Sunday, September 24, 2023

Another Dynamic Duo

 First you had Batman and Robin.They opened the door to history of dynamic crime-fighting duos throughout the next 50+ years. (OK, so The Lone Ranger predated Batman by a few years, but it really took off in 1966, by my standards). But while such shows as The Green Hornet were rarities, with their superheroes and the secret identities, there were also the typical cop shows, which paired two somewhat dissimilar buddies fighting crime as authorized agents of the law enforcement.

Starsky and Hutch, C.H.I.P.s, Miami Vice. These are the ones that made buddy cops a regular go to on TV. But the heads of NBC, CBS and ABC weren't always on top of their game.  (If they were, we would be watching season 35 of the same shows that got started in the 90's...) So you know that some ideas get off to a good start, but some of them fizzle at the starting gate.

Remember a scene (if you saw the movie in the first place) in Pulp Fiction in which Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) mentions having been in a pilot episode for a TV show that didn't get picked up by the networks? There are several of these every season. And when you feel like saying "WTF is this crap?" when watching a TV show, just remember that it probably beat out something that was probably WAY worse of an idea.  (Of course, there IS a possibility that what was left behind could have been a WAY better idea, who knows?) There is a whole wikipedia page that lists TV pilots  like this, and you can jump to any of the ideas to see if they made a mistake by not picking that one over whatever they picked.  And even that page is not inclusive because it only lists shows that have their own wikipedia entry.

One of the ones not listed there is Tag Team.  I saw the entry for this in an Uncle John's Bathroom Reader entry titled "Lost TV Pilots".  The concept sounded interesting enough for me to look and see if I could find the pilot on YouTube, and (luckily?) I did.  

Tag Team (1991)

 Trying to cash in on the popularity of  professional wrestling, this pilot starred 1980's WWF stars "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Jesse "The Body" Ventura as the Lizard Brothers, professional wrestlers who quit the ring to become undercover cops.

from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Wonderful World of Odd

OK, so two pro wrestlers (who are obviously at least somewhat well-known faces, as "undercover" cops?  Just that part seems to have a flaw.  But even getting over that, how far could you go with the main attraction being these two guys who are, obviously, going to do most of their crime fighting by performing wrestling moves on the bad guys? It seems like an idea doomed to fail at the outset to me.  But since Piper, who passed away a few years ago, and Ventura had been making some headway into the acting field at the time, I for one was willing to give them a chance. (Not sure I would have bothered in 1991 but I've mellowed with age).





Tag Team (TV series pilot)): 1991

The Lizard Brothers, "Tricky" Rick McDonald ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper) and Bobby "The Body" Youngblood (Jesse "The Body" Ventura {Yeah, right, I see it too}) are about to go into the ring against another tag team called the Samurai Brothers, Tojo (Pat Tanaka) and Saji (Akio Sato).  They are in the process of getting a name for themselves, and even the head of the Wrestling group (a stand in for Vince McMahon, I would guess) wishes them luck.

But the Wicked Witch of the West (I mean "Wrest") played by Shannon Tweed comes back to tell them if they don't take a dive in this match, they are going to be finished in the wrestling world. She tells them if they actually try and win she will tell her husband that they have been trying to put the moves on her.  She used the same tactic on another wrestler and he is no longer allowed in the ring.

Obviously that doesn't sit well with our heroes, but the fact of the matter is Witchiepoo does have the clout to keep the doors shut if they don't play along.  So initially they think it might be a good idea.  But they do come around to saying screw it and winning the match anyway.  But, the Witch follows through with her threat, so now they are out of the pool as far as wrestling goes.




So what do two former body builders/wrestlers do to pay the rent?  Well they try a couple of various gigs, including an hilarious attempt to manhandle a piano up a flight of stairs.  But the piano gets away, rolls down the flight of stairs, and manages to crash through the flimsiest brick wall this side of a Korean King Kong knockoff movie. And demolishes the delivery truck which just happens to be underneath.



"Rick? I think we body-slammed the truck."


Things do get better, though.  As a result of foiling an armed robbery at a local grocery store (which oddly becomes a wrestling match, go figure.) the two decide to try their hand at becoming policemen.  And despite the best efforts of some people to get them run out of the academy, they do make it as officers. If that female police instructor looks familiar, just imagine her with pointed ears.  That's Robin Curtis who took over the Saavik role after Kirstie Alley refused to continue it on the Star Trek movies.

After graduation, the guys get assigned to their police duties and one of the first duties is to help guard an eyewitness to a mob hit on a couple of undercover cops.  (And, BTW, does that eyewitness looks familiar?  She was the college student that Bill Murray's Ray Venkman was hitting on in an an early scene in Ghostbusters.) 

 The guys are now "undercover cops" themselves.  But in the next scene Jesse is decked out in is usual wrestling attire, so maybe they are undercover as their former wrestling personas (which would seem to limit the possibilities of undercover work if you ask me.)

The safe house is invaded by none other than the two mob guys who committed the murder of the cops.  (Don't ask me to explain how they aren't under arrest, since the eyewitness is due to be in the courtroom the next day. Who is she going to finger anyway?)  Of couse, the whole point of the encounter is to allow the execution of another series of wrestling encounters, so why bother with plot points.  But after throwing them out the window, where they manage to escape, the eyewitness turns out to have booked too.

So they go looking for her and find her at the local animal shelter.  She had just told them how much she loved dogs, so where else would she be?  They grab her and take off for the courtroom where she is just shy of missing her opportunity to be the star eyewitness, but then the two mob guys show up again, and guess what, we get another wrestling show.

So what went wrong with this series pilot? Why didn't such a dynamic plot make it to at least one season of show status?  Well, according to some, it was because there was an internal battle between Disney, one of the backing companies, and another company that tied up a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo.  I actually read a couple of reviews that touted the show as being a victim that WOULD have been a great show.  But, seriously, can you watch the pilot and think the world missed out on a NCIS dynasty?

I'll let you decide for yourself.  Below is the pilot taken from a YouTube page. Watch it if you dare.

Thanks, and enjoy your day.


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