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The IRS man at the end ruins the whole show
This show is great -- up to a point. That point is the very last minute of the show, when an IRS man shows up at the house of a thief and blandly states that the thief, who is a victim and who is clearly at the very end of his rope, that he owes the IRS huge sums of money -- this dissolves into a scene at the end where the man, walking along a beach, gives what is very clearly a death scream (I thought at first that he was walking along a high cliff and threw himself off; he probably drowns himself in the ocean instead. This should be regarded as incitement of suicide during a robbery, and the IRS man should have been picked up and charged with first-degree MURDER, put away for life and be damn glad California did not have a death penalty at the time, and the Los Angeles office of the IRS closed for good and all the agents fired. That is an overreaction big time, but there should be lots of stories on TV about crooked cops ( there is one in this show), crooked Federal agents and ESPECIALLY crooked prosecutors.
Police Woman: Sixth Sense (1978)
Yes, it is incredibly stupid
If you choose to disagree with this review, that's fine -- but watch the show first. The ending is the worst, but the show is a dead turkey from the very start. As the opening credits roll, a woman (Phyllis Davis, seen only from the knees down) gets dressed while spewing insults at the man she slept with. Meanwhile, that self-same man is in the next room sharpening a large butcher knife. (The only time we see Davis's face is for about a second when she sees him and the knife.) Not only is this a ripoff of the hideous ending to Looking for Mr. Goodbar, it's also unbelievable that she wouldn't hear him sharpening the knife. Then he sticks her, unconscious, in a garbage bag and lugs her out to his car to place her in the trunk. (This sequence isn't seen but it's hard to imagine anybody NOT noticing.) When Bill Crowley sees the car and the driver Hollis (Edward Winter, playing it like he REALLY needs the paycheck) and sees Hollis sweating like a pig (the dialog says it's over 100 degrees at the time, but that doesn't sound very convincing), he flashes his badge, pulls the car over and finds the woman in the trunk. But since Crowley had no probable cause to search the vehicle (Don "Red" Barry, as his boss, seems to want to rip Crowley's head from his shoulders while reminding him, and is in a fury every time we see him), the assailant gets a free pass when the woman dies without identifying him. Given Hollis' behavior during the entire hour, you'd think he was wearing a sign saying "Serial Killer" for even a passer-by to see and would have been caught long before this incident. Pepper then dogs Hollis, his wife Amy and his girlfriend (barbara McNair) through the show. The chase sequence starts when Amy finally admits to Hollis's abusive behavior -- whereupon Hollis turns up, holding a huge butcher knife, and reciting a bad variation on a children's rhyme. And what does Pepper do? Pull out her gun and blast him? Use her martial-arts training on him? Pick up something and throw it at him, at least? No, no and no. Both women run like Playboy bunnies through the house and into a garden. When they temporarily hide in a little shed and Hollis breaks into it with a croquet mallet, Pepper smashes a flower pot over his head! And then she peeks out to see if he's down -- and of course he isn't, grabbing her around the neck and picking up the knife again. Fortunately Crowley, Royster and Stiles arrive at that point -- and then Hollis goes blank and mumbles something while laughing incoherently. To make things worse, there is a swimming pool nearby -- and, using an old dictum of the stage, Hollis has to fall into it. But since nobody is nearby, he simply walks to the edge and steps into thin air to make his dive! What might have been a really creepy show is just really sick.
McCloud: McCloud Meets Dracula (1977)
A fair show that should have been great
First, let's start with the obvious. Either producer-writer Glen A. Larson swiped the idea for this show from "Starsky and Hutch: Vampire" (which aired on October 30, 1976) or S&H stole it from him. Either scenario is possible, but given the filming schedules for each show the former scenario is more likely. Larson did have a 90-minute time slot to fill, so there is a subplot about a sniper terrorizing New York City and a major new character in Dr. Harvey Pollick. But both the sniper story and the Pollick story are VERY badly mishandled. When the vampire kills his first victim, a police officer (the ubiquitous John Finnegan, who had been a desk sergeant in his previous appearances) thinks the wound was from a small-caliber bullet and attributes it to the sniper. In fact, despite numerous clues to the contrary, people keep attributing the deaths to the sniper until very close to the end of the show. The exception is Pollick, who comes up with most of the clues. Unfortunately, Pollick comes across as obsessive to -- and beyond -- the point of psychosis. (I once wrote most of a novel where Pollick resurfaces as a deranged vampire slayer wasting everyone in sight with a crossbow and a quiver full of wooden arrows.) Furthermore, despite some half-hearted efforts by director Bruce Kessler to try to conceal the vampire's identity, there is no mystery at all as to who the killer is (unless, as is unseen but possible, his henchman Morris follows him along and is HIMSELF the vampire). This show very much needed a different director and almost anybody but Michael Sacks playing Pollick. Larson's script, though it contains some good funny lines, is often far too heavy-handed. The worst part comes during the final tag, when Larson (through Chief Clifford) spouts a long diatribe at the U.S. Army for creating the sniper. That doesn't make this a bad episode, but it doesn't make it the great episode we were expecting for a series finale.
