Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR. Episode Two: 'Socrates' Sister' (1993)

"What's that sucking the excitement out of the episode...oh,
it's just Judith Hoag...."
"Gravesend? That town's buried under fifty feet of water."
"That's right."
"So how in the Hell are we gonna get your plate? With a fishing pole of hope and delusional fantasies for bait?"

1) It's nice to see that, with the second episode and the pesky need for it to look like a feature film for the European audiences out of the way, the series' 'trade dress' still retains that pulpy/serial flavor. Little touches like giving a title seqience credit to Comet the Horse and retaining the chapter titles at the twenty minute or so marks (roughly the same length as a chapter of an old serial) keep the show close to its roots as an old school adventure.

2) While this show continues to do what will become the stock in trade trick of the Renaissance Pictures' Action Pack shows--namely, putting modern quirks and concepts in an old world setting--they feel more authentic here. Part of it is just the language the characters use, but part of it is how they don't draw much attention to, let's say, talk of civil rights in the middle of their story.

3) You know...I understand why Judith Hoag, who plays the titular sister of Socrates and was the first April in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, didn't have much of a career. She's not a very good actress, and can't really carry the weight of her role. And on top of that, she has no chemistry with Campbell--and Campbell has chemistry with everyone--which kills the romantic subplot.

4) I guess I was mistaken--Pete Hutter returns in this very episode, although he seems to be shorn of that strange mixture of old-west gibberish and new age intellectualism that made him so endearing. Still, Pyper-Ferguson makes this character so vital that it doesn't surprise me that Cuse and Boam determined we needed him back, like, now.

(Luckily, Cuse and Boam must've felt they needed to give Hutter a little rest before his revival...see point 9 below)

Every time John Astin shows up, the series
like gold.
5) God, I love Astin's Professor Wickwire, who's a lot deeper than the 'addled scientist' archetype he's supposed to be portraying. There's a definite warmth in his performance, and the way his face seems to light up when he start expounding on life lessons with Brisco--as if this is a man physically excited by the idea of debating and examining real life issues--is amazing. The lack of Amanda, however, is curious.

6) Sadly, Christian Clemenson ends up playing the comic relief in this episode, sitting in a mess of bags while people comment 'too much weight.' He deserves better, especially figuring that this episode should focus at least partially on him.

7) This episode continues the tradition the show has of being true steampunk--we may take deep sea diving as a given now, but to the world of the Old West it was still a weird and out there idea. And making sure that the 'Inner Space Suit' was of the clunky old variety and not something sleek and science fictiony (something I suspect a more modern treatment of the same themes would do) keeps the trueness of the concept intact.

8) You know, William Russ was not very interesting as a villain. As we'll learn very rapidly, we can pick out who will be the recurring villains and who won't by how much of a backstory and personality they have.

Yes, Pete's back.  Yes, he was shot dead in
the pilot.  Just deal with it for now....
9) I can understand why, according the the imdb trivia page, this was the episode of the show that was initially shown out of order. It feels like a breather episode to be placed between two mythology-heavy programs. Watching it in its original position in the series, I kept wondering where the Orb stuff was....

10) To the best of my knowledge, this is the first and last time we hear about Socrates' sister, and about their less-than-high-class upbringing. And this is a good thing.

In short...a bland follow-up to the pilot that is enlivened by some character bits, it's not surprising it got shuffled deeper into the season.

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