Monday, March 30, 2020

Brandon Lee: Television Appearances

During his short career, Brandon Lee appeared a couple of times on TV, in a continuation to Kung Fu, further solidifying his attachment to the series his father had first developed, and an episode of Pat Morita cop show Ohara, where he got to play a villain for a change!...

Kung Fu: The Next Generation

Johnny Caine is the troublesome son of the current Kwai Chang Caine. After a heist gone wrong, Johnny is sent back into the care of his father, and the air is frosty for a while, but with some luck the two might get through to each-other. However, a criminal friend of Johnny's keeps trying to get him back into the game for another big job...

Kung Fu: The Next Generation was an unsold pilot to a tv series that never was, instead giving way to the more successful The Legend Continues. As far as sequels go I really quite enjoyed it! It's very different from the original series, but in a good way, that makes it stand out as its own unique ting, while also being familiar enough to not feel like a completely different property.

The story is a good one, telling a = '= father and rebellious son' =, but without all the usual cliches. I really liked its presentation here. The father doesn't come across as preachy or annoying, and the son most importantly isn't a dickhead! He's got his rougher side, but is never obnoxious, and comes around believably.

There's a good balance here between fighting and emotion, with a nice philosophy, that's true to Kung Fu. The series and the martial arts! It never feels boring, and it could teach a thing or two.

Onto the characters, the appropriately but confusingly named Kwai Chang Caine is a good guy, and a nice teacher and father. He's presented as super perfect, but this is the point, and part of Johnny's feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Johnny is likeable enough, with his criminal activities and snappiness never making you dislike him, and you feel invested in where his character goes, hoping he becomes better.

Mick is a real effective villain. He's such a passive-aggressive dick, and you can really feel the peer pressure that emanates from him, and how he can attract = youths to join his =. He's the kind of person who says they owe you big time one second, then = as soon as you're unsure about =. I thought they owed you?

The acting here is all good. David Darlow is a worthy enough descendant to Caine, and comes across as an old-fashioned mystical guy in a modern world, keeping to all the old traditions. He also looks like David Carradine, which I really like. It's much better to have Kwai Chang Caine's descendant look like Carradine, rather than just be played by him, as it feels more authentic and less cheap.

Brandon Lee delivers a good performance, getting across a tougher and frustrated side, but also a softer one, and never being really horrible or irredeemable. Miguel Ferrer delivers a typically good performance too, although I was a little confused where his characters manipulations ended and inconsistent writing began.

The action here is pretty decent, with a few good hits here and there. Darlow probably wasn't a martial artist, but the same can be said for Carradine in the original show. This does a decent job of hiding any potential lack of true skill, though he does look a bit too [unassuming]. Lee gets some good moments. We don't see anything amazing, but it's all entertaining enough.

Overall, Kung Fu: The Next Generation may not be the best TV pilot around, but I'd be quite interested in seeing what it could have been. I hope The Legend Continues is a worthy follow=up to the groundwork this laid down...

Ohara: What's in a Name

Senior police detective Ohara is feeling [down in the dumps] as the anniversary of his wife and daughter's death comes closer. Just as he intends to stay at home for the occasion, his daughter's friend Diane shows up out of the blue, with a favour to ask. When on a trip to Japan she met an older gentlemen, who lavished her with all sorts of gifts. Despite making it quite clear she wasn't interested in a romance, he's refusing to take No for an answer. It soon becomes apparent there's more to the case though...

Ohara was a unique series, and a diverse one as it was one of the few shows of the time to have an Asian lead. Unfortunately it had a short-lived and == had quite a tumultuous life. It's an example of a show killed not only by low ratings, but excessive studio meddling.    Then he'd use martial arts if necessary, then he had a conventional partner, then he carried a gun, etc. None of these ideas would make for a bad show by themselves, but it's frustrating to see a good concept bandied about and diluted like this, and all for nothing since the show was cancelled anyway.

Thankfully What's in a Name is a good example of the series' good quality. Having seen no previous or future episodes of the series, and with no real = idea of the constant format changes, with only this episode to go on it certainly comes across well. I've always had a soft spot for the show, and wished for a proper release.

The story here is a good one. It introduces the characters and their backstories well, everyone interacts well with each-other. There's a good balance of comedy, drama, and criminal intrigue, with none stepping over the others.

One of my favourite moments of the episode was when Diane is talking to her Japanese friend Kazu, telling why she can't be with him and he needs to understand that...and he actually listens! He decides to respect her wishes, listening to reason, and the two part as friends once more. What a surprisingly against type moment!. Of course, the moment is ruined somewhat when he's murdered by his son. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, Diane.

It's the second half which gets more action-packed. There's a murder, a hunt for the 'suspect', and finding the real killers. The identity of the real bad guys is pretty obvious, but thankfully this is never really a whodunnit, and it takes the time to flesh out its baddie, even if only a little with a TV episode runtime.

The acting here is great. Pat Morita is a very nice lead, balancing many emotions perfectly. Robert Clohessy does well as his sidekick, who's a bit of a jokester, but shows genuine concern for his friend. Katherine Moffat is nice as old family friend Diane, while Robert Ito is good as the Yakuza leader, coming across as antagonistic, but not overtly villainous, and has a softer side. Brandon Lee meanwhile is having fun as the villain! His only time as a bad guy he really sells the role here, and you wouldn't wanna cross him! Unless you're Pat Morita, that is!

What's in a Name is a good episode of Ohara, and a perfect introduction. I hope to see more of it someday, and with any luck it'll get a proper release in the future!

1 comment:

  1. The idea for the Kung Fu series wasn't first developed by Bruce Lee, but he did developed a similar idea around that time. Details here: