State Fair: Pilot

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From 1976, this State Fair TV show pilot was a big disappointment.  It did have some surprises in it, but I understand why this series did not become a staple of weekly viewing.

Vera Miles has the backbone role of Melissa Bryant, the wife and mother of this rural family.  She is actually believable enough, and she is a very good actress, but somehow I did not feel any spark watching her.  However, I am not sure how much of that problem was due to her or her co-star, Tim O’Connor, who was her husband, Jim.  O’Connor is much more of a straight forward actor.  He is tall and staid looking, and while the two make a handsome pair, they really are not right for a show that centers around a family with a farm.  Compared to the prior theatrical versions, they really pale.  That is what hit me the most — the lack of color or personality.

The key role of Wayne, the oldest son, is played by Mitch Vogel.  Now that surprised me.  I never would have cast him in this show.  I first recall Vogel from an episode of Here Come the Brides and then being the adoptive son on Bonanza.  I was not impressed.  I saw in the movies alongside Steve McQueen in The Reivers, and he was okay.  For some reason, though, he never shined in my eyes.  I never enjoyed watching him.

That said, I was impressed with his singing.  He actually wrote the song his character sings in the show, called “Everything Reminds Me Of You.”  The other two songs in the show were written by someone else, but I liked them as well.  “Wind In the Trees” and Carousel Love” both fit the theme and essence of the show.

The problem with the character of Wayne is dislike.  It is that plain and simple.  He was very unlikable.  It was the way he treated others and his attitude.  The thing is that he was supposed to be a good kid, and yes, he does try to make amends at the end, but it just was not enough for me and fell flat.  If I am watching a show, I need to like the lead characters.  That never happened with him.  The other thing is that in my view, Vogel overacted big time.  It was too big and too strong for who Wayne was supposed to be.

Linda Purl was the main guest star, playing Bobbie Jean.  She was excellent and fit the role.  She sang, which she does well enough, and had the right attitude.  Here, though, you could see the plot coming a thousand miles away.  Her interest in Wayne had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with what he could do for her. There was no surprise in any part of the plot in this regard.

The rest of the cast did fairly well.  Julie Cobb had that wholesome look, character actor Ivor Francis was fine as a judge, veteran actress and Virginia Gregg was superb as school judge, Miss Detweiler.  Harry Moses and Dennis Redfield was satisfactory in their efforts as well.

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