Monday, January 20, 2014

Chopper One, "Pilot"

We'll see how long it lasts, but I will try to plop in an occasional review of a classic television episode. Not everything I see, for sure.

January 17, 1974
Starring Jim McMullan and Dirk Benedict
Guest Stars: Ted Hartley, Lou Frizzell, Hank Brandt, Skye Aubrey, Jesse Vint, Richard X. Slattery, Arch Johnson
Music: Dominic Frontiere
Executive Producers: Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg
Written by Ronald Austin & James David Buchanan

Judging from the pilot, this half-hour crime drama is ADAM-12 in the Sky, but with less emphasis on character and more on action. Writers Austin and Buchanan (the copy I saw was missing credits, so I’m relying on other sources, including my own two eyes, for cast and crew information) make no effort to provide personalities for any of the characters, and most of them don’t even have names. Not even the leading men are introduced, so listen closely to the dialogue to pick up on their names.

If it makes any difference, the older cop, played by McMullan (BEYOND WESTWORLD), is Officer Don Burdick, and his younger sidekick is Gil Foley (Benedict, more famous as Starbuck on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). CHOPPER ONE was the first regular series role for both actors, and they’re handsome and capable enough. You can tell Burdick is the veteran, because he’s the one who gets to leap out of the helicopter three times to do the hero stuff, while Foley is left holding the stick (literally).

Burdick and Foley are police officers who “drive” a helicopter, rather than a patrol car. Operating out of an unnamed Southern California city (probably members of the same “LCPD” that other Spelling/Goldberg cops like The Rookies and T.J. Hooker worked for), the two rescue a boy from a capsized skiff in the teaser. After some gentle banter between each other and fellow cops in the locker room, they get down to the main case: two gunmen have robbed a guest at the Sheraton West hotel (Brandt) and kidnapped his wife (Aubrey) as a hostage. The only crook with dialogue is played by Vint, who also popped up as a heavy in the pilot of another Spelling/Goldberg cop show, S.W.A.T.

CHOPPER ONE replaced TOMA on ABC's Tuesday night schedule. It got hammered opposite THE FLIP WILSON SHOW on NBC and THE WALTONS on CBS and was gone after thirteen episodes.

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