Monday, March 28, 2016

Legend -- Episode 10: Fall of a Legend

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While fooling around with a young farm gal in a barn, Legend is attacked by her father and he flees the premises.  Immediately after, the father is assaulted and killed by ranchers who are upset with him for building a fence on his property.  Legend is framed for the murder and sentenced to be hanged, but Bartok helps him escape and they race to prove his innocence.

Memorable Quote:
Besides, Drusilla's father simply misunderstood the circumstances, that's all.  ~Legend
A man without his pants leaves little room for misunderstanding.   ~Ramos

Lots of fun moments to choose from -- I'll go with the opening where Legend is literally caught with his pants down in the barn. 

A minor nitpick, but I think it would have been better if the witness escaped instead of being let go.  It just seems unrealistic that the ranchers would allow him to go free especially after they already shot at him.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This series does a good job with its opening scenes -- they're always different (so I'm never sure what to expect) and they jump right into the story.
  • The villain in this episode is played by John Dennis Johnston who was in The Endangered as Eddie the bear poacher.
  • Wow, the mayor is going hard after Legend in the courtroom, and without much in the way of conclusive evidence.  Seems like this would do some damage to their relationship going forward.
  • Not too bright of the sheriff to step outside his office while letting Bartok and Skeeter alone in the jail cell with Legend, especially considering Bartok's inventiveness and friendship with Legend.
  • "Bonnie Blue" is a great name.  And I like how she says longingly, "That's my Nicodemus," as he is chased by the posse.
  • In episode one I wondered why Legend was running away from the horse at the end, and it's become clear that he has a thing about horses, or more accurately, that horses have a thing about him.
    • "You know how horses feel about me!"  ~Legend 
    • "Yes, and I know how you feel about hanging!"  ~Bartok
  • Some good disguises for Bartok in this episode, first as a gypsy and then later as a priest.
  • No hot air balloon in this episode -- that's a first!

The writing credits on this episode are shared by Ron Friedman and Bob Shayne (in addition to creators Michael Piller and Bill Dial).  I reached out to Friedman and Shayne to see what they remembered about their work on it.

RF: I did a page one rewrite and loved the show, which I thought would have done better in the ratings on a different network and a better time slot. Who knew then that Tesla would go on to make cars.

BS: I had never met Ron Friedman who shared credit with me. Later we got to know each other when we both were on the committee that helped steer a class action suit by older writers against the TV industry for age discrimination that won $75 million for the class. We both teach screenwriting at Chapman University these days and are friends.

I wrote a story for Mike Piller, who ran the show. He didn’t like it. (I had had similar problems with Mike at "Simon & Simon" which I helped create but he later ran.) One of the things he didn’t like about it was that I had the two leads being saved by riding ostriches out of the desert to safety. Mike told me that was completely ridiculous and people could not ride ostriches. There was no Internet at the time so I couldn’t Google it, but it turned out people can ride ostriches and there are pictures of some online.

Some months later, I got a notice from the show that I was being given story credit on an episode written by Ron Friedman. I read the script and I couldn’t really find any traces of the story I’d written in it. But I was happy to get the credit and some residuals down the line that came with it. I must say while Mike and I didn’t get along creatively, he was incredibly honest, and somehow he felt I deserved story credit even though it didn’t look that way to me.

So if any of that interests you, be my guest. I really have no idea what the story was that I wrote, other than the ostriches.

It's funny that Piller would object to riding ostriches as unrealistic when the show regularly featured things like zapping people with electric bolts from 100 yards away or hang gliding out of hot air balloons. 

Final Analysis:
Solid episode and one with lots of good humor including the opening where Legend gets chased out of the barn, the scene where Legend is asked to deliver a baby, and the denouement where the woman who Legend went to jail over ends up running off with the lawyer.  There's some good action and the plot moves quickly, and as usual the cinematography is strong (in particular the scene where the horses are going crazy is well filmed).  I'm putting this at #2 on my list. 


