Obscurity Knocks: Episode 2 – Bruce McGill

Upon looking at the above photo, I’d understand if you found it impossible to turn away from the sight of a pre-Knight Rider David Hasselhoff, but I hope you’ll try, since it’s the man on the right who’s actually our guest on this second episode of Obscurity Knocks. His name is Bruce McGill, as you already know from the title of this post, and in addition to knowing him from his work in Animal House, MacGyver, and The Insider, you might recognize him more recently from Ride Along, Ride Along 2, and Rizzoli & Isles.

After listening to our latest installment, however, perhaps you’ll start referring to him as the man who appeared in one of these 12 projects instead…

1. Semi-Tough (1980): That particular photo is actually a promo photo from the short-lived 1980 sitcom Semi-Tough, based on the movie of the same name. Yes, Bruce was the Burt Reynolds of the series, which means that the Hoff was its Kris Kristofferson. Let that sink in, and then feign surprise at the fact that it only ran for four episodes.

2. Tough Enough (1983): “An aspiring country/western singer, whose money is disappearing faster than his career opportunities, enters a ‘Tough Man’ amateur boxing contest to earn some cash to pay his bills. Amazingly enough, he wins it, and is picked to go onto the national finals. He’s torn between his first love, music, and the glitz, glamor and money of the ‘Tough Man’ world.”

3. As Summers Die (1986): “The plot centers around a large area of land owned by an old black lady, Elvira Backus. It had been given to her by her one time employer and secret father of her two children, a southern patriarch. Discovering oil on the aforementioned property, the patriarch’s family tries to regain the land by destroying the deed and denying it ever existed. Coming to Elvira Backus’s aid is attorney Willie Croft. He attempts to get back Elvira’s land and leads the movie to its eventual court scene.”

4. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1987): IMDb sums up this TV movie by saying, “An alien lands on earth and decides that he needs to take a job in order to raise money to build a spaceship so he can get back to his home planet,” never managing to answer the question that most people will be wondering, which is that, yes, it’s an adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel that gave us the feature film starring David Bowie. Well, sort of, anyway. Given that that film’s screenwriter, Paul Mayersberg, is credited for having written the “Theatrical Photoplay Screenplay,” this would technically seem to be an adaptation of the film rather than an actual adaptation of the book. It makes my brain hurt.

5. Out Cold (1989): “Sunny is married to the butcher Ernie; their marriage is about to end as both of them have affairs. Thus Sunny hires Lester Atlas as private investigator in order to collect proofs for the divorce. One evening drunken Ernie and his partner Dave have a fight in the butchery with the result of Ernie getting knocked out in the fridge where he dies during the night. But it was not Dave’s fault but intentional murder by Sunny. Only Lester has proofs so Sunny kills him, too. Thus she only has to kill Dave to get rid of all witnesses, but he can free himself out of the fridge and wants to take revenge…”

6. Play Nice (1992): “A serial killer is on the loose, and a cop must track him (or her) down.” Gosh, thanks for all the specifics, IMDb! (Actually, I guess I can’t complain but so much: it’s apparently so obscure that there isn’t even a proper trailer for the thing on YouTube!)

7. Live Shot (1995): Sometimes I really miss UPN, and reading about this short-lived series on TV.com is one of those times. They describe it as “a short-lived ensemble drama focusing on the people and personalities inside the most frenzied, dog-eat-dog work environment of all: the local television newsroom.” Leading the pack: Alex Rydell, the brand new news director of KXZX Channel 3, who’s just moved from Boston to Los Angeles, leaving behind a dissolving marriage in the process but bringing with him his young son, Sean. Soapy? You bet: they call the newsroom “a densely-populated Peyton Place on adrenaline, replete with more stories behind the camera than could ever be captured on tape.”

8. Ground Control (1998): “A disgraced former air traffic controller is called back into service when the airport’s traffic control system malfunctions.” I can’t be the only one who thinks that it sounds like Airplane! on the ground, but dig this cast: it’s headlined by Kiefer Sutherland, and in addition to McGill, you’ve also got Kristy Swanson, Robert Sean Leonard, Kelly McGillis, Margaret Cho, Charles Fleischer, Henry Winkler, Michael Gross, Brian George (you know him best as Babu on Seinfeld), and your very special guest pilot, Steve Sax!

9. Inside the Osmonds (2001): “The story of the personal lives and professional careers of the show-business family The Osmonds, and how the stresses and strains of their careers and the turbulent ’70s and ’80s affected their relationships with each other and their families.”

10. Area 57 (2007): Described on IMDb as “a comedy about the employees for the U.S. government who work in a remote facility in the Nevada desert which houses an alien creature,” this was a pilot which failed to make it to series despite being directed by Dean Parisot, the man who helmed Galaxy Quest. In retrospect, it’s notable because it starred a pre-Glee Jane Lynch, but at the time the biggest buzz around it was the fact that the alien creature was played by Paul Reubens.

11. Humble Pie (2007): “At nearly 400 pounds, Tracy Orbison is a wide target. When he sets out to pursue his dream of acting, the grocery clerk finds an assortment of people waiting to dash his dreams: his acting coach, who has designs on his sister Peggy; his juvenile-delinquent friends, who suck him into their petty crimes; and his God-fearing, self-loathing mother. Through it all, Tracy remains irrepressibly upbeat, convinced he’s destined for something big.”

12. For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada (2012): IMDb describes this film as “a chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government.” Alas, there is no clip available of McGill playing President Calvin Coolidge, but since this was the very same year that he appeared in two other very presidential films, I’m opting to offer a clip of him in one of those instead. (Spoiler alert: it ain’t Lincoln!)

[FYI, the summaries that are in quotation marks are straight from IMDb – I figured that’s only fair, since that’s where I found the info about the projects in the first place – and if there was no summary on IMDb, then I composed a little something based on my knowledge of the project.]

And now that you know what you’ll hear Mr. McGill discussing, it’s time to go listen to the discussion:

If you like what you hear, please please please don’t be afraid to share your enjoyment with your friends, family, business colleagues, and any other random people you meet on the internet. The more listeners I get, the more likely I am to be continue this thing. I’m already falling in love with the process of putting it together, but it’s not something that pays at present, so I need all the enthusiasm from you folks that I can get!

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One Response to Obscurity Knocks: Episode 2 – Bruce McGill

  1. Gale Harris says:

    Totally enjoyed! Moved along nicely. Many smiles and outright laughed as the stories kept coming. Keep it up!! Travelers should especially enjoy the podcast, as they move on down the road.

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