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Cult TV Essentials: Blue Thunder

Based on the movie of the same name, Blue Thunder debuted in January 1984 and starred James Farentino as Frank Chaney the police officer who is the pilot of Blue Thunder. Blue Thunder was a converted Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter. Chaney was partnered with Clinton Wonderlove, aka “JAFO” (“Just Another Frustrated Observer”), a flight engineer on “Blue Thunder” who handles technical aspects of the chopper. “JAFO” is played by a pre-Wayne’s World’s Dana Carvey. The duo are backed up by the “Rolling Thunder” ground unit (a modified GMC S15 Jimmy 4 x 4 with the rear section and doors removed) comprising of officers Bubba Kelsey (played by Bubba “Hightower” Smith) and Ski Butkus (Dick Butkus). The Blue Thunder team is under the command of Captain Braddock (played by Sandy McPeak) and usually liaise with radio operator J.J. Douglas (played by Ann Cooper).

The series begins with the episode “Second Thunder” where we see the team formed in order to stop a madman who has been gunning down regular police helicopters. In the episodes that followed the team stopped a paramilitary operation from taking over the country through political assassinations and bank robberies, arms smuggling, Soviet double agents, gene splicing experiments, Mexican drug lords, and American mercenaries hired by the KGB! A great deal of the helicopter footage from the movie was reused throughout the series, most noticable when the pilot is clearly visible in a green uniform rather than the blue of the series.

If you keep your eyes peeled through the series you will spot guest appearances by George Gaynes, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Lynch, Scott Hylands, Gregory Sierra,  Maylo McCaslin, Kelly Preston, Tracy Scoggins, Ray Wise, Kurtwood Smith, M.C. Gainey, Paul Koslo, and Ken Foree amongst others.

It has been reported that the series was cancelled by ABC after they felt the CBS show Airwolf was winning the ratings and popularity battle. Eleven episodes were made.

You can buy the complete series HERE.




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Founded Cult Faction in 2014; previously crawled out of the Black Lodge in 1976, only to find himself in the Village.

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