Saturday, August 09, 2008

Cain’s Cruiser

14 Cain's Cruiser
October 13, 1979
Music: Stu Phillips
Writer: Robert L. McCullough
Director: Christian I. Nyby II

With Sheriff Lobo out of the picture and on his own NBC series, BJ AND THE BEAR producers scrambled for a new archenemy to tangle with their truck-driving hero. Among the challengers for Lobo's crown was Sheriff John Sebastian Cain, a hardass by-the-book right-winger played by Ed Lauter, who battled Burt Reynolds as the nail-chomping prison guard in THE LONGEST YARD. While Cain was not corrupt per se, such as Lobo and Deputy Wiley, his obsession with following the letter of the law right down the line outweighed tenets like justice and basic morality.

His irrational hatred for B.J. McKay (Greg Evigan) is already evident as "Cain's Cruiser" opens. McKay's adventures during his first season have given him a reputation as a dastardly rogue with no respect for the law; sounds like Cain has been reading the Southern sheriffs newsletter. In his zeal to capture the trucker responsible for smuggling illegal aliens through his county, Cain has been blocking all highways and making life miserable for truckers whose jobs rely on getting to their destinations on time.

Enter entrepreneur Gorley (MCCLOUD's J.D. Cannon) and his chief engineer Samantha (Erin Gray), who has just developed a million-dollar automobile equipped with the most modern scientific crime-busting gadgetry (was executive producer Glen A. Larson already looking ahead to KNIGHT RIDER?). Cain takes it for a test run, and soon he's running the trucking industry out of business with citations for underinflated tires and overweight cargos, despite the fact that Gorley's car still has a few bugs in the system.

Erin Gray, one of the most popular TV leading ladies of the 1970s and '80s, was already appearing on NBC's hit BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, which had just aired two nights before "Cain's Cruiser." Director Nyby, well aware of Gray's popularity with young men, goes to an extravagant length to put Gray into a bikini in this episode, for which he earns our eternal thanks.

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