'Blue Thunder: The Complete Series'
(James Farentino, Dana Carvey, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1984) 2006 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: Lt. Frank Chaney of the LAPD is a maverick cop with unorthodox methods who is assigned to the Blue Thunder Team, which uses a very advanced gadget-filled helicopter in its fight against crime. "Blue Thunder" is capable of great speed and maneuverability, can run silently in "whisper mode", and is armed with the most powerful weapons in development. His partner is a fresh-faced rookie with the improbable name of Wonderlove, and ground support is supplied by ex-athletes Ski and Bubba, who drive a sophisticated van.
DVD Verdict: Based on the 1983 movie, ABC's "Blue Thunder" focused on the Blue Thunder Unit, a Los Angeles police unit which operated a high-tech helicopter (actually a modified French-made Aérospatiale Gazelle) with ground support. A few of its features included an electric cannon, night sensors, turbo-speed and a "whisper mode" that allowed it to run silently. The series starred James Farentino (Police Story) as pilot Frank Chaney; Dana Carvey (Saturday Night Live) as his observer Clinton "JAFO" Wonderlove; Sandy McPeak as Cpt. Ed Braddock, the unit commander; Ann Cooper as Officer J.J. Douglas; and ex-NFL jocks Dick Butkus (Any Given Sunday) & Bubba Smith (Police Academy) as Officers Richard "Ski" Butowski & Lyman "Bubba" Kelsey, the ground support team.
ABC first launched Blue Thunder for a midseason run on January 6, 1984. Unfortunately, CBS's slightly more sophisticated helicopter drama "Airwolf" (which debuted 2 weeks later) from creator Donald P. Bellisario (Quantum Leap, JAG) countermanded Blue Thunder's intended run, thereby facilitating its cancellation after just 11 episodes. While Airwolf was the more successful series with its grim and moody tone, Blue Thunder was just as watchable for its A-Team, Hunter-like tone: standard 80s blend of action and tongue-in-cheek humor. Regardless, the real star [in both shows] was, of course, the helicopter. Not to mention the catchy opening theme music. First and foremost I like the helicopter, which, let's face it, is the real 'star' of the series. It comes across as being just as sleek, sexy and lethal as in the movie. James Farentino in the role of Frank Chaney is actually a smart casting choice; while no Roy Schneider, Farentino was a recognizable face during the period starring in countless TV-movie projects both before and after Blue Thunder the series. Ruggedly handsome and nearing fifty, he's a guy that should have a degree of appeal to both the ladies looking for a still-pretty face and the guys who want to see a man's man flying the bird. Surprisingly, an incredibly young looking Dana Carvey in the co-pilot seat as Wonderlove is a decent doppelganger for Daniel Stern's JAFO (now short for "Just Another Frustrated Obsever" in order to keep the censors at bay) and tech/computer geek character Lymongoode. A real plus for the series was bringing onboard two NFL heroes turned actors, Dick Butkus as Richard "Ski" Butowski and Bubba Smith playing Lyman "Bubba" Kelsey to serve as Blue Thunder's ground unit. They've worked together before and seem to effortlessly play off of one another in each show, sometimes they bicker like an old married couple but you know they're got each others' back. What did I find to feel disgruntled about when watching the show? From the very beginning one sees that the series tries too hard to emulate the movie in such a way as to 'recreate' the characters and the movie itself, to the point of somewhat aping the movie's original scenes demonstrating Blue Thunder's considerable capabilities to the brass. We are quickly introduced to Frank 'Chaney'- the series' attempt at getting the viewer to more or less view this Frank (Farentino) in much the same way they did the 'original Frank' (Scheider). Just as in the film, this Frank is a hot dog, a savvy, highly skilled helicopter pilot, a Vietnam vet and a man who has no qualms with butting heads with both his superiors and authority figures in general. One Frank has "Lymongoode" for his co-pilot and comic relief, the other Frank has "Wonderlove", equally young, likable, green and geeky. Just as in the movie we immediately are to presume there will be consistant friction between Chaney and his Captain, Ed Braddock (played by Sandy McPeak); they argue and fight in a way that comes across as whining and tedious rather than tense and involving. I think the cast of actors do a credible job with their roles, the fault lies with the writing; its bad, and its bad alot of the time; plots are inane and overly simple, characters are handed to us in such a way as to not give the viewer much of an idea who they are. I diagnose this series as being born with a serious defiency in detail. At times the show has been likened to The A-Team, and indeed it does have some of that gung-ho ambience; trouble is, the A-Team consisted of a far more interesting bunch of diverse characters regardless of the storyline; even given their (often) weak plots Hannibal and the boys did it better. Blue Thunder - The Complete Series is a 3-disc (529 min.) set featuring all 11 episodes from the 1983-1984 season. Special Features include: Digitally Remastered English Audio and High Definition Full Frame (1.33:1) Video, Bonus Previews, Closed Captioning. This is a Widescreen presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of all 11 episodes on 3 discs.