  1. The funny quotes really make these episodes for us, and this one had a couple of doozies. "Dummies. I'm surrounded by 'em." by the Sheriff after the villain shot Bartok and Legend in their "velociped" only to find stuffed figures. And Legend's "Ah, father! He was only a hundred and ten!"
    Elijah, Legend's little fan who believed in his innocence and cried when he heard Legend was to be hanged stole the show too, he seemed pretty believable and so cute. Also a nice moment as Legend got a little human admitting he had cried too.
    Compelling action, very threatening villains (including the prosecutor/judge mayor shutting down Legend's defense) and great fun. I'd love to see it again.

  2. I must concede I am enjoying this show more in recent outings. After several lukewarm episodes early on, they seemed to have found their creative footing and it's becoming easier to see why RDA and Michael Greenburg were so high on this project. I really liked "The Gospel According to Legend" but found this one even better, with a steady diet of action and clever comedy throughout the show. I also enjoyed the opening scene with Legend seducing the farmer's daughter in the barn. No surprise that you recognized John Dennis Johnston as "Ed" from the MacGyver episode "The Endangered" since he has a pretty memorable look and voice. I agree by the way that the villains allowing the witness to escape didn't make much sense since they'd already killed a man but that was a minor nitpick in the spirit of plot convenience.

    The courtroom scenes were a hoot when Robert Donner's character was serving as both prosecutor and judge, overruling the defense attorney's objections to his own interrogation. The jail escape was fun as was Bartok and Pratt posing as snake oil peddlers, along with some of their cleverest banter thus far. There was great horseback action scenes of Pratt fleeing the authorities. The ending was satisfying and well executed as well. It's too bad the series wasn't putting out episodes this well-crafted early on because clearly UPN had its finger on the trigger with the series from the get-go since it was pulled from the regular schedule after only six weeks. Hopefully they ride this momentum out in the final two episodes. Definitely my new #1 for now.

    I'm impressed you were able to contact both Ron Friedman and Bob Shayne, who are old hands in the TV business and likely 75 or older. I had no idea so many guys in that add range were prolific online! Anyway, Friedman wrote several episodes of "The Fall Guy", which was my favorite show before "MacGyver", so I was very familiar with his work and was pleased to see his name as a writing credit. I didn't recall Bob Shayne's name until I saw the "Simon and Simon" connection. I knew Dial and Piller came from "Simon and Simon" but Shayne's story was very interesting how despite his creative differences with Piller, he still decided to give him a story credit. Excellent interview once again.

    1. We've been discussing these episodes also at the RDA forum and Kate (who runs the site) said the same thing about the series getting better and finding its way in the later episodes. It makes logical sense as it stands to reason that a production cast and crew would take some time before things gel -- I guess that's a good reason for a network not to cancel something too early if it has potential. I'm not sure what else was on UPN but I would have thought they would have considered themselves fortunate to get both an ambitious Western and also a star of RDA's caliber.

      The whole world and backstory of writing credits is very interesting as we've seen with some of the MacGyver episodes -- always seems like there's so much more to the creation of the story than what we know, and in some cases there's drama and intrigue that rivals the drama in the actual episode itself!

  3. I enjoyed this one too. A plot that was understandable with plenty of amusing lines and situations.
    I particularly enjoyed the lines that NIck has already mentioned and the ‘Folks sure do get sentimental about a hanging’ and ‘I didn’t write that- it has a split infinitive!’ In my comments on a MacGyver episode, ‘The Visitors’ I think, I mentioned that RDA is keen on correct punctuation and Jack O’Neill in Stargate SG1 often corrects other characters’ grammar so I guess we can assume this line came direct form RDA!
    Loved the mayor acting as both judge and prosecutor with the excuse that this is the wild West and they do the best they can and how appreciative he is of how much Legend has added to the property prices. He’s also going to keep Legend’s rooms as they are and run tours after he’s hanged. The other running joke about Legend and horses is also amusing especially after the horse tips him in the pit and laughs.
    Skeeter’s hair is becoming madder by the episode.
    I think we all agree, the episodes are definitely improving by now Its turned into a watchable series– I think RDA has settled into the role; his performance is more believable and the Pratt/Legend character is more likeable as Pratt takes on more of Legend’s good traits whilst retaining Pratts wit, cynicism and bad habits. I’d put this one at number 2.