Rerun Junkie–Guest Stars: Boy George on The A-Team

Season 4 of The A-Team featured a lot of what I call stunt casting: guest stars that are extremely popular at the time and are put on a show to capitalize on that. Now there can be a fine line between a genuine guest starring role and a stunt casting, but you’ll know it when you see it because you really can’t ignore it.

During The A-Team’s fourth season, they had Hulk Hogan (twice!), Rick James, Pat Sajak and Vanna White had cameos because Murdock went on Wheel of Fortune for some reason, and, of course, there was Boy George.

I know, right?

The episode is called “Cowboy George” and the basic plot is Face is doing some talent booking, working with some dude named Dash, who screws him over on his contract by exercising a clause that allows for substitutions. So instead of getting Cowboy George for some honkytonk gig, he gets Boy George and Culture Club, who have been led to believe they’re going to be playing the Arizona Forum, not a dance hall called The Floor ’em. This poses a problem to LQ Jones, who demanded Cowboy George to insure the show would be a sellout. The he and his buddies could rob the audience’s payroll. To get help get out of the jam, Hannibal impersonates Cowboy George, but Boy George and Culture Club perform, which first angers and then charms the audience. The A-Team also thwarts the robbery and takes the bad guys to the sheriff, but it turns out the local replacement sheriff isn’t really a sheriff; he’s in on the whole thing, too, and the real sheriff is dead in one of the cells were Hannibal, BA, and Face are being held. Outside, a mob of angry workers are trying to break in to hang them because they think the three men stole their payroll. Which means it’s up to Murdock (who has an obsession with the Lennon Sisters in this episode) and Boy George to get them out of trouble.

Now, here’s why I think this is the greatest bit of guest casting in the history of television.

Unlike the Hulk Hogan or Rick James episodes (which I enjoy, don’t get me wrong), The A-Team aren’t hired by Boy George to do a job. They just sort of stumble into this scenario and Boy George happens to be involved and he goes along for the ride.

And he is clearly having a good time.

Boy George is an amiable guy, willing to cut down the band’s contracted fee from $1.2 million to $600,000 and he’s confident that Culture Club can draw the kind of crowd necessary to make that kind of money if they can get some advertising. Everyone loves Culture Club (fact check: this is true). He’s not put off by the booing rednecks, either, though his first impression of the dance hall isn’t the best. He and the band go out and start their set. Of course, the crowd falls in love with them.

When the trouble starts and Face, Hannibal, and BA get thrown in jail, the not-sheriff interrupts the show to tell the crowd what happened to their payroll, hoping to work up a lynch mob. It’s Boy George to the rescue. He acts quickly, going to the radio station where Murdock has locked himself in a booth to both get publicity for the Culture Club shows, and to also play every Lennon Sisters song he can get access to.

The two of them then break into a shop because they need some supplies and a plan to save the guys. Murdock struggles to pick the lock, even when Boy George provides him with a bobby pin. In the end, Boy George just kicks the door in. He even has a funny quip!

Murdock: See, a really honest man doesn’t really have an appetite for this sort of thing.

Boy George: Yeah, but who needs honesty?

Isn’t that great?!

Murdock gets the idea to smuggle some explosives into the besieged jail by dressing up as the pregnant wife of one of the guys and Boy George gives helpful critiques of Murdock’s clothing choices.

Boy George rides along after the jailbreak to stop the bad guys at the airport. And then he and Culture Club perform one final song for a very pleased crowd of cowboys.

I know. It sounds ludicrous. It shouldn’t work at all. And it probably would fall absolutely flat if not for Boy George being slightly amused the whole time. It’s not that he doesn’t take any of it seriously. He’s not goofing nor is he acting like it’s all beneath him. He comes across as very oh-you-crazy-yanks bemused and decides to enjoy the craziness. He gets the spirit of a show in which cars flip and explode and the people in them crawl out looking a little disoriented and disheveled.

Boy George brings the joy to the episode. Pure, blessed joy.

