DAN AUGUST “The Murder of a Small Town.” 30 September 1970. Season 1, Episode 2. Burt Reynolds, Norman Fell, Richard Anderson, Ned Romero, Ena Hartman. Guest cast: Ricardo Montalban, John Marley, Anna Navarro. Writer: Robert Dozier. Director: Harvey Hart.

   As a follow up to my review of The House on Greenapple Road, the made-for-TV movie that became the pilot film for the Dan August television series, I have now watched the first two episodes of the series itself.

   The first episode, “Murder by Proxy,” had its moments, but overall was no better than the average cop or PI series of the time. Burt Reynolds acquitted himself well, and perhaps if I hadn’t been looking for them, I might have missed the occasional screen shots in which they asked him to look pensive about the case while at the same time looking a bit like Marlon Brando. (I believe someone pointed this possibility out in the comments to the earlier review.)

   The overall gimmick to the episode and hence (I assume) to the series being that Dan August was now a cop in his own medium-sized home town, a fact which causes him some difficulty, dealing as he must with people he’s known all his life. Now of course it is under totally different circumstances. He, in fact, happens to have had a personal altercation with the murder victim the week before, suggesting to some that he might even be a suspect.

   The story in episode two is very different, and I thought even a bit daring. A strike by the Hispanic orange grove workers in town has gotten ugly, and when an accident to a school bus injures several children, with one small girl killed, all Mexician-Americans, tempers threaten to burst out of control. Anglos vs. Spics, the signs say.

   At opposite poles are John Marley, the owner of the town’s orange groves, and labor organizer Ricardo Montalban, with Dan August right in the middle, especially when it looks as though someone deliberately tampered with the bus’s brake lines. A small plot thread involving a romance between Marley’s daughter and Montalban seems forced and unnecessary, and is thankfully dropped.

   A lot of anger that’s been simmering in the town pf Santa Luisa is shown. This is definitely not your usual TV cop show. While the incident with the bus is resolved, the writers and producers of the show could not solve the larger problem, not even in the hour’s time they were given.