Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.15 “Cowboy/Substitute Wife”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

This week is all about deception.

Episode 2.15 “Cowboy/Substitute Wife”

(Dir by Arnold Laven, originally aired on January 20th, 1979)

Brian Kehoe (Hugh O’Brian) is from Texarkana.  In his youth, he was a rodeo rider but now he’s a broken-down old man who works as a rodeo clown.  He’s one of the best in the business and every rodeo rider on Fantasy Island swears that Brian has saved their lives multiple times.  (There’s a surprisingly large amount of rodeo people on Fantasy Island.)  However, Brian is deeply ashamed of just being a clown.  In fact, he’s spent his life telling his 11 year-old son, Tommy (Johnny Timko), that he’s the greatest rodeo champion of all time.

Brian’s fantasy is to be just that.  He’s spending the weekend with his son on Fantasy Island and he wants everyone to treat him like he’s a world famous rodeo star.  However, when he realizes that Tommy wants to see him in action, Brian realizes that he’s going to do have to ride a bull himself.  Unfortunately, Brian just can’t do it.  He’s old and out-of-practice.  So, he and his friends try to play a little trickery on Johnny.  Brian explains that he always wears a bandana over the lower half of his face whenever he rides.  When Tommy is cheering for his father, little does he realize he’s actually cheering for one of his father’s friends.  But when one the real riders is put in danger, Brian has no choice but to reveal the truth.  Of course, that was Mr. Roarke’s plan all along.

This was an okay fantasy.  I appreciated the fact that everyone pronounced rodeo correctly.  There weren’t any Yankees wandering around talking about the “roe-day-o.”  Hugh O’Brian did a good job of portraying the sadness beneath Brian’s confident façade.  And, when Tommy first learns that his father has been lying to him, he has a very honest reaction.  He is pissed off!  It takes Tommy a while to forgive his father.  This was a well-acted little fantasy, even if you never had any real doubt that things would eventually work out.

As for the other fantasy …. bleh.  Jayne Meadows Allen plays Nadine Winslow, a woman who suffers from hypochondria.  Her fantasy is to learn what’s wrong with her.  She’s examined by a Dr. Van Helsing (Hans Conried), who informs her that she only has a few weeks to live.  After Nadine leaves the exam room, we learn that Dr. Van Helsing is actually a waiter and it’s always been his fantasy to tell someone that they only have a few weeks to live.  Between this guy and that Nazi POW camp a few weeks ago, I’m starting to doubt Roarke’s instincts.

Nadine’s new fantasy is to find a new wife for her husband, Harvey (Peter Lawford, who appears to be slightly hung over in most of his scenes).  She settles on Monica (Sherry Jackson), whom Harvey meets during a bizarre Fantasy Island dating game that is hosted by a leering Mr. Roarke.  Monica and Harvey seem like a good couple but then Nadine spots her doctor working as a waiter and she realizes that she’s not dying.  So, she and Harvey get back together and, for some reason, they thank Mr. Roarke as opposed to suing him for emotional distress.  That whole fantasy was just dumb.

So, this was a pretty uneven episode.  I liked the rodeo stuff.  I disliked the death stuff.  That’s the way it usually goes.

Music Video of the Day: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, covered by Miley Cyrus (2012, dir by James Minchin III)

For today’s music video of the day, Miley Cyrus covers Bob Dylan.  It’s a simple video, which is appropriate for both the song and Miley’s version of it.


Retro Television Review: Hang Time 4.5 “S.A.T. Blues” and 4.6 “Easy Credit”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Season 4 continues!  Maybe this will be the week when it actually gets …. good.

Episode 4.5 “S.A.T. Blues”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 26th, 1998)

It’s S.A.T. time!  (Seeing as how Julie and Mary Beth are both in their fifth year of high school, it’s probably a good thing that they finally took the test.)  Everyone does well on the S.A.T. except for Hammer.  But Hammer is convinced that he doesn’t need good test scores because of his talent on the court.  Unfortunately, a recruiter from Duke U. informs Hammer that it doesn’t matter that Hammer single-handedly won the team’s last game.  Duke takes academics very seriously and there’s no way Hammer will ever play for them.  NOT WITH THOSE SCORES!

A dejected Hammer tries to quit the team.  Fortunately, a friend Coach K’s informs Hammer that he can still get into the NBA, even if he does end up going to junior college.  I’m going to guess that Coach K’s friend was played by a real-life basketball player, just because the audience went crazy when he made a basket.  Coach K. also made a basket but, noticeably, it was made through camera trickery because, unlike Reggie Theus, Dick Butkus was not a former basketball player and didn’t come across as being someone who had ever made a basket in his life.  Anyway, Hammer learns an important lesson and agrees to take the test again.  That said, if Hammer was actually as good on the court as he claimed to be, I imagine Duke would have bent the rules for him.

Meanwhile, Julie and Michael celebrate their 2-year anniversary.  After Mary Beth hears Michael talking about getting an expensive “ruby guitar” for himself, she tells Julie that Michael is getting her a “ruby.”  Julie buys Michael an expensive guitar case.  Meanwhile, Michael finds out that Mary Beth told Julie that she’s getting a ruby ring so he sells his guitar so that he can afford to get her the ring.  Somewhere, the angry ghost of O. Henry is researching copyright law.  Anyway, Julie gets mad at Michael for spending too much on her.  Who actually gets mad over something like that?

This episode was not particularly memorable but it wasn’t really bad either.  It was very much a middle-of-the-road Hang Time episode.  An important lesson was learned and the audiences was told to cheer whenever Michael and Julie kissed.  Dick Butkus is still totally unbelievable as a basketball coach.  Let us move on.

Episode 4.6 “Easy Credit”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 26th, 1998)

Ugh.  This is another one of those episodes where every complication is due to the characters being idiots.  I hate episodes like this.

In the B-plot, Julie is set to be named Indiana Basketball Player of the Month, because of course she is.  Coach K. doesn’t want Julie to find out before he announces it at the school dance.  However, he makes the mistake of telling Mary Beth and Michael about it and they do such a bad job of hiding how excited they are about Julie winning yet another honor that Julie suspects that something strange is going on.  Through a series of events that are way too annoying for me to detail, this leads to Julie and Kristy thinking that Coach K is going to ask the principal to marry him and this would all be interesting if I had never seen any other shows produced by Peter Engel.

The A-plot is even more aggravating.  Silk has a credit card but he’s only supposed to use it for emergencies.  But he ends up using it to buy stuff for himself and his friends.  He also ends up with a huge credit card bill.  Instead of getting a job or asking his parents for the money, he decides to use the credit card to buy a TV so that it can be raffled off at the school dance.  (What?)  Unfortunately, the TV gets broken so Silk, Rico, and Hammer decide to borrow the team van so they can take the TV to Rico’s uncle who is a master at repairing televisions.  Unfortunately, the van breaks down and Silk can’t afford to get it fixed because the credit card is maxed out and….



Sorry, I was silently screaming.  This was such an annoying episode.  I’m done talking about it.  Everything worked out and Silk learned an important lesson about not being an irresponsible dummy.  Yay!

Music Video Of The Day: Eternal Flame by Atomic Kitten (2001, dir by Phil Griffin)

When you’re an “atomic” band and you’re singing about eternal flames, it makes some people nervous.  Not me, though.  I love this song.  Just try to listen without singing along.


Retro Television Reviews: The Alpha Caper (dir by Robert Michael Lewis)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1973’s The Alpha Caper!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

After years of faithful service and hard work, parole officer Mark Forbes (Henry Fonda) is on the verge of mandatory retirement.  He’s spent his entire career playing by the rules and taking orders and helping recently released criminals go straight.  For all of his service, all he’s gets is a small party and a cheap retirement gift.

Still, Mark is on the job when he gets a call that one of his parolees, Harry (Noah Beery, Jr.), is currently in the middle of a stand-off with the cops.  Mark goes to the crime scene, where he discovers that Harry was trying to rob a warehouse full of weapons.  He also discovers that Harry is dying, as the result of being shot by the police.  Before Harry passes, he tells Mark that he and three other ex-cons were plotting to steal a shipment of gold bars.

Mark decides to carry out Harry’s plan.  Working with Mitch (Leonard Nimoy), Tudor (Larry Hagman), and Scat (James McEachin), Mark comes up with a plan to rob the armored cars that are going to be transporting the gold.  While Tudor and Scat are quick to join up with Mark, Mitch is a bit more hesitant.  In the end, though, they all decide to work together.  The plan they come up with is a clever one but its main strength is that it’s being spearheaded by Mark, a man who no one would ever expect to commit a crime.  No one but his colleague and friend, Lee (John Marley), that is.

I watched The Alpha Caper last night, with my friend Phil, Janeen, and Spiro.  To be honest, I selected the film because the title led me to suspect that it would be a science fiction film of some sort.  I was a little surprised when it turned out to be a crime thriller but I was even more surprised by just how good the film itself turned out to be.  Cleverly plotted and well-acted by the entire cast (and featuring a scruffy Leonard Nimoy playing a role that’s about as far from the coldly logical Mr. Spock as one can get), The Alpha Caper is an entertaining crime film but it’s also surprisingly poignant.  Mark is someone who feels that he’s lived his entire life without taking a single risk and, as a result, he has nothing to show for it.  He compares his situation to the mythical Kilroy of “Kilroy was Here” graffiti fame.  Kilroy will always be remembered, even though no one is really sure who he was.  Mark fears that he’s destined to be forgotten.  The robbery is Mark’s way of announcing that “Mark Forbes was here.”  The film ends on a surprisingly touching, if rather bittersweet, note.

The Alpha Caper originally aired on ABC on October 6th, 1973.  It was apparently meant to be a pilot for an anthology show that would be called Crime.  The series wasn’t picked up but, two years later, The Alpha Caper was theatrically released in Italy.  Today, it can be seen on YouTube.  Like Mark Forbes and Kilroy, the film has not been forgotten.

Music Video of the Day: Miracle by Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding (2023, dir by ????)

Today’s music video of the day has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.  Society has collapsed and new, Ellie Goulding-centered world has risen in its place.  It’s bound to happen someday so consider this music video to be your chance to look into the future.

Enjoy and good luck.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 3/19/23 — 3/25/23

To be honest, I feel as if I’ve already reviewed just about everything that I watched this week.  For instance, I spent ten hours watching Dahmer on Netflix and then I posted a review here on the site.  So, this week in television is going to pretty much be full of links.  For that reason, I considered not doing a post for this week but what can I say?  I’m a completist.  I haven’t missed a week yet and I don’t want to start.

Anyway, here’s what I watched this week!

Accused (Tuesday Night, FOX)

I started to watch Accused this week but as soon as I saw that dusty courtroom with the big Texas flag hanging over the door and the title cared announced that this was “Lubbock, Texas,” I realized that I probably wasn’t going to make it through the entire episode.  Then, the accused was escorted into the courtroom by some old guy wearing a string tie and I said, “Nope,” and stopped watching.  I’ve been told by some folks on Twitter that this week was actually a good episode but I don’t care.  There were too many dumb clichés in the first three minutes for me to devote another 44 minutes of my life to the episode.

American Idol (Sunday Night, ABC)

Is it Hollywood week, yet!?  I know it’s not any different from any other season but the auditions just seem to be going on forever!

The Bachelor (Monday Night, ABC)

Sex week turned out to be a disaster, as I think we all knew it would.  After announcing that he would not be having sex with the three remaining bachelorettes, Zach went on to have sex with Gabi and then decided it would be a good idea to tell Kaity all about it …. DURING THIER DATE!  Meanwhile, Ariel — who was the most accepting of Zach’s decision not have sex with any of three finalists — was sent home.  The Fantasy Suite pretty much exists to create drama and that’s what it did this week.  That said, Zach’s really not interesting enough for this season to be the emotional rollercoaster that it’s supposed to be.  Boring Guy Turns Out To Be A Jerk …. wow, that’s a shock.

Dahmer (Netflix)

As a part of my preparation for covering the Emmys in another few months, I watched all ten episodes of Dahmer this week.  I reviewed the miniseries here.

Farmer Wants A Wife (Wednesday, FOX)

Hey, it’s the State Fair of Texas!  And a rodeo!  Look at everyone having fun!  Take that, Bachelor!

Half Nelson (YouTube)

I reviewed the pilot for this Joe Pesci detective show on Friday.

King of the Hill (FX)

On Wednesday, I watched two episodes of King of the Hill.  The first was one of my favorites, featuring Minh, Peggy, and Nancy all running for a seat on the school board.  The second one featured Bobby going to military school and discovering that it wasn’t quite as strict as his grandfather claimed it would be.  King of the Hill always makes me smile.

Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)

Law & Order returned with a new episode, in which the murder of a journalist was investigated.  The story was obviously based on a recent murder that happened out in Las Vegas.  The real-life story is pretty interesting but the Law & Order version wasn’t.  The scenes with Cosgrove and Shaw interrogating suspects and investigating the crime often felt like self-parody.  Sam Waterston still has his natural gravitas but it’s hard not to feel that both he and McCoy have earned the right to retire.

The Love Boat (Paramount Plus)

I reviewed The Love Boat here.

Survivor (Wednesday, CBS)

I reviewed Survivor here!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 4.11 “Heal the Bay” and 4.12 “Woo-oops”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, continuity goes to Hell with the California Dreams!

Episode 4.11 “Heal the Bay”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 2nd, 1995)

This episode opens with all the Dreams hanging out at Sharky’s, getting ready to head to the beach.  Tiffani blows a conch shell to let all the surfers know that the tide is up.  Mark says that he’s bringing his guitar to the beach so he can practice getting girls.  Jake and Lorena discuss what they’re taking to the beach.  Not surprisingly, Lorena is planning on taking a lot more than Jake while Jake is going to keep things simple….

Wait!  Jake and Lorena are going the beach together?  And they’re flirting?  Didn’t they break up at the start of the season?  Yes, they did!  But NBC was notorious for showing the episodes of their Saturday morning sitcoms out of order.  As a result, shows like California Dreams, Hang Time, City Guys, and One World were notorious for their continuity errors.  Of course, as I watched this episode, it didn’t really matter to me because I like Jake and Lorena as a couple and I think they were way too quick to break up.  Even though the episode wrecked havoc with the show’s continuity, it was still nice to Jake and Lorena flirting again….

However, I was less amused when Tony started to hit on a girl who wasn’t Sam.  I mean, Tony and Sam have been dating forever!  This episode was obviously meant to air way back at the start of the third season, even before Jake and Lorena hooked up in Budget Cuts.  If it hard aired when intended, it would have set the foundation for Jake and Lorena eventually getting together.  And, looking back, Jake and Lorena’s relationship did seem like it kind of came out of nowhere.

As for the rest of this episode, it featured Tony turning into crazed environmentalist after the beach is closed due to pollution.  He gets on everyone’s nerves so the Dreams show him the error of his ways by ruining his date with a girl who is not Sam.  It turns out that the entire date involves doing or wearing or eating something that was harmful for the environment.  Having realized that being an insane environmentalist means never getting laid, Tony apologizes.  Good for him!  The Dreams then perform at a concert to raise money to “heal the bay.”  They do it for free.  Poor Sly.

I liked the episode because insane environmentalists are annoying and Lorena and Jake were a cute couple.  I just wish it had aired when it was supposed to.  Let’s find out if the next episode is any less of a continuity nightmare.

Episode 4.12 “Woo-oops”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 30th, 1995)

Samantha’s father entrusts her with a credit card!  Yay!  Samantha spends a thousand dollars in one day!  Oh no!  Now, Sam has to work multiple jobs to raise the money to pay off the card or her father is going to make her return to Hong Kong!

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Saved By The Bell did an episode where Lisa Turtle spent too much with her credit card.  Hang Time also had a credit card episode.  It was a big topic as far as Peter Engel-produced shows were concerned.  In this case, Sam fails to raise all of the money but she does raise roughly half of it so her father agrees to let her stay in the U.S, as long as she keeps working to pay him back.  That’s a good thing, seeing as how the Dreams didn’t really have anyone who could have replaced her in the band.

As far as continuity is concerned, Jake and Tiffani are a couple in this episode.  In fact, there’s a nicely done B-plot where Jake had to find a replacement for a valuable doll that he accidentally destroyed after Tiffani tells him that she’s found a buyer for it.  And, of course, Sam and Tony are a couple, just as they should be.  Everyone learns an important lesson about spending money, i.e., spend as much as you want and then wait for someone to help you pay it all off.  Sounds good to me!

Next week, we return to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge!

Music Video of the Day: Pretty Girls by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea (2015, directed by Cameron Duddy and Iggy Azalea)

For a while, me and my bestie Evelyn tried to recreate today’s music video of the day every weekend.

This video is based on the 80s film, Earth Girls Are Easy.  I haven’t ever watched Earth Girls Are Easy but it’s apparently about aliens who land on Earth and discover that the title is true.  (So that’s why there’s been so many UFO sightings lately….)  In this video, Iggy lands in Britney’s pool and gets an immediate makeover.  In retrospect, this is kind of a sad video.  Britney’s just so happy to have a friend come by.  At the end of the video, Britney’s really excited to be taken to another world, one where she presumably will not be forced to live under anyone else’s rules and she’ll be free.  I’m just happy that Britney and Iggy Azalea got to have some fun.


Retro Television Reviews: Half Nelson Episodes 1 & 2 “The Pilot”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Fridays, I will be reviewing Half Nelson, which ran on NBC from March to May of 1985. Almost all nine of the show’s episodes can be found on YouTube!

The year was 1985 and actor/singer Joe Pesci was at an interesting place in his film career.

In 1980, Joe Pesci was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Robert De Niro’s brother in Raging BullRaging Bull was Pesci’s second film and he earned critical acclaim for his performance as the second most angry member of the LaMotta family.  In the years immediately following his first Oscar nomination, Pesci went on to play character roles in a handful of other films, including Dear Mr. Wonderful, Easy Money, Once Upon A Time In America, and Eureka.  While no one could deny Pesci’s talent or his unique screen presence, it was also obvious that Hollywood wasn’t quite sure what to do with him.  While Pesci was apparently high on everyone’s list when it came to playing gangsters with hair-trigger tempers, no one was willing to give Pesci a starring role.

Fortunately, television always has room for an Oscar nominee and, in 1985, Half Nelson came calling.  Created by veteran television producers Glen A. Larson and Lou Shaw, Half Nelson was a detective show.  Joe Pesci starred as Rocky Nelson, a tough New York cop who relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.  While waiting for his big break, Rocky worked for Beverly Hills Security and lived in Dean Martin’s guest room.  And when I say that Rocky was living in Dean Martin’s guest house, what I mean is that Dean Martin actually appeared on the show, playing himself.

NBC liked the idea enough to air the pilot film and then schedule the show as a mid-season replacement.  Audiences were a bit less interested in the show and Half Nelson was canceled after only 8 weeks.  Pesci went on to win an Oscar for Goodfellas and he never starred in another television show.  Half Nelson would probably be forgotten if not for the fact that someone recently came across the opening credits on YouTube.  When shared on Twitter, this video went viral as “the most 80s thing” ever created.

After I watched that video, I knew I simply had to review Half Nelson as soon as I finished up The Brady Bunch Hour.  Fortunately, almost all of the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube so, for the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at Half Nelson, starring Joe Pesci!

Episodes 1 & 2 “The Pilot”

(Dir by Bruce Bilson, originally aired on March 24th, 1985)

Half Nelson begins in New York City, with NYPD’s finest, Detective Rocky Nelson (Joe Pesci), disguising himself as a waiter and sneaking into a mafia-owned restaurant.  After punching out two guards, Rocky enters a backroom and discovers a group of guys with a lot of heroin.  Rocky arrests them and becomes a hero.  As Rocky explains in a voice-over, it’s the biggest drug bust in history.  When Hollywood asks for the rights to the story, Rocky insists that he be allowed to audition for the lead role.  Rocky quits the NYPD and heads out to Los Angeles.  Rocky’s going to be a star!

And, at first, it seems like Rocky’s dream might actually come true.  The film’s director (played by the veteran TV character actor, George Wyner) watches Rocky’s audition and announces that Rocky has the screen presence and talent of Al Pacino.  Unfortunately, Rocky is also only 5’3.  “You’re too short to play Rocky Nelson,” the director explains.

“But I am Rocky Nelson!” Rocky exclaims.

Despite the fact that Rocky’s telling the truth, it doesn’t matter.  A tall British actor is cast in the film.  As a dejected Rocky leaves the audition, he’s approached by a security guard who offers Rocky a job with Beverly Hills Patrol, a private security firm.  Rocky’s skeptical until the security guard mentions that Rocky will get to live in Dean Martin’s guest house.

We jump forward six months.  Rocky is now a trusted employee of Beverly Hills Patrol.  When he’s not working as a bodyguard, he’s auditioning for roles.  At the office, his boss is Chester (Fred Williamson) and the office manager is Annie O’Hara (Victoria Jackson).  Chester is cool and all-business.  Annie is flighty and has an obvious crush on Rocky.  She also gives Rocky a pit bull named Hunk.  Hunk is very loyal but also very quick to attack anyone who isn’t Rocky.  I don’t know if a show could get away with a comic relief pit bull today but whatever.  Hunk is a cute dog with a ferocious bark.

In just six months, Rocky has become surprisingly well-known in L.A.  Some of that might be because he lives with Dean Martin.  Martin appears in three scenes of the pilot and, to be honest, he definitely looks and sounds a bit worse for wear.  Half Nelson was Dean’s final acting role.  (He died ten years after the show was canceled.)  But even though Dean was clearly not in the best shape when he appeared in the pilot, his natural charisma still shines through and there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in his scenes with Joe Pesci.  For one thing, Pesci himself seems to be genuinely excited about acting opposite Martin.

Along with becoming friends with Dean Martin, Rocky has also befriended Parsons (George Kennedy), a Los Angeles police chief who is eager for Rocky to quit the Beverly Hills Patrol and to join the LAPD.  Rocky turns down the offer, however.  Rocky is done with police work.  He’s going to be a star!

Of course, he’ll also find time to solve some crimes along the way.

For instance, in the pilot, Rocky investigates the death of his best friend and co-worker, Jerry (Nicholas Surovy).  Parsons insists that all the evidence shows that Jerry murdered his girlfriend, Monika (Morgan Brittany), and then shot himself.  However, Rocky doesn’t think Jerry would do something like that.  When Jerry’s father (veteran screen actor Rory Calhoun) asks Rocky to find the people who killed his son, Rocky doesn’t have to be asked twice.

It turns out that Jerry and Monika were taking money from a tabloid magazine publisher (Terry Kiser).  They had a video tape that would have been very embarrassing to some prominent Angelinos, including a businessman (Rod Taylor), a restauranter (Tony Curtis), a general (Mills Watson), an astronaut (Gary Lockwood), and a television executive (Bernie Kopell).  Rocky assumes that the people on the tape ordered the murders but then he learns that, while the general did send two government agents to find the tape, he also made clear that no one was supposed to be killed.  Instead, someone else who wanted the tapes committed the murders on his own.

Searching for the killer means that Rocky will have to assume many disguises and show off his acting skills.  As an actor, he’s able to wander into the local movie studio and not only raid their wardrobe department but also borrow their cars.  Over the course of the film, Rocky disguses himself as both a cowboy and a traffic cop.  He also drives a Ferrari, a Cadillac, a jeep, a motorcycle, and KITT, the talking car from Knight Rider.  (KITT, unfortunately, does not talk in Half Nelson.)  On the one hand, the use of disguises is a little bit silly because Joe Pesci is always going to be Joe Pesci regardless of what costume he is wearing.  The pilot’s silliest scene involves Rocky dressed up like a cop to confront two men who have been following him.  Somehow, they fail to pick up on the fact that the 5’3 cop with the New York accent is the same 5’3 New Yorker who they’ve been tailing for the last few days.  And yet, it’s one of those things that’s so ludicrous that you can’t help but think that the show was showing a bit of self-awareness and commenting on just how ludicrous most television shows tend to be.

Eventually, Rocky figures out that the killer is …. SPOILER ALERT …. Parsons!  That’s right.  The same police chief who kept offering Rocky a job with the LAPD turned out to be the murderer for whom Rocky was looking.  What’s interesting is that, after realizing that Parsons is the killers, Rocky doesn’t arrest Parsons or attack him or do any of the other things that a typical TV detective might.  And Parsons doesn’t try to flee or fight.  Instead, the two men take a leisurely drive and talk about life, morality, and regret.  Parsons talks about how he was once an honest cop but Los Angeles corrupted him.  Rocky expresses some sympathy and says that he hates that he discovered that Parsons was the murderer.  It’s a well-acted and surprisingly well-written scene.  When Rocky asks Parsons about the murders, Parsons replies, “I had to empty my gun, just to drown out their screams.”  (Yikes!)  Parsons lets Rocky out of the car and tells him, “Don’t let them get to you, kid.”  Parsons then drives the car over a cliff as Roberta and Chester (who have been tailing Parsons) run up to Rocky.

“Hard to believe that a man like that would kill himself!” Roberta says.

“That’s just the funeral,” Rocky replies as Parsons car explodes, “He died a long time ago.”

Wow, that’s dark!  Fortunately, the mood is lightened during the show’s final scene, in which Rocky’s pit bull attacks boxer Larry Holmes.

The pilot for Half Nelson was nicely done.  It set up the series and it gave us an introduction to the characters, which is exactly what a pilot is supposed to do.  The cast showed off their chemistry and the final scene between Parsons and Rocky indicated that the show had the potential to be something more than just another mid-80s detective show.  The pilot’s greatest strength, not surprisingly, was Joe Pesci.  Pesci has played so many mobsters and crooked lawyers that it’s easy to forget what a likable actor he can be.  The pilot featured Pesci at his most amiable and it also gave him a chance to show off his comedic timing.  All-in-all, the pilot was a success and I could understand why NBC would have ordered more episodes after watching it.

But what about the series?  Would the series live up to the promise of the pilot or would it just become another generic detective show?  We’ll find out over the next 8 weeks!