Tuesday, December 20, 2011

BJ And The Seven Lady Truckers

BJ and the Seven Lady Truckers
January 13, 1981
Writer: Michael Sloan
Director: Christian I. Nyby II

Because of the 1980 Writers Guild strike, BJ AND THE BEAR didn’t open its third season until January 1981—nine and a half months after its second-season finale. Like THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO, BJ began the season with a major overhaul, adding a whopping eight new cast members and a new job for BJ (Greg Evigan). Only a big two-hour episode could contain all the new changes.

Now based in Los Angeles (saving the production crew from having to double L.A. for the Southern states), BJ McKay is trying to break into the independent trucking game in California. The trucking industry in that state is ruled with an iron fist by Trans Cal, a major company unopposed to using strongarm tactics to push out the competition, including stealing BJ’s truck as a warning and flattening BJ’s ‘Nam buddy Dave Chaffee (Neil Zevnik) in a hit-and-run.

To save Dave’s business, BJ recruits a team of sexy motorcycle stunt riders to haul a load from L.A. to San Francisco: fiery Callie (Linda McCullough), twin blondes Geri (Randi Brough) and Teri (Candi Brough), airhead Stacks (Judy Landers), con artist Samantha (Barbra Horan), surfer chick Cindy (Sherilyn Wolter), and black disc jockey Angie (Sheila DeWindt). Unfortunately, TransCal chairman Jason Willard (Jock Mahoney) has on his payroll corrupt Captain Rutherford T. Grant (Murray Hamilton), who uses the power of his office as head of a statewide crime-fighting task force to ruin BJ’s business.

With two hours of play with, writer Michael Sloan takes his time establishing the series’ new format and introducing us to Evigan’s new co-stars. Outside of the Brough twins and dumb blonde Landers, none of the other actresses are given much to work with outside of surface personality traits to help the audience tell them apart (outside of DeWindt, who’s merely identified by her skin color). Nyby stages a few decent chases and fights to keep the action moving right along, and Hamilton becomes BJ’s first fulltime villain, stepping into the shoes of previous actors like Claude Akins, Ed Lauter, and Richard Deacon who made occasional appearances as corrupt policemen giving McKay a hard time.

If NBC hadn’t been miserably mired in third place among the networks, it would not likely have renewed either BJ AND THE BEAR or LOBO for another season. Retooling both shows seems like a desperate attempt to retain viewers, but not even the promise of fourteen pert breasts every week could stop BJ from being cancelled in the spring.

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