Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 1:14 “The Big Tap-Out”

Airdate: 1/12/77

A big-time bank robber is caught after a heist but released with no evidence of his theft. The prosecutor, Charlie’s client, needs extra assistance for this case – he informs the Angels that their man, Roy David, usually gambles his loot away. When he does well, he runs the straight and narrow, but when he “taps out,” he steals again; the girls ensure that he does the latter, and soon. Sabrina poses as a horserace gambler, using her computer expertise to predict the winners, successfully arousing Roy’s interest. The Angels devise a way Sabrina can successfully pick a winner, followed immediately by a loser, and a hapless Roy finds himself in the red for 20 large. 

Now to completely clean him out they enlist the services of a master blackjack dealer to crash Roy’s weekly game -  and down crashes his ill-gotten fortune. The crook, as predicted, returns to his crookery by stealing the casino floor plans from Jill and robbing the place blind. He escapes with the loot, but gets rear-ended by a clueless-acting Kelly, and cavalcade of players – police, bystanders, tow truck drivers – conspire to get his trunk-stowed money, and Roy’s caught red-handed this time.

Far better-than-average episode is thanks mainly to a quick-witted, razor sharp teleplay by McCabe and Miss Miller scribe Brian McKay, clearly inspired by 1974’s California Split, also directed by Robert Altman (cleverly indicated by a scene featuring a movie theater with Split on its marquee). The centerpiece, for my money, is the midpoint blackjack game where Roy loses his pants – it’s expertly timed, photographed and acted, reminiscent of the best moments in films like The Cincinnati Kid and The Sting. And then here’s the finale, an arch, crafty comeuppance with enough tongue-in-cheek to do Altman proud. Well, that’s what you get when you hire a screenwriter: movie quality work

And kudos to main player Richard Romanus as Roy. He knows how to handle this dialogue in a smooth, understated way, slithering throughout his scenes with equal parts skill and slime, and most importantly, intelligence. I sort of hoped he’d win in the end – that way we could have a sequel, and he could be the Angels’ resident villain, good for multiple capers. Also props to veteran character actor Bert Remsen as down-on-his-luck better Pinky Tibbs, one of the Angels' accomplices. Ruddy cheeked, raspy-voiced, he adds good local color to help flesh out the caper story.

My only quibble is a credibility stretch near the beginning – Roy cracks the safe, steals the loot, and then stashes it down the mail hatch, presumably addressed to himself. Wouldn’t the cops have checked there right away, despite it being the technical property of the federal government? Yes, it’s clever of the crook, but with such high stakes the law oughta be cleverer. But anyway, minor point.
Kelly, wearing glasses for the finale. Sweet!
Let’s keep this level of writing up, and we’ll bring the season home with more hand wringing mysteries. I’m game!

Client: Ben McMasters (Prosecutor; Charlie works pro bono on this one)

Plot difficulty level: 6  (but a delight to follow)

Rating:  ****

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