Well, this Season 4 episode begins with J&J and Max headed out on their private jet to the Bahamas for a big party for a recluse named Loring Nichols. No one's seen him in 10 years, as, unbeknownst to his friends, he's been drugged and doubled by his closest entourage. There's a murder, scrambling ensues, and the whole episode goes exactly as you might imagine it would. What sucks me into this one has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the storytelling. First, let's talk about the opening scene of the gin rummy game in the jet's very, very narrow cabin. Two opposing couches with a coffee table in between forces them to shoot poor Stefanie with her legs wide open. Her skirt covers things, but it was weird to see.
In fact, this is just indicative of the overall direction of the whole episode. I know location shoots are challenging, but some of these camera shots were just plain strange. Like the one following behind them as they talk to the police detective. It was literally 10 seconds, at least, of the backs of them as they discuss. No reason for this. If you ever wanted to know why you shouldn't turn your back to the audience, this is a great example. It's not like it was a plot-driven or artistic thing, it was just ... lazy? Takes you right out of the story. It wasn't even the stunt-Jennifer, this was really them from behind. Very weird. Another example of wack-ass shot composition was when Jonathan was on the pier talking to Loring. They dressed Loring in a terrible hat that sat all trucker-like on the top of his head, yet the bill hid his entire face, and it was a medium 2-shot that never once got you a good look at the actor. It was just pointless. Yes, they were on a real dock. Who cares, find a way. OK, then there's the shot of Jonathan elevator and climbing shots, which they reuse several times. At least choose a different expression for subsequent repeats! Or shooting Jonathan through the slats in bed's headboard, but the slats are obscuring a good portion of his face. Artistry is good. But do it so that it's technically sound and not blocking the actual subject of your shot! And these are just a couple examples. There are just so many shots that were probably creatively imagined but that when executed they failed miserably. But don't get me wrong, it was still a delicious kind of miserable.
Ah the days when you could smoke indoors. Which brings us to the entrance of Max. There's a reason Hart to Hart isn't the same without Max. Lionel turned in such a compelling cock and bull story scene that I was just drawn right in and smiled the whole time. It was a high counterpoint to the low one where Jennifer gratuitously absconds with an ATV for no real reason.
the last shot was such a disappointment. The Harts riding horses on the the beach at sunset is beautiful, but the stupidly dubbed conversation was el stinko.
Was I entertained. Oh hell yeah. But the execution of this episode was so bad I can't give it truly high marks. I think director Stuart Margolin, who is a fairly well-recognized character actor, probably tried with what he had to work with on location, but this was just ... not good.