Sony // 1975 // 1080 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // October 25th, 2006
"I love you and I understand what you're going through. I love your caring, but man, I just think it's a bum rap to wash your life down the drain on a guilt trip."
Hutch to Starsky: "Blindfold"
In the early sixties, big city detectives all looked like Jack Webb. They had suits and ties and crew cuts. Police officers were seen as outsiders, finks, straight white guys who couldn't understand what it was like to live and die in the inner city. As crime rates soared and police recruitment dropped off, law enforcement officials knew it was time for a change. In the early seventies they went to something known as Community Oriented Policing or COP for short. (How many of you knew that COP was an acronym?) The idea was to become one with the community. Get to know the residents. Harness the power of the people to prevent crime before it happened. To be effective, COPs had to blend in to the community, which meant getting out of the suits and into jeans. Growing out that crew cut and speaking in street slang. And in 1973, audiences were introduced to the concept of the deep undercover cop with movies such as Serpico and real-life based TV series, Toma.
A cop with long hair? A cop in a cool car? A cop who actually made friends with the drug addicts and prostitutes and the homeless in order to keep the peace? It was a heck of a concept, and from this sociological change Starsky & Hutch was born.
Detectives David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser, director of The Running Man) and Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul, Salem's Lot) were partners, working the mean streets of Bay City (which looks remarkably like Los Angeles). Their boss, Captain Dobey (Bernie Hamilton), made Lou Grant look like a Teletubby and their chief snitch on the street Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas) added color and soul to the mix.
Starsky & Hutch kept a low profile by tooling about in a bright red Gran Torino with a thick white stripe on the side and a jacked up rear end. Truthfully, they should have named the series Starsky, Hutch & The Torino because the car is as much a character as the other two.
On this box set you get:
Better than it sounds as a serial killer goes after the women who snub him on the dance floor. Adrian Zmed (T.J. Hooker) guests.
* "The Game"
Starsky and Hutch play a game of real life hide-in-seek, which begins as a bet and ends up as a race to save Hutch's life. Interesting premise.
Starsky shoots an innocent bystander while attempting to capture a fleeing bank robber. The girl is blinded and Starsky has a major case of the guilts. Moody with a nice twist at the end.
* "Photo Finish"
A photographer friend holds out on the boys and tries to sell her photograph of a murderer to the highest bidder -- which could be the murderer himself. Average.
Our city cops are tracking moonshiners. Oh please.
* "Strange Justice"
Strong story of a senior police officer plotting revenge against the man who raped his daughter. Everything's not so black and white in this one and that makes it an exceptional episode.
* "The Avenger"
Fun twist on a stalker story, unusual camera work makes this one quite a thriller in the end.
Oh please, yet again. Our boys go undercover in a salon in this silly bit of fluff.
* "Black and Blue"
To make up for the last episode, there's this gritty episode about the dead end life of black inner-city kids. There's a hard edge and some very poignant moments and even though it's obvious Starsky and his new black partner are sleeping together they're not allowed to kiss on screen. An all around very intriguing episode.
* "The Groupie"
Another episode that hangs its hat on silly undercover assignments. Our guys are so much better than this.
Unusual episode in which an old girlfriend of Hutch's tries to cancel the contract she had put out on herself.
* "Starsky's Brother"
Meet Nick. He's Starsky's baby brother and he's also a bagman for the mob. Nice episode.
* "Golden Angel"
They have to keep the balance I suppose, good episode, bad episode. This is another bad one with Starsky going undercover as a wrestler.
* "Ballad for a Blue Lady"
Moody piece about Hutch falling for a mob connected blues singer. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser.
* "Birds of a Feather"
A veteran cop risks everything when he gives up a mob witness in order to pay off his wife's gambling debt. An unusual look at gambling addictions in middle class women.
* "Ninety Pounds of Trouble"
Mare Winningham (ER) steals this episode as a teen who has deluded herself into thinking Starsky is her boyfriend while Hutch goes undercover as a hit man.
* "Huggy Can't Go Back"
Huggy's caught between a rock and a hard place, another attempt to feature Antonio Fargas.
* "Targets Without a Badge"
This three-part episode comes as the show nears a close. The boys are forced to reveal a source to the court and as a result the snitch (a friend of Huggy's) is killed. Disgusted with the justice system they quit the force but that doesn't mean they're off the case or out of trouble.
* "Starsky v. Hutch"
The boys are torn apart when they go after the same women instead of the crook they should be chasing.
* "Sweet Revenge"
In the series ender, Starsky is gunned down by a hit man and Hutch goes out for revenge. Knowing this was the series final episode, writers considered letting Starsky die. Did they or didn't they? I'll never tell.
When a cop show is named for the two lead characters, you know right away where the emphasis will lie. In the case of Starsky & Hutch (and how great is that title?) the characters are the show. I swear they could have been doctors or lawyers or high school students, it wouldn't have mattered because we watch just to see these two guys interact -- and boy do they interact. In case you're new to the planet, I should explain that there has been a great deal of talk about the homoerotic subtext of the show. Okay, text, not just subtext. The new movie makes a running joke out of that single thread and there is even a fan convention called ShareCon which is devoted exclusively to "slashing" the boys. Come on, people, it's handed to you on a plate in the opening credits. Paul Cullum of the Museum of Broadcast Communications said it better than I ever could.
"The entire sequence takes exactly one minute, with no single image longer than five seconds. And each scene is entirely explained away in context. Yet in the space of 60 seconds, these two gentlemen are depicted in at least four cases of literal or figurative transvestism, four cases of masculine hyperbole (encompassing at least two of the Village People), several prominent homosexual cliches (hairdresser, Carnival bacchanalian), a send-up of one of filmdom's most famous all-male couples, a wealth of Freudian imagery (including the pointed metaphor of fruit), two full-body embraces, two freeze-frames defining them in both homoerotic deed and dress, and one clear-cut instance where the oral stimulation of a man prevails over the visual stimulation of a woman. This would seem to indicate a preoccupation on the part of someone with something."
But there's no denying that these homeosexual overtones are the main reason that women watch and love the show. These guys touch. They hug. They cuddle and they flirt . . with each other. . yes. You could take all of this as proof of their sexual preference, but I say it proves sexual security. These guys are man enough to cry on each other's shoulders and still sleep with a woman when they're done.
Oh yes, and they fight crime, too. But who cares, really? I mean, that's not why most people watch the show. Having said that, I will admit that the series does cover some very meaty ground. It's not afraid of getting its hands dirty or riding a morally ambiguous line. Sure there's disco music playing and plenty of polyester suits. But that's the era it was created in and there's nothing to be done about that.
Like all of the seasons before this one, there are hits and misses in the episodes. Even the hits don't have the shine of the earlier episodes. A reported back injury has David Soul looking quite stiff and puffy through much of the season and Glaser just doesn't have the puppy dog enthusiasm he had in Season One. To top it off, the show that had made it's place with stories about violence, drug addiction, prostitution and the plight of the inner city poor, was now up against The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Mork and Mindy and Happy Days. By 1978, Starsky & Hutch was one of only a handful of cop shows left on TV and the only one with any real grit to it. Detective shows such as Quincy M.E. and Rockford Files were developed with a softer, almost comedic bent to them. This steerage away from gritty cop shows combined with both Soul and Glaser's desire to get out made this fourth season Starsky & Hutch's last. It was the end of an era in more ways than one, but it was time to let go.
It seems that Sony has diligently worked at making each box set in this series a little less than the one before. Never mind that it took a full year and then some to release this last set (in relation to the release of Season Three) but it's woefully stripped down. My low score on this set is mostly a reflection of the fact that there are no extras. Early sets had a Spanish track, this one doesn't and even the animated navigation screen is gone in favor of a first-year Photoshop still shot. Frankly, it's sad to see our boys go out this way, with a whimper instead of a bang.
For such a short-lived show (four seasons is not long in my book), Starsky & Hutch left an indelible mark in the pop culture world. The custom Torino has became a recognized icon that is collected and worshiped in miniature and full-size. The close relationship between the two characters has become the bar by which other cop duos are measured and then there is the feature film -- an homage to all that made the show stand out in our minds.
The fandom for the show has never waned. The two series stars have gone on to other endeavors, Soul to a successful career on the London stage, while Glaser went behind the camera as producer and director. Both actors suffered terribly in their personal lives, Glaser particularly when he lost both his wife and daughter to AIDS. And even though there was a time when the two actors distanced themselves from their former characters, the fans remained true. They wrote fan fiction and created websites and held conventions all because something in this show touched them so much they didn't want to let go.
I can tell you what it is. Starsky & Hutch had what we all want -- a friend who sticks by you in the bad times and the good. A friend who will make you laugh when you need it and let you cry on his shoulder when it all becomes too much. Friends to the end. We should all be so lucky in life as to have a Starsky to our Hutch.
This court is dismissing all charges against Starsky & Hutch -- The Complete Fourth Season so these guys can get back out on the street where they belong.
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1080 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Starsky Torino Fan Site
* Starsky and Hutch Online Fan Site
* Museum of Broadcast Communications
* Sony Pictures Official Site
* Paul Michael Glaser's Official Site
* David Soul's Official Site