Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can were big hits for star Clint Eastwood in 1978 and 1979. Both films focused on the adventures of a man and his simian companion as they traveled through rural areas. It was a very television-friendly concept and was cleverly appropriated in 1979 for a one-hour NBC show entitled B.J. and the Bear.
The show focused on B.J., a trucker who roamed down the highways and byways in his red-and-white rig with his companion Bear, who happened to be a chimp. B.J.’s arch nemesis was initially Lobo, a corrupt sheriff. Lobo became popular enough to get his own spin-off series (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) and was replaced with additional corrupt-lawmen characters in the form of Sergeant Beauregard Wiley and his two sheriffs, Masters and Cain.
When he wasn’t busy locking horns with local lawmen, B.J. frequently spent his spare time at the Country Comfort Truck Stop, owned by Bullets. Other characters B. J. interacted with included Wilhemina “The Fox” Johnson, a state cop sent out to keep an eye on Sergeant Wiley, and Tommy, one of B.J.’s fellow truckers.
The second season of B.J. and the Bear was delayed for several months by an actor’s strike. When the series returned in January of 1981, the show’s storyline had been altered greatly. B.J. and the Bear were the only characters retained from the first, season and the action was moved from the American South to Los Angeles, where B.J. relocated to run his own trucking operation, Bear Enterprises.
This storyline also introduced a new enemy for B.J., corrupt politician Rutherford T. Grant, who happened to be a silent partner in California’s largest trucking firm. Not wishing to have any competition for his business interests, Grant did everything in his power to interfere with Bear Enterprises.
Grant successfully scared off any male truckers from working with B.J., thus forcing him to hire an all-female staff of truckers. This bevy of beauties included two identical twins, Teri and Geri Garrison, and Grant’s daughter Cindy. Other members of the new cast included Lieutenant Jim Steiger, Grant’s assistant, and Nick the Bartender.
The show finished its run in August of 1981. Prolific creator/producer Glen Larson had four series on the networks around the time of this show: Galactica 1980, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the aforementioned Lobo and Magnum P.I. Larson also wrote the theme song for B.J. and the Bear (sung by star Greg Evigan), making him a true TV renaissance man.
The headquarters of Bear Enterprises was located 800 Palmer Street in Hollywood, California. Above Phil’s Disco.
USA / NBC – Universal / x50 minute episodes / Broadcast 10 February 1979 – 1 August 1981
Greg Evigan as Billie Joe “B.J.” McKay
Claude Akins as Elroy P. Lobo
Mills Watson as Deputy Perkins
Brian Kerwin as Birdwell “Birdie” Hawkins
Penny Peyser as Florence “Stilts” Panish
Kitty Ruth as Barbara Sue McAllister
Jo Ann Harris as Barbara Sue McAllister as 2
Dennis Burkley as Harry Cunningham
Anne Lockhart as Lillian “Pogo Lil” Polovich
Richard Deacon as Sheriff Masters
Slim Pickens as Beauregard Wiley
Conchata Ferrell as Wilhelmina “The Fox” Johnson
Joshua Shelley as Bullits
Ed Lauter as Captain John Sebastian Cain
Otto Felix as Deputy Higgins
Charles Napier as Jack “The Hammer” Benedict
Liberty Godshall as Dixie
Bert Rosario as Manny
M.P. Murphy as J.P. Pierson
Laurette Spang as Snow White
Janet Louise Johnson as Tommy
Angela Aames as Honey
Carlene Watkins as Leather
Julie Gregg as Sal
Spray Russo as Clancy
Daryle Ann Lindley as Angel
Sonia Manzano as Chattanooga
Deborah Ryan as Shauna McKay
Susan Woolen as Stacy
Murray Hamilton as Capt. Rutherford T. Grant
Judy Landers as Jeannie “Stacks” Campbell
Candi Brough as Teri Garrison
Randi Brough as Geri Garrison
Barbra Horan as Samantha Smith
Linda McCullough as Callie Everett
Sherilyn Wolter as Cindy Grant
Sheila DeWindt as Angie Cartwright
Jock Mahoney as Jason T. Willard
Neil Zevnik as Dave Chaffey
Eric Server as Lt. Jim Steiger
John Dullaghan as Nick
Steve Reisch as Deke
Henry Jones as Fred Tipton
Rosemary DeCamp as Hatsie Tipton
Bear as Sam