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PETER STRAUSS VS WILLIAM SMITH 'RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II'

Title: RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II Year: 1976-1977 Rating: ****

While RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II is no RICH MAN, POOR MAN being impossible to replace Nick Nolte after he dies in the original's climax, it's a pretty great sequel, mostly thanks to William Smith as crazy villain Anthony Falconetti who, while shaping-up and tearing-down the last four episodes of the first venture, is now a continuously formidable presence, not only stealing scenes but destroying anyone and anything in his wake...

And this time the POOR MAN are young men... Since there's no luckless boxer/sailor Nolte to contrast returning star and now sole headliner Peter Strauss as ambitious, sometimes idealistic Senator/businessman Rudy Jordache, Nolte's beloved son, Wesley (Gregg Henry) and con artist Billy (James Carroll Jordan), neglected son of Bill Bixby and Susan Blakely (the latter killed off/written out early), both take the POOR spot in different ways...

Penny Peyser and Gregg Henry in RICH MAN POOR MAN BOOK II Rating: ****

Wesley's broke despite being taken in by his RICH uncle while Billy fights to make it big in the music industry, so he's basically the young climber version of Peter Strauss while Wesley, blond and muscular like dad, takes Nolte's hapless workingman route, almost having an affair with tough, stubborn yet incredibly cute girl-next-door/union man's daughter Penny Peyser... until Billy gets in quicker and ignites an addictive whirlwind romance/love triangle...

And there are so many characters to cover, including a resilient, quick-witted Susan Sullivan as Rudy's girlfriend lawyer (particularly during senate hearings straight from THE GODFATHER II including a crooked G. D. Spradlin and Peter Donat), whose daughter Kimberly Beck is a flirtatious teenager smitten with Wesley when, by the 11th hour, all the characters wind up in Sin City Vegas to square-off against the show's two polar opposite antagonists...

William Smith and Kimberly Beck in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II

Besides Falconetti is a callous yet still somewhat charming/monopolizing billionaire Peter Haskell as Charles Estep, who Strauss's Rudy is after and whose wife, the beautiful Laraine Stephens, holds an anticipated/game-changing secret...

The most fun's had with Billy and his up-and-down dealings working at then co-owning a once-great record company (owned by endearingly grouchy in-debt gambler Sorrell Booke); he basically sells his soul to protect a fickle and neurotic knockout version of Janis Joplin in Cassie Yates, taking the otherwise womanizer on a proverbial ride...

Russell Johnson as a detective with Peter Strauss in RICH MAN POOR MAN BOOK II

Meanwhile, William Smith's powerfully methodical method-acting is what really stands out (especially scenes with Vegas hotel manager Ken Swofford), shaking the dust off particular moments where the original series' edgy (semi-historical) drama becomes kitschy melodrama... He's busy too, fending off Nolte's vengeful returning partner Herbert Jefferson Jr., and, also returning is Kay Lenz, Nolte's sexy little widow, this time a kooky laughing girl in a contrived/forced affair with Strauss...

And yet, despite the soap operatic tropes and romantic distractions, like any good televised serial, the characters and situations leave viewers salivating for the next episode... while Peter Strauss is even more intense and dogged, likable, sympathetic and hardcore in the leading role (providing more than a few fantastic monologue-lectures)... making both RICH MAN, POOR MAN shows a "binge-watch" experience far before there was such a thing.

Penny Peyser & James Carroll Jordon on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with Gregg Henry
Laraine Stephens on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti tilts on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Hippie singer Cassie Yates on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Penny Peyser on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with union dad John Anderson
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with Ken Swofford
Kay Lenz returns to RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Susan Sullivan and Kimberly Beck on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with Ken Swofford
Penny Peyser on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Penny Peyser on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with Gregg Henry
Bob Purvey with Laraine Stephens on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Laraine Stephens on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Gregg Henry and Herbert Jefferson Jr on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Penny Peyser on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Gregg Henry and Herbert Jefferson Jr on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Herbert Jefferson Jr as Roy Dryer boards RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Laraine Stephens on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Laraine Stephens on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Penny Peyser on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II with Peter Strauss
Kay Lenz in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith as Falconetti on RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Main heavies William Smith and Peter Haskell are villainous RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Russell Johnson and William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
A vengeful Gregg Henry in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Personally the best beautiful from RICH MAN POOR MAN BOOK II Laraine Stephens
Peter Strauss faces Laraine Stephens in RICH MAN, POOR MAN PART II
John Carroll Jordon and Kimberly Beck in Rich Man Poor Man Book II
Peter Strauss with John Carroll Jordon in Rich Man Poor Man Book II
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II
Penny Peyser in Rich Man Poor Man Book II
Penny Peyser in Rich Man Poor Man Book II and Peter Strauss
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN BOOK II

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