And we are all better for it.

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Rerun Junkie–Episode: “The Fugitive”

You can blame Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast for this. And then you can go listen to Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast (and support him and the show on Patreon!) because both the host and show are damn nifty.

In a recent episode of the podcast, Tom discussed The Twilight Zone episode “The Fugitive”. While I encourage you to give the whole episode a listen, particularly if you’re not familiar with the episode at the heart of the discussion, I’ll give you a quick rundown here:

J. Pat O’Malley plays Old Ben, a kindly old man that plays with the neighborhood children and has a particular kinship with one little girl with a lame leg named Jenny. Jenny has it pretty rough. The other kids don’t like playing with her because she’s a girl and she wears a leg brace. The aunt whom she lives with is horribly abusive towards her. Old Ben is a bright spot in her life.

Old Ben can do magic, like turn himself into other things, because he’s really an alien. When two men show up looking for him, he first tells Jenny it’s because he’s a fugitive. He then heals Jenny’s leg and leaves. In an attempt to get Old Ben to come back, the men zap Jenny into a kind of coma. He shows up to heal her and that’s when the real truth comes out: Old Ben is actually a king. In the end, he takes Jenny with him to his planet. Rod Serling’s closing narration informs the audience that the picture Jenny left under her pillow for her aunt to find is of Ben’s true form. He’s actually a young man. And her aunt will never guess that her niece will one day be a queen.

The discussion of this episode brought up an uncomfortable, but valid interpretation of the relationship between Old Ben and Jenny, insinuating that Old Ben’s interest in Jenny was more than platonic and the fact that he’s actually a young man in disguise doesn’t really make it better since the king in the picture could easily be nineteen or twenty and Jenny is only about twelve. It makes certain scenes and some dialogue rather squicky and distasteful when viewed in this particular light.

Now, like I said. It’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the episode, though I don’t think it was all written with that intent. It was meant to be something like a sci-fi fairy tale. And I’ve never even thought of it in that light when I’ve watched it. That could, of course, be my J. Pat O’Malley bias here. I love that man and I really need to write a post on him. It might be why I always looked at Old Ben as a kindly grandfather figure, someone who went an extra mile to be caring with Jenny because she had so little caring in the rest of her life. Even the reveal at the end didn’t sway my perceptions. I never took the relationship to be anything more than innocent.

And that’s probably because of the fairy tale aspect of the story.

Little girls are groomed from baby-age to be princesses and aspire to be queens. That Old Ben was really a young king and wanted Jenny to be his queen is supposed to be every little girl’s dream, age of consent be damned. We’re actually taught to look for someone older to take care of us. That this would be the ending to this fairy tale isn’t at all out of the norm.

It also plays on another trope common in children’s stories: the abused/neglected kid somehow being special and escaping their situation. That’s what the story really struck me as. That fairy tale of escaping some hostile situation that you, as a child, are powerless to change. That Jenny became queen later never felt that important; you could have left it out all together and the story would ring just as true. If Jenny had been Danny, there would never have been a need for any postscript crowns.

And if Jenny had been Danny, I doubt that as many people would arrive at the less-than-innocent interpretation of the episode because people still struggle with the idea that boys are also sexually abused.

There’s a societal conditioning concerning gender roles that I think plays into both interpretations of the episode. Old men prey on little girls. Little girls want to be princesses and queens.

And while the episode is definitely a product of its time, the lens we view it through hasn’t aged as much as we think.

Rerun Junkie–Favorite Christmas Episodes

Bah humbug.

Yes, we’re all very aware that Christmas isn’t my favorite time of the year. Too many years working retail and running the holiday gauntlet have put a permanent crimp in my holiday spirit. And that goes for my reruns, too. I find most Christmas episodes to be too saccharine and overly-sentimental. They run that commercialized holly jolly through the society-approval filter and trim it with some moral lessons and it’s just enough to be nauseating.

However, there are a few episodes that have captured my heart, either because they forego these tropes, skewer them, or dress them in a silver pantsuit that’s absolutely to-die-for.

