I was channel-surfing with my obnoxiously precocious six-year-old niece Gabby (her full name is Gabrielle Callisto Aphrodite Zimbelman; she was conceived at a Xena convention) when we stumbled upon a rerun of Blaster Patrol. “My favorite show! Did you write this one, Uncle Ricky?”
“No, Gabby, I never worked on Blaster Patrol, more’s the pity.”
On the tube, Sam and Janet, the series leads, were being chased by evil alien Greebs and were simultaneously firing blasters and exchanging witty yet affectionate banter. “Sigh,” Gabby sighed, “they’re soooooooo in love. Are they married?”
“Sam and Janet? No, they never got married, even though, much to everyone’s amazement, the show ran for six seasons…”
“Not the characters, silly. The actors.”
“Oh. Yeah, she’s married. Third or fourth time; I can’t keep track. Him, he’ll never get married unless the father of the bride owns a shotgun.”
Gabby couldn’t fathom it. “But… they love each other… don’t they?”
“You kidding? When the camera’s not rolling, they can’t stand one another.” I omitted mentioning that she thought he was a lecherous drunk who couldn’t remember his lines, and he thought she was a ruthless, upstaging diva who despised television in general and sci-fi in particular.
Gabby’s lower lip quivered. She indicated Sam and Janet, who were celebrating their escape from the Greebs with much kissing and fondling. “Look at them. You’re wrong.”
“Honey, it’s all make-believe. They’re actors. They’re faking it.”
Her Bambi eyes clouded with doubt—but as Sam and Janet exchanged perfect loving gazes, her conviction returned. “Nuh-uh. Nobody could fake that.”
And there, I reflected, was the biggest reason why that otherwise unmemorable show had run for six years. Separately, the actors playing Sam and Janet had been no more than competent—but together, they had the most elusive and valuable commodity in show business: chemistry.