China Beach: 1st Season
I missed China Beach the first time around. Then I waited for years for it to be released to DVD while the rights to the numerous music clips were worked out.
Then I waited some more until I could afford it.
When I finally got it (in 2014, I think), I watched the first two episodes and thought: This will need a binge.
Then I thought: That binge will need a certain mood.
I found the mood this week, God knows why. And I was sailing along, right into the middle of Season Two, when I discovered that my “complete” set had a duplicate disc 5 where disc 3 was supposed to be.
By then I knew that, in addition to being binge-worthy, China Beach needs to be watched in order.
So I set aside ten bucks to order a used copy of Season Two. Who knows what kind of mood I’ll be in when it gets here.
This I do know–the “Reflections” test has been passed.
I wondered if, after a few episodes, I’d be tempted to do what I do with most shows and skip the credits…and the theme song.
But no other TV series I’ve ever watched had for its theme a record I already loved unreservedly, believed to be one of the greatest records ever made, and didn’t think could possibly grow any larger by having a truncated version accompany the opening of a TV show.
Two things I can tell you after a season and a half of China Beach:
“Reflections” has grown for me. And it will never wear out.
The show aired from 1988 to 1991. We’re further from its airing than it was from its Viet Nam setting.
Except for whenever and wherever “Reflections” is playing. Whenever and wherever that is, it’s always 1968 and we’ve never walked away from it. It’s to China Beach‘s credit that, at least in the first season-and-a-half, it doesn’t pretend we have. That, and casting Dana Delaney as the spiritual daughter of Donna Reed’s character in They Were Expendable, are the show’s foundation. Michael Boatman is excellent, the rest of the cast is solid, especially Marg Helgenberger as the spiritual daughter of Donna Reed’s character in From Here to Eternity, and Nan Woods as a girl who might have been Donna Reed’s television daughter on The Donna Reed Show. But without Delaney the show would have run six weeks. Naturally, the suits wanted to fire her before the pilot was finished. The producers, probably understanding what that meant, stood their ground and pulled some subterfuge that involved a little black dress and a lot of All-American heads turning and made their point.
But, strong, even gut-wrenching, as the show is, nothing stands up to the first seconds of the theme, where Delaney’s hair being blown back keeps saying we can make it all go away, or even go back and make it all come out different.
And those lethal chords under Diana Ross’s voice keep saying we can’t.