It would be a real long shot if any of you have heard of Johnny Bago. He was the title character in a TV show that ran for just eight episodes back in 1993. It was a comedy about a goof-ball named Johnny who was on the run from the mob and his ex-wife. His get-away vehicle on the first episode was a Winnebago, and he traveled with it to each subsequent adventure. Episode #4 was “Spotting Elvis,” and for some reason, I pushed in a VCR tape and recorded it. Sometimes, you just get lucky. I feel confident there are not many copies of this show preserved on tape, but I’ve got one.
The first episode of Johnny Bago was directed by Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future,” “Forest Gump,” “The Polar Express”), so there must have been some hope initially for a quality product. However, things obviously spiraled down quickly. The “Spotting Elvis” episode was directed by Oz Scott. Ever heard of him?
The plot line of the Johnny Bago and Elvis saga is so stupid it’s funny. Let us just say an older and fatter Elvis lives in a mobile home in Mystery Trees RV Park, deep in the woods next to a national forest. Johnny Bago parks next to him, and the action starts. Johnny tries to impress Erica, an eco-warrior leading protests to stop local logging. One of the tactics taken by her group is to chain themselves to large trees. Johnny pretends to be a photographer. He poses a stuffed owl in various natural surroundings and snaps photos. The resulting pictures are supposed to show that no trees can be cut because they are in an endangered species habitat. Johnny thinks this is just what he needs to score with Erica.
Johnny gets in trouble when the strings he used to simulate the owl in flight are plainly visible in the photos, and Elvis has to bail him out. Elvis, the hero. I like that. We are also treated to a rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” by the past-middle-age Elvis, and he actually does a credible job. He gets the eco-freaks and the loggers dancing together, and soon good karma comes over everyone. Elvis the peacemaker. At the times when Elvis isn’t being a peacemaker or hero, he’s portrayed as a decent, down-to-earth, next-door neighbor type. I like this Elvis a lot.
There’s an interesting sub-plot that sort of rings true. Erica’s ex-boyfriend calls a tabloid, The National Tattletale, and tries to make a quick $100,000 for revealing Elvis’ location.
I have mixed feelings about one thing in the show. When we cut to a scene of Elvis asleep in front of the TV, we see a beer can sitting unattended on his substantial belly, rising and lowering as he snores. When I first watched that scene, I hated to see Elvis depicted like that, but it was so funny.
Now, thirteen years later, I can do the beer can trick on my own belly, and it isn’t nearly so funny.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold www.elvisblog.net