Tag: 1980s nostalgia

Telefilm Review: Casebusters

In Casebusters, an elderly ex-cop turned security company owner (Pat Hingle) who sometimes acts like he’s a cop sometimes has his two grandkids come to spend the Summer and they get involved in solving crimes.

This Wes Craven directed short film appeared on the Wonderful World of Disney back in 1986 and given its 45 minute length it feels like a backdoor pilot for a TV series. Growing up, I watched a lot of the Wonderful World of Disney, but didn’t have any memory of this unlike other films from the era such as Little Spies or Earth Star Voyager.

Casebusters does a lot of things that kids movies of the 1980s and 1990s did: kids get involved mysteries, thwart hapless bad guys, and save the day. It’s big problem is it doesn’t do much of it well. The sister (Virginia Keehne) is into mysteries into a superficial way but, we don’t get to know much about the siblings and their characterization is inconsistent times.

The villains aren’t all that interesting. Many kids films of this era would have broad and colorful villains who provide a lot of humor, but this couple is just kind of there.

Nor do we get any zany action or over the top chase scenes, or a real sense that the kids are in serious danger but escape at the last moment. I know kids films of the era and this one didn’t check any of the boxes you’d expect or provide anything interesting instead.

The best part of the film is Hingle, who is likable enough as the grandfather and Ski (Gary Riley), who showed a little potential to develop into an interesting character if the show had been picked up as a series.

Other than that, Casebusters was a disappointing viewing experience. I’d hoped to find a forgotten Disney classic from the era of my childhood that, like the best Disney live action films of the era, still held some appeal for adults. Instead, Casebusters is a film written for kids, and written down to them. The result is one of the most lifeless productions I’ve ever seen from Disney. The only fascinating part of the film is why it was made in the first place. Hopefully, Disney brings back better quality productions from the era.

Rating: 1.25 out of 5

A Look at the First Two Episodes of T and T

T and T was a 1988-91 syndicated television series starring Mr. T as T.S. Turner, a former boxer who was wrongfully convicted of a crime until attorney Amanda Taylor (Alexandra Amini) clears him. He becomes a private detective and teams up with her to help the wrongfully accused.

As a kid, I loved Mister T and but never got to watch more than a  few minutes of the show as at that age, I never had control of the television. So I was curious to find out what I missed when I found it streaming on Tubi.

T and T was from an era where Canadian-produced first-run syndication series were quite popular and this was a half hour program which could come in handy for local TV stations looking to fill a block of programming. The budget for the show is modest and the show definitely looks of its era.

The child actors and supporting actors on this series range from competent and professional to either monotone or over the top. Ms. Amini comes off a bit flat in the first episode, but in the second, I think she’s much better.

Mister T. carries the show in these first two episodes. Mr. T’s charisma and warmth make Turner an endearing character. Turner isn’t quite the larger than life character of Mr. T’s most famous roles, Clubber Lang and B.A. Baracus. He’s slightly more down to earth. He’s a professional who cares about people, does his job, and carries himself with style. In these first couple episodes, Turner spends a lot of time wearing nice suits and the look really works for Mr. T.

The first two episodes are, “Extortion in Chinatown” and “Mug Shot.” The first involves Turner and Taylor trying to help a shopkeeper and his son in Chinatown. “Mug Shot” finds Turner and Taylor trying to help out a teenage boy who was duped into delivering crack.

These are pretty boilerplate detective show plots and the story plays out in a typical manner. The storytelling is workmanlike and not all that surprising. Like a lot of Mr. T projects during this era, T and T is concerned about teaching good morals, with the high popularity of Mr. T among 1980s youth. These episodes weren’t too preachy, but there were a few pieces of dialogue that were a bit off. (Though it could have been the acting.)

The show was hurt by its half hour length. By nature of the format, both Turner and Taylor were working together and operating in very different worlds. I don’t think there’s enough time to do this properly in the half hour runtime. I did find that there was a four part story (originally a TV movie) and I might check that out in the future.

Overall, T&T is an okay show. If you like Mister T and are intrigued by the idea of him as a 1980s private detective and are willing to overlook a few production quality issues, this is a fun show to watch, and the half hour length makes it a quick fast-paced watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

T and T is available for streaming on Tubi for free with ads.

Book Review: Deathgame

In the Hardy Boys casefile Deathgame, the Hardy’s friend Biff Hooper is big into survival games and decides to go to an exciting survival camp. Biff tells Joe the truth, but tells his parents he’s visiting his cousin.

When Biff doesn’t return as scheduled, the Hardy Boys and his parents go to Florida to look for him, but the camp claims never to have seen him. Biff’s parents insist he must be there as he doesn’t lie (apparently forgetting about the whole cousin visit thing.) The Hardy Boys set out to find their lost friend and face off against dangerous foes.

We get to see a little of the Hardy’s sleuthing but this is most a set up for them and some other teens to get involved in a take on The Most Dangerous Game. It deals a bit more heavily in the adventure/suspense elements than the typical mystery elements.

For what is, the book is fine. It’s a light, breezy 152-page read that has great pacing, featuring short chapters that end on generally solid cliffhangers.

The book is not for everyone. Deathgame was released in 1987 and it shows as the villains and the plot feel very 1980s. The main villain (the aptly named Colonel Hammerlock) reminds me of Karate Kid villain Sensei John Krese. If the A-Team van had rolled in, it would not have been out of place.

In addition, there’s a certain conceit about the entire Case Files series that you have to acknowledge. The books were released as pocket paperbacks (as opposed to the 6″ x 9″ size of many kids books) and had action packed pictures on the front and occasionally dealt with topics like terrorism that made them seem more grown up. At their core though, they were still written for 10-year-olds.

So this is the type of book, you’ll like if you grew up with the Hardy Boys case files, enjoy 1980s mystery adventures, or if you’re a child who likes to read mystery and adventure stories and don’t mind that they were written before they had a cell phone.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5