The third episode of THE MOD SQUAD, entitled MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS, wisely adapts the more cinematic style of the pilot and corrects many of the stylistic and scripting mistakes the second one made.
Directed with flair by Gene Nelson from an entertaining script by the team of Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov, MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS is firmly rooted in 1968 but is executed well enough to not be overly dated or campy.
The storyline this time has our squad infiltrating a counterfeiting gang headed by a sneaky old con named Herbert Milne (Mills) and his rather sinister silent partner. After befriending him the episode becomes a labyrinth of heists, double crosses and intrigue as our gang attempts to not blow their cover and bring Mills down.
The biggest mistake that the second episode, BAD MAN ON CAMPUS, made was separating Julie, Linc and Pete too much. Thankfully MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS doesn’t repeat that and the episode thrives on the chemistry between the three, especially Julie and Linc who share some really nice moments together.
Guest star Henry Jones is excellent as the backstabbing aging con Mills. Jones had an astonishing career in television and film that lasted well over four decades until his death at the age of 86 in 1999. His film credits include everything from VERTIGO (1958) to DICK TRACY (1990) and television fans will surely recognize him from guest roles in BEWICHED and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. His role here in MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS is really large and he is great as the crafty old thief who always seems to have another trick up his sleeve.
The episode also features noted character actor and stunt man Bud Elkins and stunt man Dick Ziker in a delightful cameo as a biker who helps Linc and Julie towards the end of the episode.
This would be the first of several notable MOD SQUAD episodes that director Gene Nelson would helm. The Golden Globe winning director had worked in both film and television with some of his major projects including a couple of Elvis Presley films and popular shows like I DREAM OF JEANNIE and STAR TREK. His work here is very nice and quite imaginative for a sixties hour-long television drama. Nelson was also an acclaimed singer, actor and dancer who worked in front of the cameras many time through his three decade long career.
The WITH SIX YOU GET EGGROLE scriptwriting team of Bagni and Dubov would later also collaborate on THE MOD SQUAD’S 1970 episode JUST RING THE BELL ONCE and their script for MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS is a nice mixture of sixties slang and slightly clichéd crime melodrama.
This episode is mostly noteworthy for the final scene where the three embrace. Both Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole recall on the DVD supplements that the moment was very controversial but creator Aaron Spelling bravely refused to buckle in his vision of the show as a celebration of friendship between different sexes and races.
Finally also noteworthy is the trippy sitar soaked score, and possibly it marked one of the first times that LSD was mentioned in a casual non-judgmental way on a network television show. All in all, MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS is a major winner.
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