Good old boys deserve high old times, too, and Lee Majors has one in the two-hour premiere of "The Fall Guy," his new ABC series about a Hollywood stunt man who doubles in his spare time as a slapdash but resourceful bounty hunter.
"Fall Guy" is scheduled by the network to air at 9 tonight; but should a World Series game be played, both the "Fall Guy" debut and the season premiere of "The Greatest American Hero" will be postponed by one week, until next Wednesday.
Although it is obviously in imitation of a number of movies made by Burt Reynolds, particularly "Hooper," there's no point carping over the derivative nature of "Fall Guy," since hardly anything makes it onto network television unless it reminds an executive of someone else's hit. Doing his Reynolds number actually loosens up and humanizes Majors, who gets a chance in this show to be the human being he never was as "The $6 Million Man." He proves an agile, light comedian who knows his way around derring-do.
After what may well prove to be the year's best TV series title tune, and after a moderately witty opening gag that makes the most of a cameo appearance from James Coburn, "Fall Guy" is off and romping in a breezy, engaging way. The first two hours are filled with so many socko stunts and so much spectacular scenery, however (including a ripe sendup of the perennial auto ads that find a car perched upon a towering rock in the middle of God's country), that future regular episodes, on regular episode budgets, may be anticlimactic and uneventful by comparison.
Additionally troublesome is Doug Barr as Howie Munson, a regular character -- Majors' cousin and business partner -- introduced tonight. Barr should be wearing a big sign that says "Standard TV Demographic Device No. 10223" (in cop shows starring James Arness and Rock Hudson, premiering later this season on NBC, both older stars are teamed with brash, young streetwise dudes, or duds, as the case may be). Barr's function is to stand around and get in the way and, as a college grad, provide repeated gratuitous reinforcement of the idea that big-shouldered, bighearted, self-effacing brawnees like Majors are really what makes the world turn.
The opening-night plot amusingly mixes a number of story lines, one of them involving Lou Rawls as a country-western singer with hoods hot on his heels. Eddie Albert appears fairly late as a drunken, hit-and-run Seville driver whom Majors must chase to Elmo, Ariz. Unfortunately, writer (and executive producer, and ubiquitous TV junkmeister) Glen A. Larson found it necessary to make the hit-and-run victim a little boy and to have him die as a result of his injuries. It seems an unnecessarily grim detail for a lighthearted cartwheel like "Fall Guy."
At the end of the program, Majors' ex-wife Farrah Fawcett makes a surprise guest appearance that has been ballyhooed since last spring. Nevertheless, it's a cute bit, and Farrah looks wonnnnderful. Majors has just finished a stunt in which he doubled for Farrah, so he is wearing a dress when Farrah spies him. I wrote the dialogue in my notes but I can't remember who said what: "You takin' care of yourself?" "I always do." "No you don't; I know you, remember?"
It was definitely Farrah, though, not Majors, who said, "Hey, you still have great legs."