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DVD Review

DVD cover

Blue Thunder
The Complete Series


Starring: James Farentino, Dana Carvey and Sandy McPeak, Bubba Smith and Dick Butkus
Mediumrare Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 27 September 2010

Blue Thunder is a high tech, turbo speed aircraft which was created by the federal government as the ultimate weapon in the war on crime. It can see through walls and record a whisper or even level an entire city block... in seconds. When terror rains down, Blue Thunder will always follow...

In the tradition of turning average films into average television, ABC decided to follow the success of the 1983 film, Blue Thunder with a primetime show. Much of what made the film was removed, and there were no discussions about the misuse of such technology with its fascistic overtones.

Nope, the show stripped away all pretence of thought and sought to make another cop show, but this time with a helicopter in it. The show only ran for eleven episodes and fans would contest that its cancellation was due to it being put against Dallas, a huge show at the time, and the fact the CBS was running Airwolf, a very similar, but much more successful, show. The truth of the matter was that the show just wasn’t very good.

Although Blue Thunder used stock footage from the film, it didn’t have the investment to really do much with the machine, so instead of this threat to civil liberties, which is how it is portrayed in the first film, most of the time the Blue Thunder helicopter played the same role as a police car, ending up under utilised - which considering it had its name on the show was a real shame.

The show's pilot showcases much of what would be wrong. Frank Chaney (James Farentino) is a hard nosed cop, not always willing to play by the rules, who gets into the action when a plane starts to appear out of nowhere and target police helicopters. With the help of his young navigator, Jafo Wonderlove (Dana Carvey) and the assistance of the mobile unit ‘Rolling Thunder’ manned by Ski Butowski (Dick Butkus) and Bubba Kelsey (Bubba Smith), the Blue thunder takes to the skies to confront this madman.

One of the interesting things about the pilot is the role of Frank, who whilst not above the law is certainly willing to confront authority figures, usually in the form of Captain Braddock (Sandy McPeak) for the greater good. True, it’s a two dimensional cliché, but one which disappears by episode two, where Frank appears to have had a personality makeover, into a much more mainstream type of guy. The action relies too heavily on stock footage, which is great if you enjoyed the original film, but not so great of you were hoping to see the machine in real action.

The show premiered on 06 January 1984, ran for eleven episodes and stopped on 16 April 1984. The DVD set contains all eleven episodes, spread across three discs, plus a very small synopsis for each of the shows. The picture is surprisingly clear, given the age of the show.

The storylines become pretty generic almost immediately and regardless of the hard work of the actors, who for the most part played it as a straight drama, there was just not enough meat on this old bird for it to fly very far.


Charles Packer

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