It’s 9:20 pm
Back in the mid 1970s growing up,I was a youngster. My friends and I while watching a few cartoons,really never watched much TV. We were always out playing,exploring the woods in a small section of the town we lived,going for bike rides. Kids being kids. I remember we playing in a old abandoned van with a bunch of my friends when one said “Let’s pretend we’re S.W.A.T.,like on TV”. Of the 10-12 kids there,only a couple actually knew what our friend was talking about. He in turn,had a group of 10,11,12 years old boys hooked as he related what the show was like.
Well,come the next week,ALL of kids watched the show and we were hooked. Five good cops,led by Hondo,saving the day in 60 minutes (minus the commercials).
After S.W.A.T. was canceled due to the violence of the show,the actors of course all went their separate ways. But when a show named “Soap” came on,I recognized Robert Urich from S.W.A.T….his murdered tennis player,Peter,kick started the whole first season of the show and I became a fan of Urich.
When his show “Vega$” debuted in 1978,I rarely missed a episode,it was a really fun show for the first two years but faded badly in the year and was canceled.
During the early 1980s,I discovered Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series and started reading those novels. The early books were well plotted,had a lot great characters and Spenser was a total wise ass. It was a easy series to get hooked on.
When ABC announced that they were going to do a TV series based on the books,I was very curious to see how they would cast it. When I saw Robert Urich was playing Spenser,I was in. And just like “Vega$”,I rarely missed a episode.
But after the series was canceled,it was hard to find on syndication because the series only lasted 3 years and 65 episodes. Most stations wouldn’t play a series unless it has a 100 episodes. This Spenser had to find and when the series was released on DVD,it was a short run in the stores. Used copies of the three seasons run over 50.00 on various websites. And finding it the wild? Not happening either….
But once again,Warner Brothers Archives has heard us Spenser fans and has re-released the series on DVD-Request. Basically,you go to the WB Shop,order a season for a fair price and they make it on demand strictly for you. Just how damn cool is THAT??
Warner Brothers was kind enough (they couldn’t stand to see a grown cheetah cry) to send us Spenser: For Hire’s first season to take a peek at. This was the first time I had seen a episode since maybe 1991-2,a very long time and I was so happy to go back to watch Boston’s best P.I.,Spenser.
The premise of the show is Spenser,who used to be a cop,is now a licensed private investigator. He takes on a wide variety of cases,from the Combat Zone to Chestnut Hill.
He is in a relationship with guidance counselor Susan Silverman (Barbara Stock),his police contacts are Lt. Martin Quirk (Richard Jaeckel) and Sgt. Frank Belson (Ron McLarty). While Hawk (Avery Brooks) is in every episode,his early relationship with Spenser is exactly a warm and fuzzy one.
Hawk is one of the best “fixers” on the East Coast and in the pilot episode,”Promised Land” when Spenser and Hawk are on the different sides of a case of a home developer and one of Boston’s most ruthless mobsters,King Powers,Hawk finds out how loyal Spenser can be when he tips him off to a huge bust,allowing Hawk to escape. Hawk later returns the favor when Powers is going to have Spenser and Susan killed.
Its a great start to one of the best male relationships ever seen on a dramatic series.
Spenser has a firm code of ethics and honor and he works very hard to stay within them. This brings him into many conflicts with Boston’s most powerful Mob families.
This in turn leads him to hire Hawk to watch his back while Spenser works the case of the week.
The first season of Spenser: For Hire wasn’t afraid to tackle a lot of tough issues,issues that are still relevant today as they were 32 years ago….illegal immigration,addiction,abortion rights,child abuse all got the spotlight during the first season.
While Robert Parker didn’t write any of the episodes,he did have finally approval and I would think he would have been happy. While Spenser and Quirk had a strong friendship (Spenser would help save the Quirk’s marriage in “Internal Affairs”),Belson didn’t get along with either Spenser or Hawk for much of the first season. But as you can watch the character development take shape and by the end of “She Loves Me,She Loves Me Not”,Belson has started showing both Spenser and Hawk the respect they have earned in saving his life.
The relationship between Spenser and Susan may appear to be sticky sweet on the show but that is exactly how Parker wrote about them. They do love one another and while many women may flirt and even smooch on Spenser,his heart is ever true to Susan.
Parker loved words and he loved poetry,made Spenser (like Edmund Spenser) a student of the finer poets which he quotes often during each episode,the one thing missing from Urich’s near perfect portrayal was the lack of humor,in the books,Spenser is a wiseass but you never really see that here and while the causal viewer may not notice,the fans did.
Avery Brooks was a relative newcomer to TV when he won the role of Hawk. Brooks had mostly worked on the live stage and had only done 3 TV movies when he won the part.
If Spenser was the heart of the show,Hawk was the soul and quite frankly,he stole just about every scene he was in. His Hawk was the last person you would want to cross because you wouldn’t get another chance. This was best seen in “The Choice” when two rich thrill killers kill a man who was close to Hawk. Spenser works very hard to save the lives of the killers despite the fact they violate his home and even target Susan to be killed. He pleads with the father of one the killers to turn his daughter but when all fails,Spenser knows what is going to happen. When the killers ambush Spenser and think they have the upper hand,Hawk steps out of the shadows and kills them up close with a shotgun.
As always what makes these old shows so much fun to watch is the guest stars who appeared on “Spenser: For Hire”.
Chuck Connors made two guest appearances as King Powers. Patricia Clarkson was one of the two thrill killers in “The Choice”. William H. Macy plays a DA on the same episode.
Veteran character actor Mike Starr was a goon,Shirley Knight played Katie Quirk,Martin’s wife,John Davidson played a Joel Osteen type of preacher,Karen Carlson played his wife,Eriq LaSalle played a driver to a rich wife who has a secret,Jay O. Sanders plays a priest (I wish he would have been a recurring character). There a few more that you’ll have to discover for yourself….
The picture quality is perfect in this DVD-R release. This being a DVD-R release,there are no special features. The first season consists of 22 episodes including a 90 pilot episode.
This was Robert Urich’s best show that he had in his career and helped propel Avery Brooks into the long running Star Trek: Deep Space 9 as Captain Benjamin Sisko.
The cheetah and I both gave this two thumbs and 4 paws and a tail straight up.
When I told the cheetah Spenser was a dog lover,he lowered the tail and a paw.
Still,this is worth seeing and we highly recommend it!!
You can buy “Spenser: Season One” at the WB shop website.