Sunday, April 17, 2016

Legend -- Episode 12: Skeletons in the Closet



Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While doing some promotional filming in the desert, Legend and his crew find a skeleton with a ring signifying that the deceased was on a sacred mission for his tribe.  When the local sheriff refuses to help with investigating the man's death, Ramos is compelled to do it with the assistance of Legend and Bartok.

Memorable Quote:
I cannot rest until this mystery has been resolved.  ~Bartok (reading Ramos' letter)
Nor can we, Professor.  ~Legend

Highlight:
The guy who plays the condescending sheriff does a great job -- it's only too bad he didn't get more screen time.

Lowlight:
The scene in the beginning where Legend has a near-death experience and Lara Flynn Boyle (a former girlfriend of RDA) appears as an angel who has come to take him to the other side.  It's not a bad scene on its own, but it has no relevance to the rest of episode and is way out of place.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • 1:17 mark - kind of ironic for Legend to be accusing someone (Skeeter) of overacting.
  • I like the Ramos character and am glad that he got an episode in the spotlight before the series ended.
  • Whoa, it's John Vernon!  You may remember him as Dave Ryerson, the white panama hat wearing criminal from the greatest episode of MacGyver ever.  If I hadn't seen his name in the opening credits, I don't think I would have recognized him initially since his face looks somewhat different to me than it did in 1985.  Maybe it's the eyebrows that are throwing me off.
  • The female servant's dialogue with Ramos oddly alternates line by line between friendliness and abrasiveness: "Where are you from?  Hand me that pot!  He scolded you for touching his art, didn't he.  You speak to me in English, only English!  You're different, you are different!"
  • Fun piece of dialogue at 36:19:  
    • "And Ernest, no late night frolics, please."  ~Bartok.
    • "Not to worry.  The Frolic sisters are out of town, visiting an aunt in Minneapolis I believe."  ~Legend
  • After Legend rescues Ramos on the stagecoach, the next scene is the denouement where it is revealed that the stolen artifacts have been returned to Mexico.  It's an abrupt transition that leaves out a lot of details like how they got the artifacts back and how they were able to prove Calhoun (Vernon's character) was responsible for the murder.  Maybe they got the female servant to testify to the sheriff about what she overheard (this was suggested by Ramos in an earlier scene), but the sheriff wasn't exactly sympathetic to their cause.
Conversation:
This episode was written by two-time MacGyver episode writer David Rich -- here's a link to a Q and A I did with him last year.  I reached out to him again to see what he remembered about this episode of Legend.  He said:

When I heard that Rick had signed up for a new series, I immediately got in touch with Michael Greenburg and asked if I could see the bible so I could try to work up some stories to pitch.  I was living on the east coast so I flew out to meet with Michael Piller.  An early motion picture camera seemed like a natural fit for Legend and both Michaels agreed.  I got to work on the outline and that was quickly approved.  The biggest issue for me, because I was not on staff and around the show every day, was to remember that Rick was not MacGyver - to write the new character. When I went out to L.A. and hung around the office for a while the transition was crystal clear.  Rick was Ernest Pratt.  That made re-writing the episode so much easier.  Pratt was a writer and Rick nailed the character, even off screen.  John Considine was the staff writer who helped me most on that episode which was, unfortunately, the last one. 

Final Analysis:
This episode was ok but didn't do much for me (I'm ranking it 7 out of 12).  In many ways that same sentiment is how I feel about the series as a whole (which I have now officially finished watching). On the plus side, the series was generally well filmed, well acted, and had likable lead characters.  The overall concept was unique and creative, and the "science fiction" element of the show was minimal (which was a positive for me in that it wasn't too weird).

On the minus side, the show never really figured out what it was and would have been better served to choose a lane and stay in it (e.g. comedy, adventure, drama) -- I personally would have liked to see much more action/adventure.  The show was getting better as it went on (the second half of the series was stronger than the first half), so perhaps with more time it would have continued to evolve to a good place.  But as it stands now it's not all that rewatchable for me (i.e. I probably won't ever be tempted to break out the DVD in a few years to watch it a second time). And as much as I love RDA, his character often spoke and acted in a manner outside the realm of normal human behavior (ala Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow), and it would have been better if he would have found a way to play it a little straighter and more realistically.

