When we were here one week ago, we were learning all the places that a Steve can be found in entertainment, including the Steve trinity in the movie “The Tao of Steve” — Steve McGarrett, Steve Austin and Steve McQueen.
For some reason, “Man of Action” makes me think of a TV series that had no Steves in it …
… although to have an action series (which, as you know, comprises the majority of my lifetime non-sports TV viewing) requires the appropriate theme music, from one of the masters of action TV themes:
“Man of Action” implies an infinite number of required skills to be able to contribute to wherever or whatever the action is. (Happily, all the required skills and clichés can be found here.) That implies a present or past military career, particularly in covert operations — an Army Green Beret, a Navy SEAL, some armed service’s intelligence branch, etc.
Our hero should also be able to subdue antagonists in more traditional fashion:
To demonstrate intellect, our hero, like Thomas Magnum and both McGarretts, should have a service academy background. (Shockingly, “Magnum P.I.” never had a character named Steve in it.) Magnum was a Naval Academy graduate and, as we found out in an early episode, a quarterback while at Navy. (Think Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy at Navy, served five years in the Navy, and then played for the Cowboys for 10 seasons.)
But an all-around action hero can’t be a musclebound Terminator-type. In track and field, the winner of the Olympic decathlon is considered the best athlete in the world. So think of Bruce Jenner in his heyday, minus the 1976 long hair and bizarre stepfamily.
One thing a Man of Action must be able to do is be able to drive or fly anything. That means our hero must come from the aviation wing of his armed service. Our Man of Action has to have cool wheels, in keeping with my formula that cool theme music + cool wheels = something I’d watch. I would suggest a Corvette and a four-wheel-drive pickup or SUV, but choose for yourself.
“Man of Action” also implies someone who can be comfortable in numerous environments — someone who can use his mind or his body equally well to defeat the evil du jour. That suggests James Bond …
… or another James who hasn’t been born yet:
Both Bond and Kirk fit for their capabilities in another area of “action” …
But, in order to keep viewer interest, Man of Action can’t be tied down to anyone. (Which gives the producers the ability to cast the Babe of the Week.) A dog and/or cat would humanize him, though.
The “Magnum P.I.” template has obvious upsides here. Man of Action would be able to investigate (the P.I. side) and then do something about them (the military background) without being constrained by, you know, laws.
(I did not watch, and therefore haven’t mentioned, “MacGyver” or “Knight Rider” because the former sounds like a liberal’s idea of a hero — no guns — and because talking cars are something to avoid.)
But P.I.s have been overdone to the point of charring. It’s time an underappreciated — more like unappreciated — action type become an action hero: the journalist. (I’ll pause until you can control your laughter.)
One of the characters in my favorite newspaper movie, “Deadline USA,” says, “A journalist makes himself the hero of the story. A reporter is only a witness.” Since Man of Action needs to make himself the hero of the story, Man of Action can be a journalist, and in this e-era, the medium doesn’t matter since everything’s multimedia anyway.
There have been two journalist/superheroes — Daily Sentinel publisher Brit Reid and Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. This piece is about an action hero, not a superhero, but clearly the fiction world has been remiss in casting as an action hero someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of journalists as, well, Oscar Madison. (Is that a reporter’s notebook or a pistol in his jacket? Good question. Too late, the bad guy discovers that Man of Action isn’t holding a Nikon D7000 camera; it’s a rocket launcher. Imagine a journalist who starts an interview and then ends it by shooting or otherwise permanently subduing the interviewee.)
You might look at these previous paragraphs and conclude that we’ve come up with Mr. Perfect, and therefore not a very sympathetic character. Two things are necessary to save our hero from hubris — first, the writing of the show, because that’s what makes people watch a TV series, and second, that don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously personality that was part of the most iconic action TV characters, such as Bret Maverick, Jim Rockford, and Thomas Magnum (whose character was once described thusly: “Women liked his looks and men didn’t feel threatened because he seemed like the kind of guy you’d love to have a beer with”).
It should go without saying that our hero’s writers must make him speak well — clever and witty, yet stone dead serious or menacing when necessary. That’s where someone like the late great Stephen J. Cannell is necessary. (How did I forget him in my paean to Steves last week?) Steven Bochco, creator of “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue,” might help. (Missed him too last week.)
Another important facet is Man of Action’s boss, foil, assistant, inside contact or similar role, like Bond’s M, Rockford’s father or police Sgt. Dennis Becker, Magnum’s Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, or Mr. Finch in “Person of Interest,” or Noah Bain, the title character’s supervisor in “It Takes a Thief.” It has to be a subordinate character, since this is “Man of Action,” not “Men of Action.” (Unless, like “Kresky,” a main character gets added later.) He might need more than one, in fact — a military/government boss type, a police insider, his ostensible journalism outlet supervisor, and so on.
This would, of course, be the original-programming centerpiece of Steve TV. Would anyone watch?