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, The Golden Girls– The women are all planning on spending Christmas with their families. The bemoaning of the commercialization of Christmas leads them to exchanging homemade gifts, including Rose’s whittled maple syrup spigots and Blanche’s “Men of Blanche’s Boudoir” calendar, opened the night before they leave. On Christmas Eve, Blanche and Dorothy show up at the counseling center to pick up Rose, who is working a morning shift, only to be held up by a Santa (Terry Kiser), who demands they all celebrate Christmas together. Thanks to Sophia, they’re able to get out of that jam and to the airport, only to see their flights home cancelled. Later, at a diner, the women realize that they already are spending Christmas with family.

The ending is a bit sweet, what with it snowing in Miami and all, but Rose hitting “Surfin’ Safari” on the jukebox instead of a Christmas song saves it. Though I’ve always found it bizarre that they decorated the house, tree included, even though they wouldn’t be there for Christmas, I’m glad they did. They have some really lovely decorations and the tree is gorgeous. And Blanche’s pantsuit is fabulous.

“The Christmas Show”, The Monkees– The Monkees, in their forever pursuit of the next gig, end up getting hired to mind Melvin (Butch Patrick), a disgruntled forty-year old trapped in a twelve-year old’s body, while his aunt is away on a Christmas cruise. Turns out, Melvin isn’t much for Christmas. When the boys try to get him into the holiday spirit, they end up blowing through all of their money and aggravating Melvin to the point that he goes home. It’s only then that Mike realizes what’s been missing the whole time.

It could be a typical “lesson of Christmas” episode, but it’s The Monkees. They don’t do typical. Instead, they do madcap that involves them chopping down their own tree (while apparently stoned), Peter wrecking a department store while shopping for toys, Micky and Davy dressing as Santa and his elf and going down the chimney, a happy ending, and capping the whole thing off with an a capella version of “Riu Chiu”. It’s zany and sweet and the crew getting their time in front of the camera during the credits is a lovely gesture.

“Dear Sis”, M*A*S*H– In a letter home to his sister, Father Mulcahy expresses his frustration in not feeling very useful. Most everyone in camp has the holiday blues, but it seems that it’s hitting Father Mulcahy the hardest as nothing he does is really helpful. He even ends up decking a combative patient (who hit him first, so he had it coming). It’s only during the Christmas party in the mess tent that Father Mulcahy realizes that he has made something of a good impact, first when Charles thanks him for having his mother send him his old toboggan cap, and then later when Hawkeye singles him out during a toast.

M*A*S*H did several Christmas episodes during its eleven year run, but this one stands out to me for several reasons. One, it centers much of the episode on Father Mulcahy, which didn’t happen very often. Two, instead of singing a traditional Christmas song, Hawkeye leads everyone in singing a lovely version of “Dona Nobis Pacem”. And three, the episode ends with one of my favorite lines from the series. As the party is broken up by incoming casualties, the voiceover reading of Father Mulcahy’s letter to his sister says, “You know, sis, it doesn’t matter whether or not you feel useful when you’re moving from one disaster to another. The trick, I guess, is to just keep moving.”

“The Christmas Story”, Dragnet– A local church’s baby Jesus has gone missing from its nativity scene and Friday and Gannon are on the case. The statue has little monetary value, but it’s sentimental value can’t be measured and the parishioners would be very sad to go a Christmas without it. Being diligent detectives, Friday and Gannon follow a tip provided by an altar boy (Barry Williams) that leads them to a suspect (Bobby Troup), but he only borrowed a friend’s car and got into a little fender bender; he didn’t take any baby Jesus. Dejected, Joe and Bill go to the church to let the padre know they didn’t find the baby Jesus, but they’d keep looking. Just as they start to leave, a little boy pulling baby Jesus in a wagon comes into the church. It turns out that he’d prayed to baby Jesus for a new wagon and promised Him that if he got it, he’d give Him the first ride.

