In what might eventually prove to be a feeble attempt at connecting with his adopted city, Andrew is watching every episode of Nash Bridges’ inaugural season. His analysis of this once-popular television program can be found here and on AggressivePanhandler every Friday until the SF Public Library makes him return the DVDs. If you missed episode one and two, you can always catch up here and here.
After only two episodes of this show, I’ve started spotting more and more annoyingly ludicrous elements. Not just little “movie magic” moments like putting in a CGI helipad on the roof of SF General. No, these are some truly absurd moments that make me think this show should rank alongside Dick Tracy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit as one of the great depictions of a gritty cartoon crimeworld where unspeakable acts are committed right under the noses of the unsuspecting citizens of Toon Town and solved by a rag-tag gang of animated misfits.
This might seem like fun to watch, but it’s kind of like reaching that certain point in your love affair with the City. You know, that point when you not only start to notice every piece of unscooped dog poop in your neighborhood, but you also start to suspect that not all of it is canine. What am I saying? I don’t know! But I’ve got five episodes left and that’s just Season One, so let’s just deal with it.
Episode Three: “Skirt Chasers” opens with another shot of the Embarcadero, still lit up like a fairytale castle for the holidays even though the writers have stopped making any references to what time of year it is. At least the director got the skyline flipped the right direction this time. (Why am I still hung up on this? Not even the internerds on IMDB are worried about this.)
There’s also this curious addition to Nash Bridges’ Magical Fairytale City: a vintage PCC car running on the J-Church line through Dolores Park, even though cursory research tells me these were all taken out of Muni Metro service by 1982. Meaning: HEY WHAT’S THAT STREETCAR DOING OVER THERE?
Cut to a couple bums drinking out of brown bags around a barrel fire, discussing the recent buyout of ABC by Disney (I’m guessing they’re so up-to-date because their blankets have The News on them). Oh, and apparently they cook socks?
Great. I feel like we were reaching for a Shakespearean dreamscape, but we landed somewhere in Hocus Pocus.
One of these homeless men must be the Oracle of San Francisco though, because he can see the future. Which consequently makes him one of Nash’s best informants. Nash and Harvey pretend to shake him down while slipping him a Grant (that’s a $50 bill, you know) in exchange for details on a big heroin deal going down real soon and real far across town. Harvey (the bumbling hippie) and Nash (the leathery, old dogface who says kind-of-funny things) exit the scene faster than the bum can say, “Zoinks! A ghost!” At least they’ve got their macho version of a Mystery Machine and some mid-90’s boner jams to rock out to.
They’re too late to the bust though and they’ve already missed the deal, but boy someone left an awwwful lot of evidence:
Turns out the two dead people, are the top two drug dealers in town, so whoever killed them must be the number three drug dealer in town, because how else do you move up in that job? It’s like corporate America, with more shootings. “Always be shooting.” That’s what they say in business school.
The team’s next move comes right out of Nash’s magic hat: They’ve got to track down Flo – “a hooker and a smack dealer that works at the razor and knows more about what’s going on in this city than Herb Caen and the mayor combined.” [By the way, if you’d like that quote as a ringtone, I’ve made it available for free in iPhone and mp3 format.]
The rest of the episode mostly follows Nash as he works his way up the ladder of a new drug/crime syndicate. Could it be? Is this some real police work? One would hope so, but unfortunately the writers have spent more time establishing that their stories are ripped from the headlines Saturday morning cartoons than they have in making them believable. Observe as they hunt down Flo:
To review: two hungry wolves (one literally smacking his lips) are stalking their prey, a very curious-looking bird. As they approach, the bird takes off running, but not before winding up and PUTTING ON FASTER SHOES then sprinting up the steps at Broadway and Kearny like it’s nothing. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you could replace “steps at Broadway and Kearny” with “side of a cliff” and “hooker” with “fast-running bird” and you’d now be watching an episode of Wiley E. Coyote.
None of this really matters though because Nash ex Machina comes roaring out of nowhere. He drops a couple reminders that Flo is still on parole and she quickly gives up all the names of all the dealers of all the substances that he can rattle off. The curious part is how he already knows everything about the dealers Flo hands over.
More on that in a moment, because in the meantime, there’s a problem with Cheech’s retirement paperwork. It turns out he’s not actually retired and he’s still got a month’s worth of days to work off. But no worries, the Lieutenant got him a real sweet gig as a traffic cop so he can relive all his CHiPs fantasies. Until, of course, he does something stupid like pepper-spray the son of the Police Chief for parking in a handicap spot and becomes the first cop to ever be kicked out of Traffic duty. And of course he does all this while eating a burrito.
While Cheech is out there getting in to trouble, Nash receives a tip from Detroit that one of the major mob bosses “Roscoe” has moved to San Francisco and will probably be trying take over the drug trade in the City and also that Roscoe likes to kill people using a .45 caliber pistol with a pearl handle. So, according to Nash, all they need to do is find the pistol and they can arrest this guy.
First of all: that is a ridiculous tip. Second, it confirms my suspicion that Nash still doesn’t do any work because he spends the next 15 minutes questioning suspects even though he already knows their answers. The only leads he ever uses come from either an unsolicited outsider or Nash’s robot memory banks. At first, it seemed that this might be because he’s a badass detective with a great instinct and plenty of years spent behind the badge, but really it’s just a way for the writers to avoid actually writing the middle act of each episode.
Last week, for example, the middle 20-25 minutes of the show subjected us to Kelly’s terrible blind date and Cheech’s babysitting/guitar playing. This week, it’s Cheech who is out to dinner with his old flame from high school, but she has since become a compulsive gambler, a recovering shoplifter, a “problem drinker” (but not an alcoholic), and a laxative abuser. In 2010 we have major celebrities going to rehab for various hard drug and sex-related addictions, but in 1996 Laxative Abuse was apparently a thing you could go to meetings for.
So while Nash is babysitting and Cheech is being bombarded by his high school sweetheart, Roscoe is out killing Flo and dumping her body on Treasure Island. A fact which he shares with Nash over the phone the next morning. So Nash and the gang do what any good cops would do and break into Roscoe’s cousin Antoine’s house without a warrant:
Sure, using a blowtorch and a hacked garage door opener seemed like the best way to do that, I guess. And I really wanted to care about the next 10 minutes of TV time, but they were spent driving Antoine around handcuffed to the drop top of the Hemi ‘Cuda until he finally gives up the location of the Precious Pearly Pistol. Turns out it was at Fort Point under a rusty metal grate! And then Roscoe and Antoine have a shootout because Antoine sold out! Meanwhile, Nash and Cheech hide behind a wall until all the bad guys have conveniently shot each other and now everyone’s dead except the one fat guy with a mustache.
Ugh! If it sounds like these recaps end abruptly it’s because the show consistently waits until the last 3 minutes to conveniently and annoyingly wrap things up. Each episode so far has been a mish-mash of cartoon characters running around a Hana-Barbara version of San Francisco telling pre-recorded jokes until the someone dies. METAPHOR. THE END.
Next Week: Cheech might be moving to Sweden with his hot wife? Where did she come from?