Monday, March 3, 2008

The Mod Squad Episode #7: Find Tara Chapman

Find Tara Chapman is an engaging if just above average episode first season episode of The Mod Squad made great by the inclusion of iconic Yvonne Craig as the guest starring title character.
Directed competently by Gene Nelson with some nice hand held camera work throughout, Find Tara Chapman centers on a young folk singer who is on the run after witnessing a murder by the mob. Our squad is brought in when it is discovered that the young singer on the run is unknowingly suffering from Spinal Meningitis and has only a couple of days to live if they can’t find and get her to a hospital.
The rather odd script is credited this time to the team of Harve Bennett and Arthur Weingarten and it’s an adventurous little script that unfortunately runs out of steam towards the end of the show. Still for awhile it works very well as Pete, Linc and Julie are taken to various locations including a folkie club (where some vintage Dylan and Donovan posters can be seen) and to a very cool soul club where we are treated to a couple of songs by the great Della Reese.
Bennett had co-scripted one of Season One’s great episodes with When Smitty Comes Marching Home but Find Tara Chapman would mark the first time for a Weingarten script and it shows as the episode feels a little off. The biggest problem is the lack of screen time for Peggy Lipton who only appears briefly in a couple of scenes. Lipton’s lack of screen time here is a double shame when one considers how great it would have been to see Craig and Lipton sharing some scenes together. As it is, two of the sixties major female television icons only share a brief scene together towards the end, which is not coincidently one of the episodes strongest moments.
Craig, of course, is one of the great figures of sixties television and film and her appearance here finds her in top form right after her stint as Batgirl had ended on Batman. Craig, seen here with short-cropped black hair and a blonde wig at one point, was smashing in everything she did in the sixties and her work here is no different. She brings a lot of character and depth to the confused young singer who is literally on the run from time. The brief scene she shares with Reese is especially good and it is a shame that more time wasn’t spent on the two together.
The legendary Reese is one of the best singers that came out of the fifties and her appearance here marks the beginning of her screen career where she wasn’t just playing herself. She would soon be appearing in a variety of television shows and films and is still working consistently to this day. Her scenes in Find Tara Chapman are some of the most noteworthy of Season One.

Along with Craig and Reese, Find Tara Chapman also finds a small spot for Hells Angels On Wheels co-star Jana Taylor. Taylor will be recognizable to fans of that 1967 Jack Nicholson Hells Angels flick as well from her appearance on various shows throughout the sixties and seventies such as Get Smart and The Interns.
Along with odd absence of Julie, Find Tara Chapman mostly suffers in its final section where the script unfortunately collapses into a simple chase piece, the kind that plagued several of these early Mod Squad episodes. It is helped that Nelson handles the action well (watch for a thrilling moment when Greer’s car is literally flattened), but still one can’t help thinking the episode could have been much more.

Find Tara Chapman would mark one of the last appearances of the sixties for the always-delightful Craig, which alone makes it more than a little noteworthy. She would continue to add her considerable charm to productions throughout the seventies and eighties but her time in the sixties remains special and Find Tara Chapman finds her at her absolute peak.

For more on Find Tara Chapman, please visit this link.


Pete Emslie said...

I credit both Yvonne Craig and Julie Newmar in their skin tight batsuited and catsuited roles respectively on "Batman" as being responsible for the first stirrings of prepubescent lust in this then seven year old kid. In regard to Miss Craig's secret identity of Barbara Gordon, I remain to this day fascinated with the image of the demure, yet sexy librarian stereotype, and have often been attracted to that type of girl my entire life. Thank you, Yvonne!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Pete for your memories of Yvonne. I think she had a huge impact on a lot of young people in the sixties and seventies...I know that two films she made with Elvis alone destroyed me as a youth and truth be told my heart still skips a major beat when I seee clips of her in this period...