Unlike most summer pilots, “Johnny Bago” is fresh and entertaining. Show incorporates the cartoonish touch of Robert Zemeckis in a black comedy about a small-time hood who’s running from the mob, the police and his ex-wife in a Winnebago (thus the name). Pilot is a wild, funny ride, but whether future episodes can match the horsepower of the premise will make or break this quirky crew.
Opening two scenes of Bago (Peter Dobson) being released from prison and then set-up to take the fall for a mob hit are hilarious. Though Parker Lewis couldn’t lose, Bago can’t win, as every bad break imaginable falls upon him, including discovering that his ex-wife (Rose Abdoo) is his parole officer who is determined to put him back in jail.
But his ex-wife and police are secondary, as Bago goes on the run from the mob seeking revenge for the hit. After escaping the grip of hit man Tommy Testeroni (played perfectly silly by Brion James), Bago meets Hick (Dub Taylor), who becomes his sage.
Dobson performs his role as realistically as possible, but everyone else is like a cartoon character, as might be expected in a show from many of the creators of “Roger Rabbit.”
Abdoo is hilariously overzealous in pursuing her wayward husband, Taylor is a crack-up; and Rosemary Murphy, as an elderly, chain-smoking, wheelchair-bound ice queen, steals the show.
Under the direction of Zemeckis, each scene is right and flows nicely into the next. Script by Peter Seaman and Jeffrey Price also has plenty of jokes that will slip by the non-attentive viewer. Skein, though, is shot much of the time in a dark tone begging for a little more lighting.
If the show keeps up its quality, a pickup by CBS would seem to be a natural. However, the idea of Bago on the run from the same people may wear out the tires to this skein quickly.
But who knows, if Bago’s bad luck continues and the cartoon-like characters around him stay, this recreational vid may find happy parking in some web lot.