All that said, I did get some enjoyment out of the show and am glad that I watched it.  Up next, I'm going to take a little break and then decide what my next project will be.  I still plan on doing podcasts when I can, and I have 4 more Disney songs to go on my countdown (it's been slow going lately due to my own lack of time).  Thanks very much to all who watched Legend along with me and read the reviews, and thanks for all your insightful comments!

5 comments:

  1. Pretty much in agreement over this one; Some fun to be had; the filming in the desert where we believe the heavily disguised Skeeter is really a villain at first and the banter about acting, and the stunt which we knew was going to go wrong. I too like the ‘Frolic sisters’ joke and the ( clich├ęd) scene in the tough Mexican bar where everyone goes quiet when they enter. Well-spotted re the Dave Ryerson /Calhoun actor, I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t place him. An ok but not particularly memorable episode. It’s my no. 7 too.
    I also think along the same lines regarding the show; I’m glad I watched it and might watch my top two or three episodes again some time but like, Nick, I think, in spite of the creativity and science, it was flawed, with not enough serious action and adventure and too much inconsistency with often over-complex plots with enough holes to fall into. The one aspect I did like eventually was Pratt’s character development. Although confusing in the earlier stages, his gradual change from Pratt, initially refusing to acknowledge his ‘Legend’ side, to a braver, more likeable and noble combination of the two, eventually won over. It coincided, maybe deliberately, with a much better portrayal of the character by RDA with much less overacting as the episodes progressed.
    I would have liked to see more in this vein; more realistic action/adventure with a more believable threat level. combined with even more of the witty, occasionally sophisticated humour (which would still have allowed a reasonable level of comedy), and the clever detective work based on the two lead character’s intellects with far less of the slapstick.
    Thanks for taking us through another enjoyable countdown, Nick!

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    1. I agree on all counts. Thanks as always for your contributions!

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  2. I agree with most of what I read here in the show went out with neither a boom or a bust but a modestly entertaining episode that at least had a story that was fairly interesting and kept my attention. It was nice to see an episode centered around Ramos before the show bowed out and it was nice to see John Vernon from "The Gauntlet" making a guest appearance. He still had the very identifiable "Dave Reyerson" look 10 years later. Like you, the weakest part of the episode for me was RDA's brief dream-fueled coma, even if I didn't recognize the woman in the dream as Lara Flynn Boyle. I figured the whole episode would be centered around a "Passages"-style out of body experience for Legend but the scene lasted less than a minute and then was awkwardly sidelined. The rest of the episode was competent though but nowhere near the two episodes of this series that I genuinely enjoyed. I also didn't realize that David Rich wrote an episode of "Legend". Just about all of the TV credits that David Rich had were on shows starring Richard Dean Anderson interestingly. I'd rank this one #6 out of the 12.

    I'm glad I was able to revisit this series 20 years after my original viewing as it at least allowed me to watch a couple of episodes that I hadn't seen but enjoyed. But the series was by no means great overall. As you said, it didn't really know what it wanted to be, which was fine in a way because there's no rule saying a show can't combine action, comedy, and science fiction, but if you're gonna try to do everything you need to do everything well, something the show only got right a couple of times. I can see how this would be a fun show to be on the cast and crew of so the passion that was so evident in RDA, Michael Greenburg, and others, but it's intriguing how little of that passion transferred to the audience as I have come across very few genuine fans of this series, even amongst RDA's most devoted followers. But it was a mildly fun 12-hour experiment that I can probably go 20 more years without having to dust off and sample again.

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    1. I particularly agree with your last para, Mark. I commented after the Mike Greenburg interview that the same applied to some of the MacGyver episodes; The 'westerns' are always singled out by cast, crew and direction as being such great fun to work on but few of the fans would have these amongst their favourites!

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    2. Thanks Mark as always for watching and commenting. It's interesting that between the 3 of us, our episode rankings are extremely similar with just a few exceptions.

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