THE FALL GUY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
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"The Fall Guy Pilot," "The Meek Shall Inherit Rhonda," "The Rich Get Richer," "That's Right, We're Bad," "Colt's Angels," "The Human Torch," "The Japanese Connection," "No Way Out," "License to Kill (Part 1)," "License to Kill (Part 2)," "Goin' For It!," "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harold," "Soldiers of Misfortune," "Ready, Aim... Die!," "Ladies on the Ropes," "The Snow Job," "Guess Who's Coming to Town," "Child's Play," "Charlie," "Three for the Road," "The Silent Partner," "Scavenger Hunt"
CHiPs: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
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"Pilot," "Undertow," "Dog Gone," "Moving Violation," "Career Day," "Baby Food," "Taking Its Toll," "Green Thumb Burglar," "Hustle," "Highway Robbery," "Name Your Price," "Aweigh We Go," "One Two Many," "Rustling," "Surf's Up," "Vintage '54," "Hitch-Hiking Hitch," "Cry Wolf," "Crash Diet," "Rainy Day," "Crack-Up," "Flashback!"
by Ian Pugh In giving a modern-day look-see to a television series that stars a late-'70s/early-'80s icon as a Hollywood stuntman who improbably moonlights as a charming, violent bounty hunter, it seems only natural to start the discussion by lobbing a few Death Proof jokes in its general direction. Take the time to really sit down and watch "The Fall Guy", however, and you'll find that the complete honesty of its quest to grab the viewer's attention just melts away your desire to be snarky. Lee Majors is the show's anchor as Colton Seavers, the eponymous stuntman who spends his free time on assignment for a bail bondsman (Jo Ann Pflug) searching for folks who've skipped town before their court date, bringing his overeducated cousin (Douglas Barr, dead weight) and a stuntwoman-in-training (Heather Thomas, attractive dead weight) along for the ride. Although that premise gets bogged down in guns, fistfights, and doing crazy shit with whatever vehicles are available, Majors's earnest performance offers a sense of levity to the proceedings, particularly once the character finally overcomes the traits ascribed to him by "The Fall Guy"'s whiny country+western theme song, which complains about the stuntman's inability to hold onto fame, money, or women. Indeed, as the series progresses, it becomes more interested in presenting Seavers as a conceptual mirror for the man who plays him, making Colt more of an aggressive ladies' man (Majors was, after all, married to the era's goddess-avatar of teenage onanism) and perhaps even turning his tides of bad luck into a tidy metaphor for Majors's unsuccessful foray into features on the heels of "The Six Million Dollar Man".
"The Fall Guy"'s production values also receive a considerable shot in the arm in later episodes of the season, as it slowly transplants its formula of stunts and bail-jumpers into globetrotting adventures and assassination conspiracies. If it pushes the envelope of ridiculousness with spy intrigue and Uzi-toting ninjas, its stoic--though not entirely humourless--approach to such matters eventually becomes impossible to ignore. (A not-unreasonable analogy would be to imagine an early-'80s Roger Moore Bond flick starring a late-'60s Connery.) The show carefully considers and streamlines its finest aspects, cutting down on the stagey bar fights and always orchestrating its innumerable car stunts with a little more verve than in the previous episode. Coupled with the steady stream of cameos from some of the most endearing character actors in the business (Michael Gazzo, Richard Kiel, Henry Gibson, Vincent Schiavelli), it's enough to forgive "The Fall Guy"'s sillier moments.
While I initially scoffed at Majors's DVD-documentary assertion that the bounty-hunter angle was introduced to add to the "jeopardy" of an already dangerous line of work, the tension-free "CHiPs" certainly makes you appreciate the fact that Colt Seavers is willing to do whatever it takes--whether that means firing a gun or swinging the occasional slab of Walking Tall wood--to keep things interesting. Something of a wholesome, middle-American response to Electra Glide in Blue, "CHiPs" attempted to resuscitate faith in a system tarnished by a decade-and-a-half of authority paranoia, tracking the exploits of squeaky-clean California Highway Patrolmen Ponch (Erik Estrada) and Jon (Larry Wilcox) as they go on what basically amounts to the same assignment week after week. Over the course of a day or two, they pull over a few motorists on minor traffic violations; play some PR moves with the locals; save a few unlucky bastards from a serious road accident involving unlikely vehicles; and chase down whatever hippies/drugstore robbers/auto-theft ring members happen to be stalking the highways, all without ever having to pull the guns from their holsters.
Convenience assures that Ponch and Jon will never fail to save a life or get their man in brief, lethargic vignettes littered across the hour, but that still leaves a disproportionate amount of time to Ponch's self-aggrandizing schemes, bizarre guest stars (Phyllis Diller, H.R. Pufnstuf (?!)), and vans full of circus animals or chickens spilling their wares onto the highway. Unlike "The Fall Guy" (which, it goes without saying, also boasts infinitely superior chase sequences), "CHiPs" allows its groan-worthy goofiness to swallow the series whole. The fact that just about every episode ends with Ponch, Jon, or their sarcastic sergeant (Robert Pine) looking like a fool while everyone else grins like idiots leaves its impertinent hijinks as our ultimate impression of the show--its lingering portrait of authority falling somewhere between the Rockwellian fantasy of firemen rescuing kitties from trees and the frighteningly distracted "comic relief" cops from The Last House on the Left.
"The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season" comes to DVD in the six-disc/three-thinkpak set that's become the standard. Its 1.33:1 image is nothing to write home about, but considering the dingy browns and reds that populate Colt's world, it's not like expectations ran high. On the other hand, the Dolby 2.0 stereo audio (mislabelled as mono on the packaging) has the tendency to sound a little muffled. Not much in the way of extras: Disc One includes the by-the-numbers doc "Remembering 'The Fall Guy': An American Classic" (14 mins.), wherein producer Glen A. Larson, businessman that he is, talks about the carefully-constructed elements that came together to form a domestic and overseas hit; musician David Somerville fondly recalls the writing of the show's theme song (which also served as its pitch); Majors fondly recalls cast camaraderie and the opportunity to shed the image of Steve Austin; and Heather Thomas draws a bizarre comparison to "Scooby-Doo". Disc Six, meanwhile, houses "'The Unknown Stuntman': The Theme Song" (4 mins.), primarily a showcase for the entire theme song from Somerville and his band.
Arriving on the format in its own six-disc set from Warner, "CHiPs: The Complete First Season" carries with it a full-frame presentation that deviates wildly in quality from episode to episode--hell, from shot to shot; never moving past a familiar late-'70s softness besides, the transfers are often plagued by print debris, excessive darkness, and graininess. The Dolby 1.0 mono is serviceable to the series' meagre needs. "Ponch's Police Tips"--best described as increasingly bored introductions from Estrada--append thirteen episodes across the set, although they can only be viewed separately. Estrada mostly recounts plots, tells a few abbreviated anecdotes about being excited to meet guest stars, and recounts how he single-handedly opened the door for positive Hispanic-American role models on television. Since he doesn't have much to do now that "Sealab 2021" has ended, he also joins us for "CHiPs: The Ride Out of Spanish Harlem" (12 mins.), an Estrada biography padded with extended clips from the show and sycophantic explanations of how "CHiPs" changed television or whatever. No wonder Wilcox opted out of these supplements. Originally published: September 17, 2008.