Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Secrets of Isis Episode 7: "Bigfoot"

The Larkspur High kids-- including some we've never seen before and will probably never see again because they're already old enough to be parents of high schoolers themselves-- enjoy a school picnic complete with a mellow performance of "Home on the Range" on guitar by Rick Mason.  Of course who else but center-of-every-event Cindy Lee (wearing her baby blue overalls, an outfit that gets quite a workout in the first ten or so episodes) and a male classmate also named Lee come running back with reports of having seen Bigfoot.

Actually, I should point out Cindy first sensibly suggests it may have been a bear; a rational, down to earth explanation despite her hectic state of mind.  One can understand her reluctance to commit to cryptid species identification when considering her association with the science faculty and her recent misadventures involving the worst bear costume ever captured on film.  Also, take into account Mason's openly irritated response to Lee's insistence what they saw was, in fact, Bigfoot.  He is pissed!  Cindy Lee's fun-loving and outgoing, but she's been around Mason long enough to judge his moods.  No fool that Cindy Lee.

But even the science teacher's remonstration can't stop Lee from becoming obsessed with obtaining photographic evidence of Bigfoot's existence, to the point of endangering his own life.  Once again it's Isis to the rescue.

"Bigfoot" (aired October 18, 1975), features some solid guest star work from Scott Colomby, later to play Tony D'Annunzio in Caddyshack.  He's got a cool James Franco-ish vibe.  But gosh darn it, when you promise Bigfoot you have to deliver Bigfoot, not a bearded 7'3" Bill Engesser in a floppy hat and plaid shirt along with a lot of sermonizing (with a melancholy harmonica on the soundtrack no less) about how people can be cruel to those they think are different, but you should still give them a chance.

I mean, yeah, I agree with the message; respect and cherish each other for the things that make each of us unique and all that.  Joanna Cameron certainly delivers it in a stately cadence befitting a wise goddess.  But Bigfoot, man.  Bigfoot.  You promised us Bigfoot and then you wimped out on us.  Although considering the show's bad luck with animal costumes, perhaps I should be a bit more charitable.

I haven't talked much about Albert Reed, Jr. as Dr. Joshua Barnes.  Mainly because he's not exactly a major character-- after all, the DC comic based on the show couldn't get his age, race or even his academic credentials right most of the time.  Dr. Barnes's function is to appear, offer a few words of wisdom, then glide away and let the rest of the episode bear out his gentle admonitions.  His air of calm, benign authority probably has something to do with his steady, longtime gig at Los Angeles International Airport where he retired as its Chief of Security in 1983.  Reed even played a version of himself and his job in the 1969 air-disaster flick Airport.

Nowhere is Reed's presence as Barnes felt as much as it is in this episode where he espouses a gentle, leave well enough alone philosophy regarding Bigfoot.

"Too many people think that anything they don't understand is dangerous," he tells Lee, who's ready at this point to join an armed mob to hunt down Bigfoot without really knowing why.  "That's wrong.  If you don't know what something is, you should be cautious, but not afraid.  Not set out to hunt it down.  As far as we know Bigfoot is only a fable, just like vampires and ghosts.  So let's not have anymore idle talk about it, okay?"

Words worth remembering, and Reed is convincing.  If only all our leaders were as sensible and open-minded as Dr. Barnes.  Could Larkspur High ask for a better principal?

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