Saturday, December 27, 2008

BJ’s Sweethearts

19 BJ's Sweethearts
December 1, 1979
Music: Stu Phillips
Writer: Michael Sloan
Director: Jeff Gold

Ah, the clip show, that tried-and-true last resort for budget-minded TV producers trying to shave a few bucks. I don't think shows do these anymore, but clip shows used to pop up at least once on nearly every series that lasted more than a couple of seasons. It seems surprising that BJ AND THE BEAR would do one on just its 19th episode, but executive producer Glen A. Larson sure knew how to count pennies.

Not only is "BJ's Sweethearts" a clip show, but it's also what was known as a bottle show, which meant that the whole episode was set and filmed on basically a single set, also as a cost-cutting measure. A clip show is just what it sounds like: an excuse to string together random clips from previous episodes to avoid shooting as much new film as possible. Usually, the clips are presented in the form of flashbacks, and that's how writer Michael Sloan and (I think) first-time director Jeff Gold do it here.

Vivacious Barbara Sue (Jo Ann Harris) returns from Odyssey of the Shady Truth to rescue BJ (Greg Evigan) when his semi slides off a wet Orly County back road on a rainy night. After nursing his head wound, she gets BJ to reminisce about all the ladies he's romanced during his truck-driving adventures, giving Sloan reasons to splice in kisses and action sequences from "Shine On," "Deadly Cargo," "The Murphy Contingent," "Cain's Cruiser," "Pogo Lil" and "Cain's Son-in-Law," in addition to "Odyssey of the Shady Truth."

Meanwhile, George Lazenby (playing a different character than in "A Coffin with a View") hangs around outside the house with some hunting buddies for 45 minutes before finally storming Barbara Sue's farmhouse in search of hidden money. I never did figure out why Lazenby thought there was money inside or why he needed all night to search the place when he already knew the money was hidden inside Barbara Sue's uncle's mattress. We never even find out if the money existed. I don't think Sloan knew, as long as he had a new fight scene to wrap up this cheapie.

It's unusual for me to stumble across a 1970s TV director I haven't heard of, but I don't know anything about Jeff Gold or other jobs he has had. My guess is that he was an editor or an assistant director who wanted to break into directing episodic television, and Sloan and Larson gave him a break. "BJ's Sweethearts" is a good show for a beginner, since it probably only shot for a couple of days on one set and a night on the backlot. It's not a stylish or imaginative episode, but neither are the concept or script.

Besides Jo Ann Harris, who is always wonderful, there's little reason for BJ fans to see this episode. However, if you're a first-timer, "BJ's Sweethearts" certainly gives you a good idea of what the show is all about. Brian Kerwin drops in from THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO for a tag cameo.

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