episodes like this, including another favorite of mine, “The Army-Navy Game” in Season 1.

Whether light or dark, watching my faves in peril is a favorite of mine. It’s almost like a bonding experience in a way, living through that dangerous episode with these fictional characters and coming out on the other side closer than ever.

In case you’re wondering how sadistic I am, when I was watching Tales of the Gold Monkey and got to the episode “Escape from Death Island”, I saw that Corky was going to be bitten by a poisonous snake and actually rubbed my hands in glee. By this point in the series, I adored Corky, so to see that he was going to be in peril thrilled me.

Sure I knew he was going to be okay.

But for a little bit, I got to fret over him.

And then feel that rush of relief when he lived to see another day.

Rerun Junkie Show– Starsky and Hutch

The 70’s hit me hard when I was a young teenager. Never mind that it was the early 90’s at the time. I was in a love affair with a lot of 70’s reruns at the time.

One show that I rushed home after school to watch on TNT was Starsky and Hutch.

These two gentlemen had ladies swooning for four seasons.

-David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (David Soul), plain clothes police detectives on the mean streets of LA with direction from their dedicated captain (Bernie Hamilton) and help from their snitch Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas), not to mention a sweet Ford Torino.

Va-Room, baby.

The cases were gritty, involving drugs and murder, with a stock cast of 70’s bad guys (pimps, pushers, thugs, mobsters, cons, prostitutes). And of course, there were plenty of pretty girls to go around.

This is one of the earliest occurences of bromance on record. It takes buddy cop to the next level. The chemistry between the two is undeniable and they actually showed a pretty wide range of emotions for a couple of macho cops.

Two outstanding episodes that stick in my memory that highlight this are “Shootout” and “The Fix”. Both are early in the series (first season). In “The Fix”, Hutch is kidnapped and injected with heroin. Starksy working Hutch through detox really makes the episode. In “Shootout”, Starsky is shot during dinner at an Italian resteraunt and Hutch is charged with getting him (and everyone else) out alive. Agains it’s the death’s doorstep scenes that make it.

The show is awash in “Hey! I know that guy!” guest stars, but did score several recognizable names including Joan Collins, Suzanne Sommers, Lynda Carter, Mare Winningham, Jeffrey Tambor, Robert Loggia, Rene Auberjonois, GW Bailey, Sally Kirkland, Kim Cattrall, Veronica Hamel, and Pat Morita.

As per most 70’s cop shows, it could be heavy on the action and one or the other of the two main characters (sometimes both) found themselves in peril, injured, possibly dying, several times in a season.  It also stretched some credibility with some of the storylines and the revolving door of women in the guys’ lives were usually just good for an episode (though “Starsky’s Girl” was pretty poigniant). Huggy Bear, though, was good for the run and was often a fun bright spot to the episodes. Captain Doby brought some greatness as well.

This show is so a wash in 70’s goodness that it’s like good comfort food. It makes you wish that style was still alive.

Oh, yeah. That’s stylin’.

Well, almost.

 

Where I Watch It