Thursday, December 02, 2010

The 18-Wheel Rip-Off

The 18-Wheel Rip-Off
March 22, 1980
Music: William Broughton
Story: Michael Sloan & Sidney Ellis
Teleplay: Michael Sloan
Director: Gil Bettman

How many corrupt sheriffs can BJ McKay (Greg Evigan) possibly run into? In this BJ AND THE BEAR episode, the cowboy trucker runs afoul of Sheriff Jackson Cordell (Charles Haid, soon to be Renko on HILL STREET BLUES), who wants revenge for BJ tossing his friend Sheriff McCandles (in “Silent Night, Unholy Night”) in the pokey. Cordell has rookie officer Tracy McBain (Wendy Phillips, a regular on EXECUTIVE SUITE and THE EDDIE CAPRA MYSTERIES) haul in BJ on a bogus charge, and then sends car thief Belford (Sean Garrison) steal BJ’s truck for crooked disco owner Mama (Gloria DeHaven). To get his semi back, BJ teams up with the innocent Tracy and his old Vietnam buddy Shades (Michael D. Roberts) to infiltrate Mama’s operation.

First-time director Gil Bettman (NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE) handles the stunt-heavy episode with a sure hand. Two impressive car chases and a cliffside fight at the climax keep action fans happy. Haid would seem to be perfect casting for a nasty small-town sheriff, but, despite an annoying catchphrase (“Thank you kindly.”), he doesn’t appear to be giving the part his all. Not only does BJ run across another evil sheriff, but he also encounters still another old war buddy. Maybe the writers were running out of ideas late in the season, because in the next aired episode—the second-season finale—McKay met up with still another pal from Nam!

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