Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Modern Classic: Hunter (1984)

Some things take time to develop. That's been a truism of television since day one.

Hunter falls into this category. Stephen J. Cannell sold the pilot to NBC in 1984, and in its initial run lasted 7 seasons. After a trio of TV-movies brought the cast back together between 1995-2002, Hunter would get a brief revival in 2003.

Former NFL star Fred Dryer, who'd cut his acting chops in a recurring role on the sitcom, Cheers, was cast in the title role as Rick Hunter, a sergeant, later lieutenant, with the LAPD. We were told during season 1 that Hunter was the son of a mobster (somehow I missed that when watching episodes on a sporadic basis), but opted to become a cop. Characterized as a small screen version of Clint Eastwood's legendary "Dirty Harry", Hunter did everything within and above the law to catch his man. His sexy partner, Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) had her hands full keeping Hunter in line.

For a time, Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris joined the show as informant Sporty James, but left the show after a couple of seasons. Kramer left after the sixth season to pursue a musical career and other acting opportunities. McCall's departure was explained away by her getting married (2nd marriage) and moving away. Network suits wanted Hunter & McCall to become a couple, thanks to a plot twist in season 6, but it went nowhere.

After the 1st season, Cannell brought in his mentor, Roy Huggins, who'd gone to Columbia to work on the failed TV version of Blue Thunder, to serve as executive producer. The ratings went up, but when Dryer was promoted to executive producer in season 6, that might've been the jump the shark moment.

Hulu brings us the pilot:

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

My Da and I used to enjoy watching this show.

Dryer and Kramer were a good pairing and you're correct in describing Hunter as a Dirty Harry for TV. That sums his character in a nutshell.

I had heard rumors that Dreyer was difficult to work with, and was a contributing factor in Kramer's decision to leave. The show didn't seem the same after that so I tuned out.

There was a classic scene in which McCall is surprised by Hunter while she is in the bathtub (as shown in the opening credits). When McCall asks Hunter for a towel so she can get out of the tub, Hunter fetches a washcloth and hands it to her! I thought it was cute - although I'm sure feminists would get in a lather over it now.

hobbyfan said...

Oh, indeed they would. That shizzle wouldn't fly now.

Hunter and the appearances on Cheers gave Dryer a 2nd career, but he hasn't done a thing since the Hunter revival ended.