02 Odyssey of the Shady Truth
February 10, 1979
Music: Dick Halligan
Teleplay: Michael Realman and Michael Sloan
Story: Michael Realman
Director: Christian I. Nyby II
Four months after he was (seemingly) arrested by the U.S. Army on charges of white slavery, kidnapping and God knows what else in "The Foundlings," the two-hour BJ AND THE BEAR pilot, Elroy P. Lobo (Claude Akins), the corrupt sheriff of Orly County, is back on the job (without explanation) with a mad-on for concrete cowboy BJ (Greg Evigan). Lobo frames BJ on moonshining charges and tosses him into the Orly hoosegow, where he practically salivates with glee when thinking about the young trucker busting rocks on a chain gang for the next twenty years.
However, pretty Barbara Sue (Jo Ann Harris), feeling guilty over her role in BJ's capture, uses the semi (with Bear's help!) to rip the wall off the Orly jail and permit BJ and his equally innocent cellmates to escape. The rest of the episode plays out a lot like "The Foundlings," with Lobo and his men setting up roadblocks and helicopter searches all over the county in search of BJ's red-and-white Kenworth, which "ain't exactly inconspicuous."
"Odyssey of the Shady Truth" (the title refers to a barge that BJ uses during his escape) is clearly modeled after the 1978 smash hit SMOKEY & THE BANDIT, right down to the running gag involving the police cruiser driven by Lobo and his lunkheaded deputy, Perkins (Mills Watson), getting demolished piece-by-piece throughout the hour until only a roofless, doorless shell is left. Filling in for Sally Field is Jo Ann Harris, one of the sexiest actresses to populate prime time programming during the 1970s. In addition to regular gigs on the shortlived Quinn Martin crime drama MOST WANTED (Harris guest-starred on several QM series) and the sitcom DETECTIVE SCHOOL, Harris also toplined the fine exploitation drama RAPE SQUAD, directed by Bob Kelljan. Like far too many actresses of the '70s, Harris was a major talent who was sadly underutilized by Hollywood (one could also say the same of Roberta Collins, who appears in the next BJ AND THE BEAR episode).
Randi Oakes, soon to join the CHIPS squad and make a name of herself as a good sport on various BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS competitions, also appears as one of two New York City secretaries who are snatched by Lobo (the other is Susan Buckner, who vanished from films after a role in the fine Wes Craven chiller DEADLY BLESSING). Veteran Bill Williams, once a big star from the '50s series THE ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON, looks familiar toting a shotgun in the episode, and James Griffith as Harris' uncle is known to anyone who watched TV during the '50s and '60s.