Saturday, July 05, 2008


10 Crackers
April 28, 1979
Music: William Broughton
Teleplay: Michael Sloan
Story: Michael Sloan & Glen A. Larson
Director: Michael Caffey

An impressive guest cast—Christopher Connelly, Luke Askew, Richard Bradford, John Fiedler, Edd Byrnes—adds weight to this thinly plotted BJ AND THE BEAR episode. BJ (Greg Evigan) tries to collect $85 in damages from the drunk driver who ran him off the road, but the culprit, town boss Jason Rockman (Byrnes, best known from 77 SUNSET STRIP twenty years earlier), has him tossed out and beaten up. BJ takes a job from pretty psychiatrist (Leann Hunley, later on DYNASTY) to transport some of her mental patients to the local fair for the afternoon, but an obstinate Rockman sends the local sheriff (Bradford) to the fairgrounds to bust up the fun. It all gets weird from here, as though Sloan was trying to fill the hour. BJ rescues a frightened girl stranded atop a Ferris wheel, then chases one of the patients, the not-so-crazy Hilts (Connelly), in a stock car pursuit after Hilts kidnaps Rockman to get him to give BJ the $85.

Connelly is very likable, and Askew lends this breezy hour some dramatic weight as a Vietnam vet stricken with what would now be called PTSD. Stu Gilliam plays a mechanic, and you'll recognize THE PEOPLE'S COURT interviewer Doug Llewellyn as the befuddled race announcer. Sloan's teleplay is sloppy, including Hunley's initial meeting with BJ where she calls him by his initials, even though she knows him only by the name on his truck, "Billie Joe." "Crackers" is Michael Caffey's only BJ AND THE BEAR episode, but he did have an extensive career directing episodic dramas, such as TRAPPER JOHN M.D. and IT TAKES A THIEF.

Greg Evigan was basically an unknown when he landed the lead role of BJ McKay, though he had been on television before, most notably as the co-leading man (along with David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer!) on the shortlived sitcom A YEAR AT THE TOP, in which he and Shaffer were rock musicians who sold their soul to devil Gabriel Dell in exchange for one year of stardom. I'm guessing the creators weren't thinking longterm when they came up with the idea.

BJ AND THE BEAR made Evigan a genuine television star—he was the show's only regular and appears in nearly every scene of the 48 episodes. He also starred or co-starred in six other series, including P.S. I LUV U, MY TWO DADS, PACIFIC PALISADES and TEKWAR, which was a USA cable series based on a series of science fiction detective novels ghostwritten by William Shatner. Viewers have never tired of the New Jersey-born actor and musician (before BJ, he appeared on stage in GREASE and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR), who continues to guest-star on hit shows like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and CSI: MIAMI, as well as topline two recent direct-to-video sci-fi movies for The Asylum.


Gary Peterson said...

This is one of my favorite BJ AND THE BEAR episodes and you're the first person I've seen write about it (and do it justice). A great series that I was sad to see tagged as "bad TV." "Crackers" was a fine episode with an outstanding cast. Christopher Connelly, who steals the show, returned in the fun S.T.U.N.T. episode. Luke Askew was excellent too, a veteran of everything from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE to EASY RIDER. It was disappointing to see Richard Bradford in such a small role just a decade after he headlined the British spy series MAN IN A SUITCASE (which seems to be gaining a cult following thanks to DVD). This episode has a heartwarming and inspiring story without ever crossing the line into maudlin melodrama.

Gary Peterson said...

PS: I forgot to add I was a loyal and enthusiastic fan of Greg Evigan's post-BJ series MASQUERADE (1983-84), which co-starred Rod "Bearcats" Taylor and Kirstie "Wrath of Khan" Alley as spymasters who would round up talented "innocents" to undertake dangerous assignments all over the world. Glen Larson created it, and I remember the guest star casts included everyone from tough guy William Smith to sitcom stars like Gregory Sierra. Greg Evigan was relegated to second banana status and so it was a step down from BJ AND THE BEAR. I was crushed when the series was canceled and keep hoping for a DVD release.