Long before suburban techie Chuck Bartowski's brain turned into an extreme CIA version of a computer he normally had to fix at a local "Buymore," Warner Brothers Television introduced us to another type of refreshing suburban spy in the form of middle class Washington D.C. divorced housewife and mother of two, Amanda King (Kate Jackson).
Dressed in a nightgown and overcoat, after rushing to bring her weatherman boyfriend Dean-- so dull we never catch an unobstructed glimpse of him for more than a single second-- to the train station, Amanda is strong-armed by smooth talking secret agent Lee Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner) to help him shake his tail by delivering a package to a man in a red hat.
Bravely boarding a train like something out of a Hitchcock movie about the wrong man... er, woman, Amanda is stunned to discover that instead of just one or two, she's staring face-to-face at a train filled with men wearing red hats, all of whom could be Lee's right or wrong connection.
Left with no choice but to secure the package and track down Amanda again, Lee enters territory far more foreign than anything dealing with the red curtain of the Cold War. Although he can speak a number of languages, suburbia isn't one of them.
And reluctantly in teaming up with the feisty, fast-on-her-feet Amanda, Lee eventually discovers what it took his boss Billy Melrose (Mel Stuart) just one case to realize, which is that a quick-thinking, logical, scout leader whose inexperience is made up for by her sheer enthusiasm and passion for special ops may be precisely what the CIA and especially Lee needs to keep our country safe.
While the age of the series can't be helped as Kate Jackson's over reliance on Jane Fonda style cloth headbands wears on the nerves in an A-Team like way rather quickly, overall, I was delighted to find that the '83 freshman year of Scarecrow and Mrs. King remains just as free-spirited, fast-paced, impressively executed with expensively structured action sequences as it must've been when it originally hit the airwaves back when this reviewer was a toddler.
Similar to Chuck, despite the inevitability in similar plot paradigms of spying and dangerous messes that need resolution within 45 minutes, Scarecrow and Mrs. King can get a bit repetitive.
However, just like the series that was perhaps inadvertently inspired by this one complete with a romantic air between the operative and the civilian a la Chuck, Scarecrow is saved by its sheer likability in its cast that's anchored by Jackson's Amanda King.
While Boxleitner's Lee Stetson (codename Scarecrow) makes a handsome, All-American spy and bears an eerily uncanny resemblance to actor Michael Douglas, the series' official Most Valuable Player who can make even the corniest of cases like a makeup sales circle weapons smuggling ring, a KGB Christmas party and an amnesia episode feel as compelling as the pilot and other nail biters is the remarkably underrated Jackson.
Throughout the twenty-one episodes transferred onto five discs that comprise the first season, Jackson plays her role with the same peppy infectious charm with which Meg Ryan soon after filled her romantic comedies.
However, Jackson-- who also served as a producer on the series through her company Shoot the Moon-- always ensured that Amanda didn't take everything too lightly, and realistically she constantly worries about lying to her mother or letting down her boys with a devotion that respects instead of pokes fun at the suburban mindset.
Moreover, Jackson simply sparkles with the deft ability to go from screwball to sweetly flirtatious and visibly nervous when she tries her best to ignore her half romantic half maternal budding attraction to Lee as well as coming up with inventive ways to stall for time or try to make a break for it when inevitably villains catch onto her involvement with Stetson.
Taking its time in paying off the audience's obvious interest in partnering up the titular two for something much more intimate than their current working relationship where Lee hammers her with criticism she ignores as if dealing with school children and reading between his jealousy and concern, the 1983 CBS series which scored a major hit with men and women alike ran for four successful seasons opposite fierce competition including Monday Night Football.
And in its new release to disc, Scarecrow delivers the type of escapist yet intelligent female-centric fare we just don't have today in the era of Desperate Housewives and insulting reality shows like The Bachelor.
An action/comedy/romantic hybrid that moves easily from helicopter chases to Hitchcockian homage and romantic surprise is easily addictive comfort television not only helped lead to Chuck's adventures with Agent Sarah Walker at the Buymore in a gender reversal but it also makes you anxious for WB to release the following three seasons so that you can see Amanda's entire journey from scout mother to CIA operative... with or without a cool codename like Scarecrow.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD