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[probe_control] Introduction and Review

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  • CDR R. A. Benson, USNR
    I was pleasantly surprised, but surprised, indeed, to discover the existance of a message board and a web site devoted to [i]Search[/i], a one-season effort
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 17, 1999
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      I was pleasantly surprised, but surprised, indeed, to discover the
      existance of a message board and a web site devoted to [i]Search[/i], a
      one-season effort which was a personal favourite, and directly led to a
      most treasured personal relationship.

      Thanks to my dialogues with John and Brian and their graciousness, I
      will be viewing the eleven episodes they have acquired on tape.
      However--and this is the thing which inspired my search for
      [i]Search[/i] tapes--I recently acquired both a copy of the pilot
      movie, [i]Probe[/i], and a copy of the episode "Let Us Prey"--which
      arrived at my door to-day, in fact.

      This was the first episode of [i]Search[/i] I had viewed in twenty-six
      years; so while it held nostalgic interest for me, I have to concur
      with John's review that it was a sub-standard episode. Bear in mind,
      without the context of having viewed the other episodes yet, I had to
      evaluate this episode on a stand-alone basis.

      The plotline of "Let Us Prey" confirmed the Fourth Inevitablity of
      "Benson's Laws of Action/Adventure Television Shows". To wit, in every
      action/adventure show of significant duration, four plotlines will
      inevitably manifest:

      --One: in at least one episode, the hero will acquire amnesia.

      --Two: . . . the hero will be blinded for most of the episode.

      --Three: . . . the hero will encounter an exact double of himself.

      --Four: . . . the hero will be hunted as prey in a confined setting.

      The notion of the protagonist hunted as prey was original only when
      Richard Connell wrote "The Most Dangerous Game" back in 1924. Since
      then, it has been a plot mainstay in virtually every action show, and
      long before "Let Us Prey"'s airdate, it had been done to death. So,
      from the get-go, the viewer of this episode knows he is not in for any
      surprises, just a different take on an old standard.

      As I recall--and as was implied in this episode itself--I believe that
      Nick Bianco was a former policeman ( and, I think, of the NYPD), which
      made his coercion of Fuentes a logical move; however, it was a
      toothless tactic in this case since (A) Bianco was now a private
      citizen with no powers of arrest or influence with law enforcement; and
      (B) even if he had still been a cop, Bianco had no jurisdiction in
      Mexico. If Fuentes had been the shadowy character he was purported to
      be, he would have told Bianco to go to Hell when Bianco tried to rattle
      his cage. I saw no logical reason for Fuentes to fear Bianco's
      threat--except to advance the plotline. Granted, this opinion was
      undermined when it was revealed that Fuentes was in collusion with
      Danzig; but Bianco should have been more suspicious that Fuentes so
      readily caved in to his threat of exposure.

      There was a minimal use of the electronic wizardry which was supposed
      to be the "hook" of the show, even though there was plenty of
      opportunity--such as when Bianco infiltrated the Alvarez estate. Why
      wasn't telemetry monitoring for other heartbeats or body heat to let
      Bianco know where the guards where? Or to let him know that he was
      walking into an ambush in the house? During the scene when Danzig, the
      girl, Fuentes, and Richter confronted Bianco in the house and drugged
      him, why didn't the scanner send these images back to Probe Control
      (thereby revealing Danzig's complicity), which could have notified the
      Mexican authorities long before Danzig could have smuggled Bianco to
      his Mediterranean island?

      This was my greatest problem with this episode, and the series in
      general. In the pilot, Cameron and the techs in Probe Control provided
      knowledge and information not directly available to the Probe. They
      also served as a "greek chorus" of sorts, providing editorial comment.
      In other words, Probe Control was something of a "collective"
      character, with a distinct personality of its own. However, the series
      rarely made use of this asset. Specifically, in "Let Us Prey"--as John
      pointed out--Cameron's only purpose seemed to be to provide exposition
      for the hero's actions.

      One might advance the argument that Danzig had re-wired Bianco's audio
      implant receiver and destroyed his scanner, so Probe Control was unable
      to aide Bianco. A couple of problems with this: first, isn't the fact
      that the Probes are equipped with this technology supposed to be top
      secret knowledge? Yes, it might be assumed that, during their romance,
      Bianco divulged the existance of his scanner and audio implant to Diana
      Hyland's character; and later, she passed this information on to
      Danzig. But for Bianco to have revealed this info to the lady during
      pillow talk seems highly out of character. It might be more plausible
      for Grover, but not a hard-nosed ex-cop like Bianco. The other problem
      is that for the bad guy to disable the Probe's equipment is only
      believable as a one-time trick. If this were to happen episode after
      episode, the viewer quickly loses confidence in the
      "ultra-sophistication" of the electronic gadgets, and credibility goes
      flying out the window.

      I have avoided repeating John's remarks in his review of this episode;
      however, I am forced to agree with his criticism of Bianco's escape
      from Danzig's lab. If he was that close to Richter, he should have
      fought with him and tried to grab the rifle. A rifle is a very clumsy
      weapon in close quarters; and Bianco's self-defence training as a cop
      should have enabled him to take out Richter and capture the weapon--or
      at least, given Bianco the confidence to try.

      For that matter, all of the physical conflicts in this episode were
      rather limp-wristed. Especially the final struggle between Bianco and
      Richter. That Richter should be knocked unconscious by lightly bumping
      his head against the cliff face was absurd, but not as absurd as the
      idea that Richter--a "trained killer" would reach for the
      opossum-playing Bianco. A ten-year-old kid wouldn't have fallen for
      that one.

      Finally, wasn't it amazing how, after his dunking in the ocean,
      Bianco's hair dried back into its razor-cut coiffure? Not to mention
      the marvellous permanent-press of his trousers after being soaked by
      sea water.

      The one point of interest for me in watching this episode was
      evaluating Tony Franciosa as Nick Bianco from an older perspective. As
      a teen-ager, frankly I was predisposed toward the Hugh O'Brian
      episodes, and saw the McClure and Franciosa shows as "inferior".
      Nearly three decades later, I can be more objective about the three
      leads' performances; and already--despite the tepid plot of "Let Us
      Prey"--I am already looking at Franciosa's performance more favorably.

      I look forward to viewing--and reviewing--the other episodes.

      Adam Benson
    • actingman-jc@worldnet.att.com
      Don t worry, other episodes do hold up very well. But at the same time it is interesting to see problems and weaknesses, as well as strengths...so many years
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 19, 1999
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        Don't worry, other episodes do hold up very well. But at the same time it
        is interesting to see problems and weaknesses, as well as strengths...so
        many years later.

        >This was the first episode of [i]Search[/i] I had viewed in twenty-six
        >years; so while it held nostalgic interest for me, I have to concur
        >with John's review that it was a sub-standard episode. Bear in mind,
        >without the context of having viewed the other episodes yet, I had to
        >evaluate this episode on a stand-alone basis.


        I love this whole section. There is a sometimes fifth plotline, which if
        it doesn't show up in the action shows, it most certainly does in
        sitcoms...the "Boxing scenario". Even Star Trek: Voyager did one last season.

        >The plotline of "Let Us Prey" confirmed the Fourth Inevitablity of
        >"Benson's Laws of Action/Adventure Television Shows"....

        From series creator Leslie Steven's script One Of Our Probes Is Missing
        (the first Bianco episode):
        "He was undercover man for the Interstate Crime Commission. He's an
        ex-police detective." "He's fought crime all over the world...He knows the
        International Underworld from the gutter on down."

        I don't remember or know if they ever mentioned a specific police force.

        I think the basis of the threat was that Bianco had info he could turn over
        to authorities on Fuentes...but looking at the line it IS vague the way it
        is written.

        >As I recall--and as was implied in this episode itself--I believe that
        >Nick Bianco was a former policeman ( and, I think, of the NYPD), which
        >made his coercion of Fuentes a logical move; however, it was a
        >toothless tactic in this case since...

        As we have these discussions, we will often be asking the same
        question: "Why isn't the scanner picking up off presence readings? I
        think they quickly got away from this because it took away from the
        suspense of the agent getting jumped from behind...control could always
        warn him. In the pilot Creator Stevens has Lockwood's head get stuffed up
        so he can't hear control and get's jumped on the stairway. In Gold
        Machine, Stevens has Lockwood lose his hearing in an explosion, which
        creates another chance to get jumped. It would have been more of a
        challenge to write stories where the agent's had such an advantage, and the
        writers would have had to be more clever to work with it, and around
        it. On the original Star Trek, they always had their communicators taken
        away and/or something would block the transporter.

        Bianco's electronics got blocked the second he entered the house, which
        answer's part of your question, but then it raises the question as to why
        the scanner wasn't picking up the jamming outside.

        I also think it took forever for control to determine that there was a
        definite problem...and they did nothing (like call the authorities).

        >There was a minimal use of the electronic wizardry which was supposed
        >to be the "hook" of the show, even though there was plenty of
        >opportunity--such as when Bianco infiltrated the Alvarez estate. Why
        >wasn't telemetry monitoring for other heartbeats or body heat to let
        >Bianco know where the guards where? Or to let him know that he was
        >walking into an ambush in the house? During the scene when Danzig, the
        >girl, Fuentes, and Richter confronted Bianco in the house and drugged
        >him, why didn't the scanner send these images back to Probe Control
        >(thereby revealing Danzig's complicity), which could have notified the
        >Mexican authorities long before Danzig could have smuggled Bianco to
        >his Mediterranean island?


        They did drift away from the elements you describe. I think they tried to
        get even further away in the last eight episodes (the second Probe
        set)...but even then they still would come back to it in certain
        sequences. It was a shame of course, because those were the elements that
        made the show different, and special. I know Bryan hates the show Seven
        Days, but if anyone out there has been watching it, they've been doing
        stories that all but ignore the time travel element this season...so that
        you could change one or two lines, and the story could be done on any
        show...I've often thought they might have been trying to do that to Search
        as the show went on...which of course was a mistake.

        >This was my greatest problem with this episode, and the series in
        >general. In the pilot, Cameron and the techs in Probe Control provided
        >knowledge and information not directly available to the Probe. They
        >also served as a "greek chorus" of sorts, providing editorial comment.
        >In other words, Probe Control was something of a "collective"
        >character, with a distinct personality of its own. However, the series
        >rarely made use of this asset. Specifically, in "Let Us Prey"--as John
        >pointed out--Cameron's only purpose seemed to be to provide exposition
        >for the hero's actions.

        I've wondered about this myself over the years. At the end of the pilot,
        Ullie knew about the scanner, in Goddess Of Destruction the oriental
        underground knows to take away Grover's scanner and hit him in the mouth in
        just the correct way so he can't use his dental contact. There might be
        other examples I can't think of at the moment. Also, how much does a
        client get told about Probe's methods? If they are paying all that
        money...etc. And, how are these clients communicating with Control? Does
        World Securities send a camera man with an obvious two way set up out to
        talk to the clients? (Remember, Danzig is facing a camera...which he is
        aware of...and is talking to Cameron. There are other episodes where this
        is done.) I suspect it wasn't something World Securities went out of it's
        way to mention, but at the same time it wasn't secret...although I realize
        this isn't a satisfactory explanation.

        As for the rest of it, we will see again and again where the scanners get
        taken, or the agents refuse to use them, or something like that happens
        (there go those transporters again.)

        >One might advance the argument that Danzig had re-wired Bianco's audio
        >implant receiver and destroyed his scanner, so Probe Control was unable
        >to aide Bianco. A couple of problems with this: first, isn't the fact
        >that the Probes are equipped with this technology supposed to be top
        >secret knowledge? Yes, it might be assumed that, during their romance,
        >Bianco divulged the existance of his scanner and audio implant to Diana
        >Hyland's character; and later, she passed this information on to
        >Danzig. But for Bianco to have revealed this info to the lady during
        >pillow talk seems highly out of character. It might be more plausible
        >for Grover, but not a hard-nosed ex-cop like Bianco. The other problem
        >is that for the bad guy to disable the Probe's equipment is only
        >believable as a one-time trick. If this were to happen episode after
        >episode, the viewer quickly loses confidence in the
        >"ultra-sophistication" of the electronic gadgets, and credibility goes
        >flying out the window.

        Feel free to repeat

        >I have avoided repeating John's remarks in his review of this episode;
        >however, I am forced to agree with his criticism of Bianco's escape
        >from Danzig's lab. If he was that close to Richter, he should have
        >fought with him and tried to grab the rifle. A rifle is a very clumsy
        >weapon in close quarters; and Bianco's self-defence training as a cop
        >should have enabled him to take out Richter and capture the weapon--or
        >at least, given Bianco the confidence to try.
        >
        >For that matter, all of the physical conflicts in this episode were
        >rather limp-wristed. Especially the final struggle between Bianco and
        >Richter. That Richter should be knocked unconscious by lightly bumping
        >his head against the cliff face was absurd, but not as absurd as the
        >idea that Richter--a "trained killer" would reach for the
        >opossum-playing Bianco. A ten-year-old kid wouldn't have fallen for
        >that one.
        >
        >Finally, wasn't it amazing how, after his dunking in the ocean,
        >Bianco's hair dried back into its razor-cut coiffure? Not to mention
        >the marvellous permanent-press of his trousers after being soaked by
        >sea water.
        >
        >The one point of interest for me in watching this episode was
        >evaluating Tony Franciosa as Nick Bianco from an older perspective. As
        >a teen-ager, frankly I was predisposed toward the Hugh O'Brian
        >episodes, and saw the McClure and Franciosa shows as "inferior".
        >Nearly three decades later, I can be more objective about the three
        >leads' performances; and already--despite the tepid plot of "Let Us
        >Prey"--I am already looking at Franciosa's performance more favorably.
        >
        >I look forward to viewing--and reviewing--the other episodes.
        >
        >Adam Benson
        >
        >
        >
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