I’m not one for religion. I tend to cringe and shy away when people ram home the “Christ” in Christmas. But this episode is an exception and it’s all in the handling of the case and the ending. Our detectives are pursuing this matter seriously, as they usually do, but the justice is less nabbing a thief and more doing right for a congregation. The little boy who took the statue was fulfilling a promise, something that is more in tune with the holiday spirit than any of the sappy treacle that often gets splattered on the screen.

“Christmas with the Addam’s Family”, The Addam’s Family– It’s the common holiday problem that all sitcom parents face at one point or another: Santa. Pugsley and Wednesday are told by the Addams’s unkind neighbor that Santa doesn’t exist. The family bands together and elects Uncle Fester to play the role to restore the children’s faith. When he gets stuck in the chimney, each member of the clan takes it upon themselves to prove that there really is a Santa.

This could easily be a mediocre, overly-sweet episode, but this is the Addams family. This delightfully loving family is weird and wonderful and only they could pull off a Santa overload with such sincerity.

“Operation: Silent Night”, Magnum P.I.– While ferrying Magnum, Rick, and Higgins to their various destinations before he catches a flight home to New Orleans, T.C.’s chopper crashes on a deserted island that the Navy uses for target practice. Though Rick is convinced they’re all going to die, everyone else is pretty confident that they’ll get off the island soon enough. T.C. works on the chopper while Higgins forages for food and Rick and Magnum gather firewood for a signal fire. They end up discovering a downed Japanese WWII plane, which Higgins salvages to create a boat, which later sinks. Rick falls in a bog that he thinks is quicksand, which causes him to imagine his own funeral. T.C. despairs over his inability to fix the chopper and as such, he’ll miss his flight home. And Magnum, who was going to play Santa to some orphans, dons the outfit once again and provides the group with a Christmas tree to boost their spirits. All the while, the guys are unaware that off-shore, a Navy commander (Ed Lauter) with no Christmas spirit is about to bombard the island for practice.

What I love about this Christmas episode is how it’s so tangentially related to Christmas. There are obvious Christmas references and elements (Magnum dressed as Santa is hard to ignore), and there’s even a Scrooge in the form of the Navy commander insisting that his crew do drills on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. But the episode isn’t dressed up in garland and lights and bows. There’s no heavy-handed true Christmas spirit bashing us over our heads. It’s four friends coming together in a difficult situation not because of some of magical holiday emotion but because that’s just what they do. There’s also the nod to another December holiday celebration. In addition to Christmas, T.C. also celebrates Kwanzaa, which he educates Higgins (and the audience) about.

Okay, I might have gone on a little long, but don’t for a minute think that’s because I’m having a change of heart about Christmas or Christmas episodes.

Oh no. Does my heart look three sizes bigger to you?

Rerun Junkie–Reboots of Reruns

Reboots of TV shows aren’t new. The New Monkees, The New Adam-12, The New Odd Couple, The New Gidget, The New Perry Mason, which aired while the old Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, was starring in Ironside, which would later be rebooted in 2013. Oh, and there’s reportedly another Perry Mason reboot in the works. From Dragnet to Kojak, Love Boat to Fantasy Island, Dark Shadows to Mission: Impossible, reboots have always been a thing.

I’ve changed my stance on reboots somewhat. As much as I would love for the people in charge to stop dipping into the pop culture well of yesterday and instead invest in fresh ideas written and performed by those not necessarily straight, white, cis, and mostly male, I’m no longer screaming about the originals that are being rebooted as being untouchable and sacrosanct.

Why?

The reboots are not for me.

If the reboots were for me, they’d just put the reruns on. I mean I love shows that went off the air before I was born. But. Why can’t they be redone, updated, and polished for a new audience? It worked for Battlestar Galactica. The original ran only one season, written off as a hokey Star Wars rip-off, though it was followed by the single-season sequel Galactica 1980. The reboot ran four season, garnered quite a bit of attention and acclaim, and created quite an enthusiastic fanbase. I never got into it as I prefer my Cylons shiny and the bad guy to have a purple light bulb for a head and wear a disco cloak, but even I know that we were all blessed having Richard Hatch back on our TVs on a somewhat regular basis.

I cried foul when it was announced that Hawaii Five-O was being rebooted. But it’s in its ninth season now. The only episodes of it I’ve watched pertain directly to the original (the remake of “Hookman”, Ed Asner’s character from “Wooden Model of a Rat” coming back, their take on “Cocoon” for the season 9 opener) and while I appreciated those episodes and the fact that show goes out of its way to pay such homage and respect to the original, I’ve never felt compelled to watch it on the reg. It’s not for me. But other people enjoy it plenty.

To me, it’s actually a good example of a reboot. The love for the original is plainly visible. The important elements are intact. The stories and cast have been updated, the characters tweaked, but at their core, they’re very familiar.

The reboot of Magnum PI appears to be going in this direction, which makes sense since the guy who developed it also developed the Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver reboots. I watched the first few episodes, and I think the respect is very much there. No, Magnum doesn’t have a mustache (though there was a mustache reference in the second episode), but he’s still a handsome and charming war vet turned private investigator and all-around do-gooder and at his core, that’s who Magnum is. There is an unfortunate lack of short-shorts, though. We’re being denied man thighs.

But that’s a personal complaint.

Also greater than the mustache is that this Magnum is Latino. That’s one nice aspect that reboots can provide. Diversity. Yes, there’s always squawking when a male character is recast as a woman (Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica, Kono on Hawaii Five-0, Higgins on Magnum PI), which tells more about the squawkers than it does about the shows. But let’s be real, kids. Television, particularly action and sci-fi shows, are largely sausage fests. There’s nothing wrong with women cast as known characters provided that the characters reflect the change.

Getting non-white actors in those classic roles, too, opens up a world of storytelling provided the change is reflected. There are now new dimensions added because the characters aren’t working what’s considered the default. The reboot of One Day at a Time features a Cuban-American family. Back in the ’80s, The New Odd Couple (not to be confused with the 2015 reboot of The Odd Couple) featured a Black duo played by Ron Glass and Demond Wilson. Reboots also offer the opportunity to create new characters that could be played by non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-cis actors.

Reboots aren’t going away. So long as they can be viewed as a pop culture lure to draw in old fans while creating new, something with a vague scent of money to it, they’re going to keep getting the green light. And some of them are going to be positively horrid bombs that spit all over their source material and they should be rightfully shunned.

But others won’t be. Others will end up being pretty okay. And if we can’t enjoy them, then we should leave them to those that do because we still have the originals.

And if they ever need a consultant, I’m available.

Rerun Junkie–Best Characters to Join a Show After the First Season

One day a question floated across my Twitter timeline: Who’s the best character to join a show after the first season?

And my immediate response was, “I can’t answer this with a tweet. I need a blog post!”

So here I am, months later, finally getting around to answering that highly subjective question. In order to keep from rambling, I only picked characters from shows I’ve written about here. And even then, I restrained myself to keep it down to a dull roar.

Let’s start off with a couple of the more subjective ones and work our way (okay, my way) closer to objective.

Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) and Duke Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer), Hawaii Five-OYeah, you’re going to have to fight me on this one. Ben replaced Kono (Zulu) at the beginning of the fifth season and stayed through the seventh season. I feel he made a nice addition to the team. Solid, native, not flashy, except when he was undercover and had to wear ugly shirts as part of the gig. Al Harrington had already been on the show a few times, playing other (and usually bad) guys, and has since had a recurring role on the new show (playing yet another character). Clearly, every version of this show needs Al Harrington in some form, though I maintain Ben was the best.

Duke is a legend in my mind. Though Herman Wedemeyer was there from the beginning, the character of Duke didn’t actually happen until the fourth season. Of the 155 episodes that Herman Wedemeyer is credited for, only seven were not as Duke Lukela. Better yet, we get to watch as Duke goes from uniformed officer bit role to a detective with a starring credit in the final season. How marvelous is that? And if you still doubt that Duke should be on this list, then let me point out that the current show also has a Duke Lukela and he’s played by Dennis Chun, the son of the original Chin Ho, Kam Fong. Now that’s legend.

Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak), Murder, She Wrote–When Tom Bosley left the show, Cabot Cove needed a new sheriff. With Amos Tupper retired, the new law in town came in the form of Mort Metzger, a city cop who didn’t understand why the murder rate of a small town was so high and why some old woman was so involved in solving them. It was the fish-out-of-water aspect of Ron Masak’s character that not only separated him from Amos, but from everyone else in town. He spent half of his time bewildered by the goings-on of the locals, his hard line approach not so effective in a town where everybody knows everybody. Considering Ron Masak was in episodes of both The Monkees and Land of the Lost, it’s no wonder he was able to bring a touch of brilliance to this character and even make his never-seen, often-referred to wife Adelle come to life.

Detective Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) and Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey), Barney Miller–Both Steve Landesberg and Ron Carey appeared on the show as different characters prior to becoming the two of the characters on this list. Steve Landesburg first appeared as Father Paul in the first episode of season 2. The 12th episode of that same season, he made his first appearance as Dietrich, a dry-humored, incredibly intelligent detective who came in as Fish was going out. Of course, the two would appear together for over a season until Abe Vigoda’s official departure at the beginning of season 4. Many of his first episodes involved him trying to find a place in the 12th precinct. By the time the show ended, it was hard to imagine what it was like without him.

Ron Carey’s first appearance was as a character called The Mole in the last episode of the second season. It was only the third episode of the third season when he made his first appearance as Carl Levitt, a short, overly-enthusiastic uniform keen on making detective some day and taking every available opportunity to get into plain clothes. Not just a punchline, Levitt got to be the hero by saving some kids, ratted out the squad room with petty grievances to both protect them and to express his displeasure from being put down all the time, and eventually made detective in the final episode. As well he should.

Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), Gunsmoke–This twenty-year show was on the air nine years before Festus Haggen settled in Dodge City permanently. It’s hard to imagine Gunsmoke without Ken Curtis, especially since most of the syndication packages typically show the later episodes, but Dennis Weaver played Chester Good for 290 episodes (1955-1964). Festus’s first appearance actually came in 1962, but he became a regular in 1964 after Dennis Weaver left and ended up becoming such an iconic character that it’s hard to imagine Ken Curtis as anyone else (he was, though, playing a few different characters on the show before becoming Festus). Dodge City wouldn’t be the same without him.

This list is far from complete, of course. And it’s far from objective, as I warned. I might just answer this question again sometime in the future. New list, new shows, new characters. The answers are endless.

Who do you think the best characters are that joined a show after the first season?

Rerun Junkie–The Pride of the Ol’ 1-2

Since it’s Pride Month, I wanted to do a post on the gay representation on Barney Miller, just a quick overview of it because there’s really quite a bit I could pick apart and analyze and also because Marty Morrison really deserves his own character post.

Anyway.

Barney Miller was known for depicting the less dramatic, weirder side of law enforcement. It also pushed and poked at many social issues of the time. Some of them were very specific to that moment, like the budget crisis and the fallout from Vietnam, but many of the issues the show presented are still very relevant today. One striking aspect of the show is the representation of gay men in the form of recurring characters Marty Morrison (Jack DeLeon), Mr. Darryl Driscoll (Ray Stewart), and Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali). I read somewhere that show creator Danny Arnold worked with gay groups to get the portrayal of these characters right.  Instead of relying heavily on stereotypes (thought Marty is a classic catty gay man) or presenting them as unnatural or deviant, the show depicted them as humans facing societal challenges, bigotry, and discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

I love Marty Morrison and the pizzazz that Jack DeLeon brought to that character. He was out because it was impossible for him to be in. A petty criminal, he stole my heart as well as purses. In his first appearance on the show there’s a scene in which Barney tells Marty to get a real job and Marty tells him that he’s had “more jobs than you have hair on your head”. He also tells him that he tried to join the police force, but that they turned him down for being gay (“What’s wrong with a gay cop? There are gay robbers.”). Perhaps it’s just me reading into the scene, but there’s a suggestion there that part of the reason for Marty’s criminal behavior is because of his difficulty to hold a job as an out gay man in the 1970s. Or even get one. At the time, I would imagine that most jobs okay with his sexuality were few and far between and most likely limited to very specific industries.

