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"Saigon Part I & II"

Episode#22& 23

By Lee Russell

As is normal for a TV production, TOD shut down completely after the first season's final episode was shot. (You get about 4-5 weeks off.) During the hiatus,
I was asked to review a script for a proposed "spin-off" project. It wasn't much of a spin-off. Basically Zeke goes back to Hawaii and meets a ex Bravo Company "lifer" (slang for a "career" sergeant) who had gotten out of the Army and bought a cheap hotel. He'd gotten involved with local gangsters and was in danger etc. Zeke helps him out of it and that's it. New World had commissioned a 2-part script (i.e. paid the writer "on spec") but had violated a major commandment and not gotten CBS to buy into the concept ahead of time. CBS wasn't interested in the new series' concept and New World was out the money. At the same time, TOD was in a bind for the second season opener.

As you might imagine, this was going to be important. Not only would it introduce the season, but it concerned the pivitol 1968 Tet Offensive.The first season had not done very well in the ratings, but was picked up by CBS because of it's concept and critical aclaim. However it had been decided to move the show's setting to Saigon in hopes of bringing in more female characters and more diverse episode themes. The original Tet Offensive script was a one-parter which concerned a Bravo Company patrol finding some French nuns with a broken down car and some children that needed rescue. As the Tet attacks erupt around them, this becomes more difficult etc. The show was rewritten several times, each with a different character in the lead, Zeke, Goldman and even others. None of the scripts were considered the blockbuster opener they wanted. At some point I suggested redoing the unsold pilot and setting the whole thing in Saigon, where the "real" 196th Light Infantry Brigade had been stationed before moving "up North" to the DMZ, where the first season had taken place. The Viet Cong would take the place of the original gangsters and all that was needed was some minor re-writing. The dramatic concept of the script would be unchanged. TOD went for it. Some details were added. (The captured Tet Offensive document concealed in a Buddist pamphlet for one, this actually happened.) It also made a smooth transition to the "new" Saigon setting.


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About the music... the midis are songs from the original episodes


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