After nine hours of watching the Fatman, all Judge Daryl Loomis can think about is pie.
Meet two good reasons crime doesn't pay.
With an unshaven face, wrinkled clothes, and a relentless drive for justice, L.A. District Attorney J.L. McCabe (William Conrad, The Killers), known as "the Fatman," breaks murderers' spirits like chicken bones at the local buffet. Police investigator Jake Styles (Joe Penny, Riptide) uses his charm, good looks, and sports cars to get in with the baddies and trap them from the inside. Together with McCabe's bulldog Max, Jake and the Fatman strike fear in the hearts of perps across Los Angeles.
Facts of the Case
Jake and the Fatman: Season One, Volume One contains the first 11 episodes of the 1987-88 season over three discs.
• "Happy Days Are Here Again": After the mistress of a senatorial candidate threatens to expose their affair, she turns up dead. All eyes are on the politician, but it's up to Jake and the Fatman to figure out who's telling the truth and who's full of pork.
• "Fatal Attraction" (Series Pilot): An old friend of McCabe is murdered in his home. McCabe becomes suspicious when an old employee is fingered for the crime. The victim's estranged son is back in town and Stepmom, who also happens to be the deputy mayor, is really happy to see him. Has mama-bear been sharing a bed with baby-bear?
• "Laura": Jake's best friend and former partner is shot in the street while apprehending a perp after his bachelor party. This small-timer looks to be heading up the river but, when Jake finds out that his friend's fiancée is more than she said she was, he starts wondering whether she had something to do with it.
• "The Man that Got Away": A high-dollar defense attorney (Robert Culp, I Spy) must defend his ex-wife against charges that she shot her current boyfriend in cold blood. All signs point to the woman pulling the trigger, but McCabe suspects that she's being railroaded by her own lawyer.
• "Love for Sale": When a teenage call girl discovers that her pimp is secretly running drugs through her and the other girls, she comes to Jake and the Fatman for help. When she's mysteriously stabbed in the police office, they must infiltrate and break up this seedy prostitution ring.
• "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?": McCabe gets a call from a psycho claiming that he's killing bums to get back at the D.A. for some unknown slight. Investigating the case as serial killings, he discovers that this may be more of a family affair than a random series of murders.
• "Body and Soul": Jake's ex-girlfriend gets in deep during a sting operation to take down a money laundering cartel. When he finds out that she is selling her body to them for information, Jake goes in to try and save his old flame, but ruins the whole thing.
• "The Man I Love": A rich heiress, in a bout of depression, marries the first guy who comes along. While sailing on their honeymoon, he "slips" and knocks her off the boat. Thinking she's dead, he marries her nurse and cleans out her accounts. She's a strong swimmer, however, and shows up at McCabe's office to take down this golddigger.
• "Love Me or Leave Me": After vowing revenge on McCabe and the investigator who arrested him (Joe Regalbuto, Murphy Brown), a convict escapes and comes after them. When he is murdered in the investigator's home, McCabe wants to accept that he's dead and forget about it, but Styles suspects an inside job.
• "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes": A blind woman, just before having an operation that could restore her sight, is attacked again by the man who blinded her. When he dies in the attack, however, McCabe wonders if the woman can see more than she's letting on.
• "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas": When a man, wanted for delinquent alimony payments, turns up dead, an upstart assistant D.A. is pushed into her first murder investigation.
While it may often be formulaic and hokey, Jake and the Fatman is a surprisingly good show for its time. Every episode in this first half of the first season follows essentially the same formula, beginning with a courtroom scene to display McCabe's considerable talents interrogating crooks. Afterward, the episode gets into full swing and we witness the crime being committed, the investigation and, finally, the apprehension of the criminal. There aren't any surprises anywhere in this show, but it is very well acted and the writing in most episodes is better than average. Instead of trying to make the show a series of mysteries, we have a cat-and-mouse game between investigator and criminal, with the good guys inevitably coming out on top. The lack of attempt to conceal the perpetrators hinders much of the suspense, but it is almost always made up for in the quality writing and chemistry between the characters.
William Conrad is very good as the gruff but lovable Fatman. In a role that was loosely taken from one he played on an old episode of Matlock, he does a good job changing roles between hard-nosed tough guy and comic relief, with Joe Penny's Jake Styles playing against him on both sides equally well. Styles is a run of the mill James Bond-type hero, bedding the girl before stabbing her in the back, but he's a fun, charming character. They are a complete team as a duo, but are also very strong on their own. It is always a little scary when the producers include a dog (which happened entirely too much on '80s television) though, while Max the bulldog is prominently featured on the DVD cover, he does not play much of a role on the program. He is used to show McCabe's caring side, but thankfully is never in danger or involved in any of the investigations. There are very few notable guest stars, with Robert Culp the only real exception, and he is excellent as the corrupt prosecuting attorney in "The Man who Got Away," the best episode of the lot. The set ends on a low note, unfortunately, with a saccharine Christmas episode to send everyone home happy. It is the worst of the bunch, with an extremely dull investigation and far too much time spent on how much of a scrooge McCabe is. The ending, especially, makes me wish there was just one more episode to wash the taste out of my mouth.
In reality, though, there should be 11 more episodes to wash the taste out. Once again, the consumer is ripped off by a company, this time Paramount, releasing half of the first season to double their profits. At over $30 for these three discs, then again for the next set to complete the season, this is far too much money to pay. The show is good, but not $70 good. Those who are big fans of the series will shell out for it, however, and so some companies will never stop releasing television sets like this. Otherwise, the three discs of this set are fairly good. The only extras on the discs are episode promos that aired beforehand, but the show speaks for itself. The video transfers are decent, looking more or less as they originally aired. The colors are sometimes inconsistent, but there are very few transfer errors. The mono sound is good enough for what it is; the dialog and very poorly chosen music are easy to hear, but there's little that can be done from the single channel alone.
Jake and the Fatman is an enjoyable show, sexy and action-packed, with good characters and strong writing. It's too bad that buyers are forced to pay double what they should for the show and, at that price, I can't recommend the set to anyone but the most ardent fans of the show. Those who do see it, however, will not be disappointed by the content on these discs.
Jake and the Fatman is found not guilty and is free to continue their
unique investigations. Paramount, on the other hand, is guilty of ripping off
their customers. The court implores them and other companies to cease and desist
these split-season television sets.
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Scales of Justice
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