It was through Marty that the show introduced Mr. Darryl Driscoll. The character was first somewhat effeminate, but throughout the appearances, that lessened in favor of Ray Stewart giving the character a more sophisticated personality. His first introduction to the squad room saw him being hustled by a fake cop, threatened with violence if he didn’t give the man money. His reluctance to actually go to the police to file a report echoes the real fear the gay community had (and still has) in regards to law enforcement. Later on in the series it was revealed that Mr. Driscoll had been married and had a son, something not uncommon for gay men. The resulting custody dispute on the surface seemed to be the result of the former Mrs. Driscoll’s opposition to Mr. Driscoll’s sexuality and shielding their son from that. In reality, the reason was more mundane: Mrs. Driscoll was tired of being the bad guy because Mr. Driscoll indulged his son during his visitations.

It was Officer Zatelli who got the truth from Mrs. Driscoll. A uniformed officer in a similar duty role to Ron Carey’s Officer Levitt, Officer Zatelli first showed up in the fourth season. However, it was in the 6th season that an anonymous letter claiming there was a gay police officer led to Zatelli outing himself as both the letter writer and the gay officer. Dino Natali’s portrayal of Zatelli was “straight”. He wasn’t much different from any of the other cops and that was the point. Though the detectives in the squad room knew he was gay and though he told  Mrs. Driscoll that he was gay when she was making a fuss about her son being around “those kind of people” and though Barney encouraged him to come clean to the department because policy prevented punishment for his sexuality (a policy change from the first season as indicated above), Zatelli couldn’t do it. As Barney warned, it was an accidental outing thanks to Wojo that exposed his secret. Instead of termination or forced resignation (like Lt. Scanlon wanted), Zatelli was transferred to a much cushier job, which he believed was a sign that he had a like-minded friend in high places.

Speaking of Wojo, Max Gail was presented with an interesting challenge for his character in regards to his evolution in opinion about gay men. The first season, particularly the first handful of episodes, saw Wojo as kind of a brutish caveman. His dislike of Marty came more from him being a thief rather than him being gay. However, the introduction of Mr. Driscoll, pairing the two men up the way they did, brought Wojo’s discomfort, ignorance, and prejudice into a sharper focus. In a two-part episode called “Quarantine” that saw the members of the 12th as well at Inspector Luger, Marty, Mr. Driscoll, and a sex worker named Paula Capshaw all -you guessed it- quarantined due to either smallpox or chicken pox depending on the outcome of the tests done on a sick criminal, Wojo insists that Marty and Mr. Driscoll sleep on opposite sides of the squad room. Like the two men would just bow-chicka-wow-wow right there if they were allowed to be in close proximity of each other when the lights went out. Wojo lost that argument, but it was an excellent illustration of his prejudice and misconceptions surrounding gay men. Over the course of the series, we got to see Wojo’s own learning experience and watch him as his opinions grew, matured, and evolved. In a way, he was almost a stand-in for no doubt many men in the viewing audience. (I’m singling out the men here because Wojo’s issues with homosexuality was very masculinity-based, but really, that’s another post for another time.)

Like I said, this is just a quick overview. There’s so much more I could get into and just might at some point in time. The gay representation on Barney Miller is really rather unique given the time period. It’s a reflection of the way social norms were evolving at the time as well as a bold step for both a cop show and a comedy.

The characters still resonate and the humor still plays today because the focus was always on the humanity, not stereotypes-as-punchlines.

And that’s pretty special.

Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 9-12

Here we are. The end of our journey through some of my favorite episodes from each season. You can read the previous entries here and here.

The episode selection for these last four seasons was difficult, as were the previous seasons, but maybe for slightly different reasons. I haven’t watched these seasons as much and for me, there aren’t as many standout episodes. After season 10, there’s no Chin Ho. After season 11, there’s no Danno. So, yeah. The subjectivity is high here, kids. Consider yourselves warned.

“Heads, Your Dead” Season 9, Episode 7. Air date: November 11, 1976. Directed by Bruce Bilson. Written by Herman Groves.

Based on a real-life case, hijackers get themselves hired to be the crew of luxury yachts, then murder the owners and steal the boats to sell elsewhere. Danno and Officer Sandi Welles are sent undercover to investigate. Sandi, along with a group of people, is taken hostage by the hijackers and their fate rests on a flip of a coin.

A big part of the reason why I like this episode is because I like Officer Sandi Welles (Amanda McBroom) in it. I also like bad guys. They’re pretty ruthless. There’s a certain amount of psychological terror involved in telling your already terrified hostages that you’re going to throw them overboard and whether or not they get a life raft depends on a coin flip. But that’s what makes it so compelling.

“The Descent of the Torches” Season 10, Episode 5. Air date: October 20, 1977. Directed by Charles S. Dubin. Written by Alvin Sapinsley

An archaeological dig reveals tunnels that could lead to the grave of King Kamehameha I. And someone is so convinced of it that they dress up in a royal robe and mask to frighten off and eventually kill members of the dig.

I very nearly picked “A Death in the Family”, but honestly, it’s not really a favorite in the sense that I enjoy it, but more in the sense that it ripped out my heart and dumped it on the steps of Iolani Palace. Anyway. The reason why I picked “The Descent of the Torches” instead is because of the Hawaiian culture. This episode gets into that and I really like it. Let’s face it. For the majority of the run, it’s a pretty white show. There are some Hawaiian faces and there’s the presentation of life on the islands, but not too much on the Hawaiian culture. Yes, there are better episodes in this season, but this one scratches an itch for me.

“Stringer” Season 11, Episode 17. Air date: February 22, 1979. Directed by Ray Austin. Story by Paul Williams and Robert Janes. Teleplay by Robert Janes.

Members of Tony Alika’s Hawaiian kumu mob shoot out a tire on a police car that’s trailing their out-on-bail boss, causing an accident that kills one officer and nearly kills my much-adored Duke. The whole thing is caught on film by a “stringer” (free-lance photographer) named Tim Powers, who decides to try to blackmail Tony Alika and the political boss he was making a deal with.

I really need to do a whole post on Tony Alika, as he was a recurring villain during the 11th and 12th season and I’m always looking for a reason to write about my beloved Ross Martin. But I went ahead and picked this episode for my season 11 favorite because of the Paul Williams aspect. Not only does he get the story by credit, but he also plays the stringer of the title. A man who’s probably known more for his songwriting, I always love it when he shows up in things. He’s small and interesting and hard to ignore.

“Woe to Wo Fat” Season 12, Episode 19. Air date: April 5, 1980. Directed by Barry Crane. Written by Frank Telford.

The final episode. Three scientists who all attended a space-based, laser defense symposium have been abducted. McGarrett impersonates the fourth in order to be abducted and find out what’s going on. Of course, it’s Wo Fat going on.

Wo Fat is another character that deserves his own post. Khigh Dhiegh portrayed Steve McGarrett’s arch nemesis throughout the show’s 12 year run. But, when it comes to favorites, I have to give my pick to the last episode of the series. Not one of the best episodes maybe, but endings are always hard. And it’s only fitting that the last episode feature the final battle between McGarrett and Wo Fat.

I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite episodes and I hope these posts tide you over until I actually get around to doing my Book ’em, Danno podcast.

Until then, relax…