Law & Order: Return (2000)
Of all the bad L&O shows, this may be the worst
Jack McCoy hits a new low for prosecutors in this case, prosecuting a man for first-degree murder (which at the time could have meant the death penalty) because he skimmed off funds from his company and sent them to Israel, and killed a man who threatened to rat on him. This show was made before the 9/11 attacks, which showed exactly how vulnerable Israel (and the United States) are and how crucial it is to support the state. One would hope that Israel issued a warrant for McCoy for kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder among other things (he and the United States Government would ignore it, of course, but he should have that on his head). It is not stated, but I find it very likely that some Islamist prisoner in the pen quickly murdered the man for standing up for his country.
Law & Order (1990)
Thank God it's finally over
I served on a jury once, even before Law & Order came on the air. I voted for conviction because no juror will ever disbelieve a prosecutor. Not even people like the ones on the show, who are human only because only a human is capable of such cruelty and viciousness. I am talking mostly about the prosecutors, but also the police who went through the crimes. The names and faces changed, but the stories never did. The cops were always noble and always had a really good reason to break every law known to man that was designed to protect a suspect -- forcing (or just asking) witnesses to perjure themselves was always a good method. I remember one show where a cop coldbloodedly framed a man for a murder the man didn't commit (to get revenge on him for a murder he had committed). All the cop got was a slap on the wrist and an invitation to quit the force, rather than 50 years in a Federal penitentiary for the frame-up. In other shows, the prosecutors, the cops, or sometimes both at once, viciously threatened the suspects (often without their lawyers present, but who cared) and did everything short of a rubber-hose beating to coerce a confession. These people had no ethics of any kind, no belief whatsoever that the suspect was innocent until Proved guilty (and by that standard means beyond any doubt whatsoever), and often forced plea bargains by innocent suspects whom they couldn't convict. NBC should have been on the phone forcing Dick Wolf to make sure at least a third and probably more of the cases ended in acquittals, and it would have made the cast turnover a lot easier just to have another prosecutor caught in another sadistic sociopathic act and sent up the river. The other L&O shows were slightly more balanced except for the bomb Trial By Jury, which would have been a hit ONLY IF the innocent people were given a full chance and almost every case had resulted in an acquittal. As for me, I voted to convict a man I KNEW was not guilty and to destroy his life. I was pressured by the other jurors, and I didn't have enough to persuade all of them or do anything more than meekly cave in to them. No more. If I am called into a voir dire, I will talk to the judge and the entire prosecution team and explain to them that I am a fierce supporter of The Innocence Project and that I favor extremely harsh penalties for prosecutors, judges and even jurors who find an innocent person guilty, and warn them that I would devote my entire fortune to clearing as many convicts as possible if I had a fortune. That might be considered threatening the court, but it is simple honesty -- something no prosecutor has or will ever have.
Man versus nature versus man -- who will win?
The classic of the post-Leonard Freeman episodes, this is a highly suspenseful tale of a totally psychotic serial rapist-killer who escapes from a prison van and disappears into the spine of mountains running the length of Oahu. (It is difficult to figure out the topography of most of this show, but it looks like many locations were later reused for "Lost.") Simultaneously, Attorney General John Manicote's daughter Karen goes on a nature hike in the same rain forest, sprains her ankle in a fall, and is rescued by a mute "nature boy" (Edward Gallardo) who gets all his shelter and sustenance from the forest and knows it like the back of his hand. The psycho catches up to them (after committing three additional murders) and directs them to lead him over the mountains to an ocean-view lookout where he expects to find an accomplice with a boat. (The accomplice is captured after several chases and a wild fight, so it's not clear how the killer was going to escape with that route cut off). Virtually all of this show was filmed outdoors (not counting scenes inside the prison van or one scene in the home of a couple of hippies who are killed by the escapee), much of it with hand-held cameras that really give you an intimate feel. The only major plot flaws come in the fourth act. McGarrett allows himself to be separated from Danno and Manicote (who is tagging along) and is caught by the gunman. McGarrett and Karen manage to escape running down a hill toward a highway (again the topography is unclear because the hill seems to be between the highway and the ocean). The killer blazes at them with a shotgun, runs out of shells, and reloads. The range he is firing from seems marginal at best for his weapon. Then Danno leaves Manicote behind -- and just disappears, for no good plot reason. Manicote runs straight at the killer and fires a concealed revolver (how did he hide it from Danno and McGarrett?) The killer shoots back and hits Manicote in the leg. Manicote drops his weapon (which gives McGarrett, who lost his gun earlier, something to go after), but the killer lets him and Karen go free before calling out McGarrett. Even then, the killer has a bead on McGarrett, but is distracted at the last moment and forgets about McGarrett long enough for the latter to fire one shot (I wondered if the bullet could pierce the killer's backpack). Still, this is a super show. Here's hoping it will come out on the ninth-season DVD if sales keep up. Kudos to Bruce Broughton for providing one of the best musical scores not from Morton Stevens.
They get worse than this ... but not much
This ghastly episode is way up on the list of reasons I wouldn't hire William Kelley or Earl Wallace to write a script for me even if I could afford to pay them and they worked for union scale. Kelley is the culprit here, turning in some mind-bogglingly bad situations in the story of a vengeful ex-con who bullies his way around Dodge to torment a former partner who ran out on him during a robbery for which he spent a long prison sentence. At one point, Hackett (Earl Holliman) grabs the Long Branch's shotgun and shoves it right into bartender Sam Noonan's gut, fully intending to blow him in half. Sam says the weapon isn't loaded (he had just cleaned it), but Hackett pulls the triggers anyway. Click. Click. If Matt Dillon had been around, he would have punched Hackett right into next week; instead Hackett leaves and keeps on stalking his quarry (Morgan Woodward), who's now a farmer. Neither Holliman nor Woodward look the least bit comfortable in their roles (Woodward's character is a sniveling coward; Holliman's is the schoolyard bully who acts about 12 years old; he even talks soprano at a few points when he taunts other characters). When Hackett is finally caught, it's because the farmer tackled him around the legs as if trying to kiss his ... well, you know. It's a toss-up as to whether Holliman is worse here or in "Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge" (1987), but it's not worth three hours of viewing to find out.
A very disappointing "last" show
Despite their Academy Award for writing "Witness" (and their very barbed comments on the stage implying that the director had rewritten their script into hash), I am no fan of writers William Kelley and Earl Wallace. Kelley had served up some terrible scripts such as "Captain Sligo" earlier in Gunsmoke's run; then in the final season Wallace turned out some clunkers like this. The moral premise of the show -- that you only can be considered a man through a violent deed, specifically beating your father in a fist fight -- is very dubious, especially for Family Viewing Time. The execution of the premise is just as bad or perhaps worse. Manolo, who immigrated with his family from Basque country some years ago, doesn't want to fight his father because one time in the old country Manolo fought a neighbor boy and gave him a fatal beating. This sensible notion is treated as having absolutely no credibility by the Basque community. Things get worse (a lot) when younger brother Joachim fights his father instead -- and wins by cheating (ramming Dad's head into a cast-iron water cooler!). Manolo goes on a serious bender, sees his own image in a storefront window and smashes it with his fist (ouch!). And that's just Act One. After Manolo's father pays $10 to replace the broken window -- a laborer's pay for a week an a half in those days -- Manolo tries to court his girlfriend and ignores the wolf going after the sheep herd until it's too late. And that's only the end of Act Two! Then Manolo runs off and gets a job sweeping up the Long Branch saloon, calling owner Miss Hannah "woman" (Hannah is remarkably tolerant, and Fran Ryan's scenes are about the only parts worth watching in this mishmash). Joachim comes to get Manolo and there's another fight, which Joachim laughs off because he's still alive. Then Manolo takes on Dad, who's still healing from the fight with Joachim. When he wins, all is forgiven and they throw a big barn party! I ... don't ... THINK ... so! Compunding the felony is Robert Urich giving an absolutely leaden performance in the title role and also struggling (as do the other actors) with a so-called accent that sounds generically "foreign." Mark Shera as Joachim is better (and certainly a lot livelier), while Nehemiah Persoff and Alma Leonor Beltran as the parents are true professionals in any role, but overall this show is extremely depressing.
The Return of Ironside (1993)
Not bad but quite different from the original series
It's somewhat odd for fans of the original series to sit and watch this reunion movie. The entire original cast (including Barbara Anderson, who had quit the show after its fourth season) returns and their performances are the best thing about the film (along with Dana Wynter, written in as Chief Robert Ironside's wife). The show itself is not from the original production company, though -- it's from the team that brought you The Equalizer and the revival of Kojak. The producers' unfamiliarity with the series shows throughout. Ironside's permanent lower-half paralysis, which was emphasized in virtually every episode (sometimes in long sermons) is almost completely glossed over. The San Francisco setting, so important to the original, is mentioned only at the very beginning when Ironside finally retires. (Since the filming of this one was shoehorned between two Perry Mason movies in the winter of 2003, and those films were being done out of Denver to save money, the producers simply created a rather awkward Denver setting -- although the final fight aboard a snowbound train is a nice touch). Even Quincy Jones' celebrated theme song has been dropped from the opening and closing credits. Fortunately, the heavy-handedness of the series (there were so many human "moral" stories done on that show that even fans yearned for a regular crime drama once in a while) is also absent, although most viewers would have to watch the show several times to figure out what's going on.
By far the best show in the series
Who would have thought Michael Kozoll, of all people, would write a lighthearted mystery that brings out the very best in the series? Even the music by Stu Phillips is far above average, particularly in the last few minutes. Although the identity of the villain is right under your nose (hint: which character acts really, really dumb and is not the lead actress?), this has lots of humor, a fair amount of suspense and even a little pathos. Director John Newland does a fine job of bringing out the elements and does some nice camera setups. The final shootout is a little lame in concept, but the dialog (mostly from Pete, who knows it's lame) saves it. The final chase music is an interesting mixture of piano, tympani and and strings, gradually building along with the suspense, leading into the music which was briefly the show's theme and remained as the curtain music leading into the closing credits (where it belonged). Great performances by Ann Prentiss as a loony artist and Lucille Benson as the manager of a cemetery.