Saturday, June 23, 2012

The B.A.D.dest Cats Of Them All

B.A.D. CATS ran only six episodes (including this feature-length pilot) on Friday nights before ABC’s quick cancellation in the winter of 1980, and if anyone remembers it today, it’s because of 21-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer’s starring role as a curvy cop named Samantha “Sunshine” Jensen.

Pfeiffer, hot off a turn as “Bombshell” on another shortlived ABC series, DELTA HOUSE, shared star billing with Asher Brauner, familiar to trash movie fans as brooding yet somehow sympathetic hoodlum Dominic in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, as Los Angeles detective Nick Donovan and Steve “No Relation to Tom” Hanks making his regular television debut as Nick’s partner and roomie Ocee (!) James.

An obvious ripoff of STARSKY & HUTCH (and executive-produced for the same network by STARSKY’s Aaron Spelling), B.A.D. CATS pitted the two male detectives—one blonde and one brunette, natch—of the Burglary Auto Detail, Commercial Auto Thefts squad (!) against various hijackers, terrorists, dope fiends, and auto thieves. Because Nick and Ocee happen to be former racecar drivers, their method of busting crime involves endangering innocent civilians and destroying lots of private property.

The stuntwork is top-notch. A good director, Bernard Kowalski (his credits include the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE pilot), does a great job handling the many car chases (Stunts Unlimited and second unit director Ronnie Rondell receive a big credit), but struggles with the rest of Al Martinez’s pilot teleplay. Charles Cioffi (KLUTE) in a Shatneresque toupee plays Paul Stone, who tries to smuggle $5 million in gold out of the country by forging it into auto parts. GOOD TIMES star Jimmie Walker plays car thief Rodney (the show’s Huggy Bear), SANFORD & SON’s LaWanda Page is rib proprietor Ma, and curly-haired Vic Morrow (COMBAT!) is Captain Nathan, head of the B.A.D. CAT squad.

For the most part, the acting is as poor as the scripting, particularly the stiff Hanks, whose banter with Brauner won’t remind one of Soul and Glaser. Pfieffer (and her original nose) is strictly eye candy who looks terrific in tight shorts (and wears a bikini in the opening titles). Her role consists of answer the squadroom’s phone and being addressed by her fellow officers as “baby” and “sweetie.” She soon did SCARFACE and left television in her rearview mirror.

Producer Everett Chambers later denounced the series publicly and claimed not to list it on his resume. Also with Tom Simcox (CODE R), George Murdock, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael V. Gazzo, Penny Santon, James Hampton (THE LONGEST YARD), and Lance Henriksen (ALIENS) as Cioffi’s number one flunky. Barry DeVorzon (THE WARRIORS) scored it.


Mike Doran said...

There was one episode of this show that ranks as the single weirdest TV episode I ever saw. I need to go into some detail here, so bear with me.

In this episode the B.A.D. guys are helping to track down a serial killer of hookers; I missed the first few minutes of the show, and thus don't recall the perfectly logical reason why an auto-theft detail gets involved with a homicide.

This was an "open" type show, meaning we know who the culprit is. In this case, our hooker-killer is a nerdy mama's-boy, played by Allan Miller. To make it a bit more binding, highly moralistic Mama is played by Jack Webb's long-term house harpy, Virginia Gregg.
So anyway ... (this is one of those shows where when you describe it, you start every sentence with "So anyway ...")
So anyway, the B.A.D. cops find themselves dealing with the local hookers, who in this town are better organized than the AFofL. They make clear that if the police can't protect their lives, they'll take some drastic action of their own. This includes a massive rally-demonstration, wherein they'll publicly name some of the town's leading citizens as their clients.
The B.A.D.ies take the matter to Capt. Vic Morrow, who reminds them that they are auto-theft cops, and tells them to take what they know to the homicide captain who's in charge of the actual investigation.
... who turns out to be ...
So anyway, the whole megillah leads up to the big Hooker-support rally, and the killer-cop's attempt to cover his actions by ... something (it's been a long time since I saw this, and some of the details are fuzzing up; it mainly has to do with hanging the clients in effigy).
So anyway, the climax (excuse the expression) is a near-riot in which the hookers rescue the cops from the angry citizens ... or something like that.
I stand prepared to take an oath on any document you have that I actually saw this show, telecast on the ABC network in prime time. Nobody believes me, but I live in hope of one day finding at least a bootleg video to prove that this show exists.
Thank you for your patience.

Marty McKee said...

Um. That sounds beautiful. I wish I could see it. Looks like this is the episode you're talking about:

Good memory!