The next Bellisario series that came along after Battlestar Galactica that caught my attention (despite the fact that Magnum, P.I. started first, I came to it a little later) was this 1930s high adventure series starring Stephen Collins as ex-Flying Tiger Jake Cutter in his Grumman Goose, and his one-eyed dog Jack.
Bellisario wrote the two-hour pilot that premiered the series on 22 September, 1982, I remember it fondly, and even now, I often catch myself whistling and humming the fantastic theme music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.
Fairly quickly, we’re introduced to something that will be a hallmark of a Bellisario series, the inner monologue directed through the fourth wall to the audience, as Jake gives us background, or asides to the viewers.
It’s 1938, World War II is on the horizon, and Jake Cutter is living and working in remote islands of the South Pacific, ferrying cargo and passengers for any who can afford him.
In the pilot, we see a pair of German soldiers, one of whom is William Forsythe, on an island infested with giant monkeys, searching for a legendary gold monkey, that isn’t actually gold, but of an alloy that is resistant to extreme heat, as its rumored to have survived volcanic explosions.
The pair are killed by the monkeys in a rather brutal sequence for 1980s television.
We join Jake and Jack in the middle of a card game, where Jake loses Jack’s opal eye… And Jack holds a grudge.
They ferry Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) to a remote outpost where we learn Sarah is actually working for the government trying to stop the threat of the oncoming war, and that a German officer is posing as Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin).
Everyone on the island converges on the port, and the bar there, run by Bon Chance Louie (Ron Moody – replaced by Roddy McDowall), who is lively and has his finger in every kind of pie imaginable, but still runs a reputable place.
Tenboom allies with local female warlord, Princess Kogi (Marta DuBois) and her right hand man Todo (John Fujioka) as they take over the German’s mission, aided by Monocle (John Hillerman).
Sarah is eager to thwart the German war effort any way she can, so convinces Jake, his boozy, and forgetful mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay!) and Jack to help her.
Everyone is racing to the island, and there’s a final confrontation between Monocle and Jake, and a daredevil escape…
The series, right from the off, is a lot of fun, combining the wondrous joy of high adventure and melodrama with humor, romance and espionage.
The stories are fun, the cast is almost perfect, for me, it all comes together when Roddy joins in the next episode, and the sparks between Sarah and Jake are great to watch… not to mention wondering if Jack will ever get his eye back…
This is gonna be a fun trip checking out this treasured series that everyone thought was going to run for a few years, but its cost exceeded its ratings, and now, its been lost except to the fans who love it.
Check it out!