AIRWOLF Episode Guide - Season 2
Season 2 of 'Airwolf' created quite a departure from the dark and broody Season 1 of the TV show, with the CBS network, specifically from CBS Preseident, Harvey Shepherd ordering the so-called "domestication" of the show and introducing a new regular cast member in Jean Bruce Scott and her ex-Texas Highway Patrol Pilot character "Caitlin O'Shannessy". A combination of factors including disappointing inaugural season 1 ratings (compared to CBS' high investment in the show with Universal Studios) and they wanted it to be a "Blue Thunder" killer after all, and kill the latter it did with "Blue Thunder" not returning after its disastrous watered down TV treatment on ABC - compared to the critically acclaimed Roy Scheider original 1982 movie) with its half season only, and CBS' goal to expand its demographic audience away from teenage boys.
With Season 2 of Airwolf, out went the dark stories of espionage and international intrigue, the "Red Menace" of the USSR was pretty much forgotten, the Firm was kicked into the background a lot more with less Archangel requirement, and a nicer "Stringfellow Hawke" lead (to the utter chagrin of Bellisario, who never liked, nor wanted Jan-Michael Vincent for the lead in the first place as JMV was chosen by the Network) was woven into weekly stories. The ratings increased, whilst, with a couple of well-written and exceptional episodes in line with Season 1 quality or better, many with impressive, feature-quality action set pieces, overall the previously sharp, clever script quality (most of the Season 1 writers had left for other projects, with exception to the late Tom S. Cook, who would serve as producer during half of this 2nd season) was now lower overall with certain aspects noticeably watered down, with the TV series now acting as a more mainstream "family" action-adventure show, again to widen the demographic watching the show and thus make it more interesting for potential Advertisers to return revenue on its cost. Whilst the Season 2 Airwolf episodes still had their iconic moments, both Hawke's humorless, reclusive broodiness, and the whole eerie mysteriousness surrounding The Firm, important factors in Don Bellisario's original concept and vision - were by now reduced.
Jan-Michael Vincent's troubled personal life including well-publicised battles with drink and drugs, and frequently public spats with his then wife - were increasingly causing huge production delays, frustrations, crew stress and problems behind the scenes - it was not a happy set right from the start of the season - increasing the cost of producing the show.
But the lowest point and darkest day of the 2nd Season was the death of young stuntman, Reid Rondell during filming of the episode "NATURAL BORN" in mid-January 1985, when a black Huey helicopter being used in filming crashed and burned on a hillside near Newhall on Friday, killing the stuntman and injuring the pilot, Scott Maher. The crash occurred without warning as the Bell 205 Huey helicopter was making its third pass around a valley in Pico Canyon, flying within 200 feet of the ground, as part of a chase scene involving another Huey helicopter (the white one) as it approached a small grassy knoll and he dropped down to skim the surface. One of the helicopter's skids caught the ground on the grassy knoll causing the crash. The 22-year-old stuntman Reid Rondell was unconscious and burned to death in the fire, the lone passenger in the helicopter. Maher was pulled out by Aerial Co-ordinator, the late David Jones and taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a concussion and numerous bruises. The determination by the authorities was that it was pilot error.