Mill Creek Entertainment // 1984 // 7215 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // August 9th, 2010
"Works for me."
One of the longest-running cop shows of the '80s, Hunter ran on NBC for seven seasons and earned a fairly devoted following. With this new collection, you can see the series in its entirety, and you'll realize why. Though Hunter is only adequate as an action show, it's in the characterizations that the show demonstrates just why it's still so beloved.
Det. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) is the most feared cop in LAPD's homicide division. A hardnosed tough guy who isn't afraid to bend the rules to get the job done, Hunter is constantly battling the more timid administrators and bureaucrats in the department. He meets his match, however, when he partners with Det. Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer), who is an even tougher and smarter cop than he is, in addition to being remarkably beautiful and feminine. Hunter is the black sheep of his predominantly criminal family and McCall is a woman struggling to find her way in the ultramacho world of police work; together they make a formidable team. This set compiles all 152 episodes on twenty-eight DVDs.
Judged purely as a cop show, Hunter isn't particularly great. The stories are fairly generic cop show plots, involving cheating spouses, organized crime, and gangs -- standard stuff. Hunter is always being chewed out by his superiors (they change from episode to episode) for being too much of a hothead -- in other words, he's a loose cannon who doesn't play by the rules, etc. The action scenes are decent but hardly noteworthy. Part of the Stephen J. Cannell family of shows, Hunter has the requisite action and suspense elements but isn't anywhere near as dense and gripping as Wiseguy or as agreeably lighthearted as The A-Team. Hunter himself isn't even a particularly groundbreaking character; at several points, Dryer's performance clearly apes Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, right down to the squinting and rasping.
So why did Hunter run for seven seasons and continue to be loved years later? The answer is simple: Dee Dee McCall. Her character is easily one of the best and most enduring in TV history. It would have been easy for the show's producers to make McCall a prissy by-the-book foil for Hunter. Instead, she's actually more Hunter than Hunter is. McCall isn't afraid to drive like a maniac, beat the crap out of perps, and use her formidable intellect to sniff out the truth. Seeing an unabashedly beautiful and feminine woman who's also strong, smart, and quick-witted is always a pleasure, but on a show that's supposedly built around the male tough-guy lead, it's especially enjoyable. Kramer deserves a large part of the credit. A gifted actress with impeccable comic timing and a forceful charisma, Kramer sells her lines convincingly -- she is McCall, and no one else could have pulled off the part. Her acting is so impressive that she benefits Dryer as well; in the scenes where McCall and Hunter banter and converse, Dryer lays off the Eastwood-isms and acts more natural.
Kramer, of course, would get one of her most significant storylines in the second season two-parter "Rape and Revenge." In those episodes, McCall is raped by a foreign diplomat who escapes back to his home country, and Hunter embarks on a plan to get revenge. The first episode is one of Kramer's best; she gets to show some real dramatic chops as McCall demonstrates her newfound vulnerability and self-doubt. The second is something of a disappointment, since it deteriorates into a generic action chase, but in its best moments it gives McCall some needed closure and even gives Dryer some of his better scenes with her. It's too bad that the effects of these episodes don't appear to last very long -- in the very next episode, no one mentions anything that happened here, even though the ending is fairly momentous. Still, while you'll enjoy the friendly interplay between McCall and Hunter, these two darker episodes demonstrate just why the two are such durable TV characters that are still popular years later.
Unfortunately, Kramer did not stay with the series for its entire run. After the sixth season, she left, supposedly to launch a singing career. She was replaced by Darlanne Fleugel (To Live and Die in L.A.) for the series' seventh season. As replacement officer Joanne Molenski, Fleuegel gives a good performance, but, sorry to say, her character just isn't as interesting as McCall and suffers by comparison. By that point Hunter was already past its prime to begin with, and without the chemistry between Dryer and Kramer, there was little reason to continue further. This season isn't terrible, but it's likely you won't want to watch it more than once, which is why it's no surprise that it was the series' last. Nonetheless, the McCall years are enjoyable enough that Hunter, despite its ignominious end, is worthy of respect.
At least, it's more worthy of respect than it's getting with this set. Mill Creek has crammed all twenty-eight discs into a typically cheap package of little paper envelopes in a plastic case that barely holds them. It's thoroughly inconvenient, especially if you don't remember which episode is which, since there are no episode descriptions anywhere. Still, the full-screen transfer and PCM stereo mix are both acceptable. They're not exactly dazzling, but they look about as good as a series from the '80s can look. Fans should note, however, that these are modified from their original versions because of music licensing issues. You won't get to hear many of the original songs that aired with each episode. Similarly, the episode "The Cradle Will Rock," in which McCall goes undercover as a singer in a nightclub, has been edited to remove various musical performances. Mill Creek has also provided no extras at all, so fans who collected the earlier Anchor Bay issues will have to hold on to them to keep the extras from those sets.
If you've never seen Hunter, you'd do better to preview a disc or two before deciding whether or not to buy this behemoth. McCall and Hunter are a great duo, and, sadly, there aren't more characters as exciting and complex as McCall on TV these days, so on that level you may enjoy it. It's still a pretty hefty collection, though, especially for a show that isn't particularly noteworthy apart from its stars. While hardcore fans will definitely spring for it without reservations, newcomers should start with a few episodes first.
Not guilty, but more McCall, please.
Review content copyright © 2010 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* Full Frame
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 7215 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated