A worldwide smash of seventies cool, gloss, and gun blazing action from the prolifically successful stable of Aaron Spelling, Starsky and Hutch was the epitome of the ratings winning, audience pleasing, mismatched buddy sub-genre of the cop show beloved by US television producers.
Initially inspired by a brief 1975 newspaper article in the New York Times by Aaron
Spelling's production partner, Leonard Goldberg, relating the story of two cops hand picked by the
residents to clean up their crime-ridden area, Goldberg went to writer William Blinn and charged
him with developing a series from the basic premise. Blinn set to work and fashioned an idea
tentatively titled: Nightwork. Due to the prohibitive cost of night shooting, the idea was
reworked and what emerged was the rating busting exploits of two young chalk and cheese
undercover cops working the particularly tough beat of the inner city area of LA.
After a prolonged and extensive talent search, the vitally important central roles were given to two young, relatively unknown actors. David Soul (born Solberg) was cast as the fair-haired, softly spoken, sensitive, well read, and yoga-loving Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Soul had come to the producer's notice due to his quietly menacing performance as a vigilante cop in Clint Eastwood's second big screen outing as Dirty Harry in Magnum Force), while the dark-haired, street-wise and junk food loving persona of Dave Starsky was given substance by Paul Michael Glaser, (who was also helped to the role via the big screen, as Topol's son-in-law in the musical Fiddler On The Roof). Rounding out the regular cast were Bernie Hamilton as Capt. Harold Dobey (played by Richard Ward in the pilot) the duo's long suffering boss, and as the hip, fly, terminally jive-talkin' full-time bar owner and part-time snitch, Huggy Bear, Antonio Fargas habitually stole the show almost by dint of his outrageous dress sense.
Another star of the show that became an instant hit with the viewers was the 1974, limited edition, white go-fast striped, blazing red Torino driven by Starsky and christened "The Striped Tomato". In this, the series boasted the coolest TV car since The Batmobile.
As the seasons rolled by and the show's body and
bullet count continued to mount, both the stars themselves as well as various pressure groups
voiced ever-stronger concerns about the level of violence on display. In the UK where the series
became an instant hit, police chief Kenneth Oxford complained that the example set by Starsky
and Hutch caused his own police officers to "drive like bloody maniacs." One episode, "The
Fix", a story about drugs, was refused broadcast by the BBC. In reaction to this, later stories
moved away from overt instances of violence to focus on more emotional, relationship slanted
issues. Robbed of the excitement and energy generated by the earlier non-stop action, the series
lost its way and the once high viewer interest was lost along with it.
Published on February 4th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus & Steve Hulse (2001) for Television Heaven.