Yes, the famous "Bigfoot" episode might as well be called "The Six Million Dollar Man Meets Sesame Street." It's like Big Bird's friend Mr. Snuffleupagus got mad and went on a rampage. A lot of Six Million Dollar Fanatics love it, but I think the makers of the show fumbled on this one.
"The Secret of Bigfoot" starts with promise. Oscar Goldman and Steve Austin talk about the fault-line and the earthquakes and how they have the technology to possibly mitigate the severity of those earth- shattering disruptions that occur from time to time.
Majestic music plays as the camera rolls across the California mountain countryside. Then it ends too quickly. Haunting music plays as a pair of mysterious legs walks across the woods. That ends too quickly, also. The whole sequence is too fast-paced.
Still, there is hope of a good drama. A husband-and-wife team of geologists pitches camp by the lake at the edge of the woods. "This will be our second honeymoon," one of them says. The viewer is led to believe a real adventure is about to happen. Then...
...it turns ridiculous. The action is unnaturally fast-paced, as if they're afraid of the viewer losing interest. I think of "The Pioneers," a Season Two classic that, like "Bigfoot," involves something bizarre happening in the woods. The camera work and the suspense are superb. I also think of the Sergio Leone epic, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." The sparsity of dialogue is accompanied by a haunting score and a slow-moving camera.
"The Secret of Bigfoot" is the opposite of "The Pioneers" and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." "Bigfoot" spells a lot of the action out for the audience, as if we've transformed into a bunch of kids. Yes, I loved the "The Six Million Dollar Man" as a kid because it was exciting to watch Steve Austin run in slow motion and get the bad guy. I love it even more as an adult because it gives us some excellent stories. The show worked so well for two and a half seasons. Why change now?
From "Population: Zero" (January 1974) to "The Bionic Criminal" (November 1975), "The Six Million Dollar Man" is a fun and fascinating television series. That's 42 episodes--I count two-part episodes as one--and while not every single one of them is good, there's a consistency of quality.
Then comes "Bigfoot." "The Secret of Bigfoot," the 49th episode, first aired in February 1976. It comes near the end of Season Three, and I fear it marks a turning point.
Good fiction requires the creation of a world the reader or viewer can believe. I believe in the microcosm inhabited by Colonel Steve Austin and his boss, Oscar Goldman. Space exploration is still new and exciting. A few men have even walked on the moon, and one of them is Steve Austin. World War II has ended thirty years ago, with a lot of veterans still alive. The veterans' grandchildren are being born, and in real life, one of them is Yours Truly. "The Six Million Dollar Man" takes me back to a simpler time, and it transports me to a world I can believe.
I don't believe "Bigfoot." There seems to be a conscious effort to reach a children's audience, as if they're advertising to be switched to Saturday morning. Of the Season Three episodes that follow "Bigfoot," two of them are kiddie stuff.
Am I telling people not to watch "The Secret of Bigfoot?" If you're committed to seeing the entire series, then watch it and judge for yourself. Otherwise, the various elements of "Bigfoot" are better expressed in other installments. If you want something strange happening in the woods, then watch "The Pioneers." If you want excellent fighting, then watch "Day of the Robot" and "Look-a-Like." If you want the epic fight of television history, then watch "Day of the Robot."
Does "Bigfoot" signal "The Six Million Dollar Man" jumping the shark? No, it doesn't, because "Bigfoot" doesn't even make it over the shark. I only hope "Bigfoot" doesn't signal the series getting swallowed by the shark.
(This review is dedicated to the memory of Alvin James Miller, 1960- 2007. He was born on May 9th, and he's the most fun-loving person I've ever known.)
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