Gas up the Gran Torino! Judge Sandra Dozier goes on patrol with two of the most famous names in crime fighting.
Our reviews of Starsky And Hutch: The Complete First Season (published October 6th, 2004), Starsky And Hutch: The Complete Third Season (published March 16th, 2005), Starsky And Hutch: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 25th, 2006), and Starsky And Hutch (2004) (published July 20th, 2004) are also available.
In "Starsky's Lady," after receiving a favorite stuffed bear from a deceased friend:
Hutch (reading): "To you I entrust Olly and Dave. Please love them both. Don't let either one of them change."
Starsky & Hutch is solid entertainment and a show with heart. It's a good police drama that doesn't make things too heavy, has plenty of action, and always gets its man. The two title characters ("He's Starsky, I'm Hutch") carry much of the burden of making the show work, and the incredible chemistry between the two actors who portrayed them grabbed the attention of audiences from practically the first episode—it was hard to believe these guys hadn't been friends for years already.
Another hallmark of the show was the writing, which was a major factor in several strong episodes in Season One that helped draw in and retain an audience. Fans came to each show wanting to know how entertaining the story was, how human the drama was, and how Starsky and Hutch dealt with it. This is where Season Two derails a bit, with some surprising stinkers mixed in with otherwise excellent, compelling work.
Facts of the Case
David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul) are two buddy cops, and their beat is Bay City. With the help of the well-connected Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas) and gruff but caring Captain Dobey (Bernie Hamilton), they root out crime, defend the innocent, and punish the guilty. And they do it all in a bright red Gran Torino, dubbed "The Striped Tomato" for the bold white stripe down the side that any criminal with eyes can see a mile away. Suspend your disbelief on this point, and you'll be well on your way to enjoying a highly likable series.
Here are some of the more memorable of the 25 episodes from the Season Two, the good and the bad:
• "The Las Vegas Strangler," parts one and two
• "Murder at Sea," parts one and two
• "The Psychic"
• "Huggy Bear and the Turkey"
• "Starsky's Lady"
• "Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road"
• "Starsky & Hutch are Guilty"
Season Two is the first season of episodes written specifically for Starsky & Hutch. In Season One, all but one of the episodes were recycled and adapted from unfilmed cop dramas, which is why they have such an even tone, with few highs or lows. Other changes in the second season included a new, funky, '70s-flavored theme song that remains a fan favorite and is most readily identified with the show. Glaser and Soul also perfected the personas for their characters, polishing away any remaining rough edges from Season One and providing a strong template for the characters that resonated with viewers. The childlike, impulsive Starsky and the somewhat aloof, intellectual Hutch get several moments that play their idiosyncrasies to the hilt.
Although their characters continue to develop, however, the writing was increasingly bogged down by the trends of the time. The Love Boat show and Las Vegas themes were part of it, but the big change was when black/white racial tension found its way into everyday dialogue, including the oft-repeated refrain (from both black and white characters), "You all look alike to me," a wince-worthy statement that was meant to highlight the stereotypes and prejudices of the day. This is probably what dates the show the most for contemporary audiences, who might not be able to understand why some of the black characters on the show would agree to speak some of the lines they were given (one black character, an accomplished pilot and gun expert, suddenly blurts, "Guess I'm not the tap-dancing stereotype, huh?" for seemingly no reason), but at the time any chance to bring the issue of racism and stereotyped thinking to the forefront of America's mind was taken, wince or no.
In fact, a big reason for the show's success was the way it bucked cop-show as well as racial stereotypes. Starting with an African American captain (Dobey, portrayed with gruff affection by Hamilton) who was defined not by his race but by his competency and his loyalty to his men, the show took risks that other cop shows would not or could not. Starsky and Hutch were not hero cops who always defeated the bad guys and were rewarded for their bravery. They made mistakes, they took hits, they looked the other way in order to get information from Huggy Bear and others. They were human, in other words, with all the strength and vulnerability of humans. It made for good drama.
What counted with audiences was the relationship between Starsky and Hutch. Both Glaser and Soul acknowledge in the extras from the Season One box set that they were not just unusually close, but physically demonstrative in a way that fascinated audiences as much as it confused them. Many (especially women) responded to their secure masculinity and unabashed affection (which was never sloppy or needy), while critics questioned their sexuality. Fans loved them as much as they loved each other…in a manly, slap-on-the-back kind of way. Watching Starsky gently cradle the face of his broken, bleeding friend in "Survival" is a lump-in-the-throat moment for fans, who feel Starsky's relief and happiness at having found Hutch alive. Their relationship is really the cornerstone of the show's success.
The Season Two box set omits extras this time (other than original episode preview trailers) and packages 25 episodes on five discs in a fold-out case that features portraits of Starsky and Hutch, Huggy, and Dobey. The visual quality for Season Two is very good, with the exception of one episode, the two-part "Murder at Sea," which suffers from a slightly doubled image that makes it look blurred. This kicks in approximately halfway through the first part and lasts until the end. This looks to be a problem with the source material rather than a problem with transfer, and none of the other episodes are affected. Otherwise, episodes are very clear, free from any serious age-related wear, and present deep, rich color.
The mono soundtrack is similarly robust, with very little hiss or reverberation, even at higher volumes. On Disc One, episode previews round out the set. These are original TV spots and preserve the original narration by Paul Michael Glaser that was in style at the time.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite the unevenness of episodes in Season Two, this is still a strong show, and this box set is a must-have for fans. As mentioned before, there are some real gems in Season Two that can't be missed, and even when the writing or direction is in the toilet, it's always a joy to watch Soul and Glaser in action, so no show is truly unwatchable. Although I was hoping for more extras along the lines of the excellent featurettes for the Season One box set (even just a gallery or biography section), I can't complain about the quality of the transfer or the packaging, so I am content with this release.
Starsky & Hutch: The Complete Second Season gives you exciting chases, unbeatable buddy-cop crime fighting, streetwise intrigue, and sexy ladies in case you get bored with the other stuff. Watch it. Drool over the Gran Torino. Entertainment bang for your buck is high with this set.
After all these guys have been through, this court doesn't have the heart to press charges. But no more Love Boat episodes, please.
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Scales of Justice
• Original TV Promo Spots
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