Sunday, February 03, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Oh Brother, Simon & Simon

Rick & AJ Simon: Gerald McRaney (L), Jameson Parker (R)
I loved Simon & Simon when I was a kid. In hindsight, it was probably mostly because of the theme song, but the truth is the show wasn't that bad either. Part of CBS' bumper crop of "gimmick" private investigator skeins in the '80s, i.e. Magnum, PI and Murder, She Wrote -- both of which existed in the same "universe" as this (and as opposed to the net's current bumper crop of city-based procedurals), Simon & Simon was about a pair of mismatched siblings who worked together as San Diego private detectives. Aaaaand that's basically it. That was the show.

Vietnam vet Rick (Gerald McRaney, a few years away from Major Dad) was the anything-goes, cowboy hat-wearing, pickup truck-driving older brother, while younger sib AJ (Jameson Parker) was the buttoned down, studious-type. Gee, I wonder what kind of wacky misadventures were going to ensue when these total opposites had to team up! Yeah, pretty much the kind you'd imagine. When Simon & Simon premiered on the Eye in late November '81, it looked and sounded like this:


That's the instrumental version of "Best of Friends," by the Thrasher Brothers, FYI. I actually had no idea until the DVDs were released that there even was a different Simon & Simon theme separate from THE Simon & Simon theme. Anyway, although ratings weren't so great initially, CBS took a chance by renewing the series for a second year, which started off by crossing over with established hit Magnum, and also boasted the theme tune we all know and love composed by Barry Vorzon (who also did the catchy SWAT theme in the '70s):


From then on, there was no looking back. Simon & Simon ran an impressive eight seasons and 157 eps, ending its run in 1989. Again, when you consider the lack of depth in the premise, that's quite a feat. I chalk most of that up to the easy chemistry between stars Parker and McRaney. We liked these guys. We liked hanging out with them. We liked spending time on their adventures. It's really as simple as that, and it illustrates one of the ways TV serves as "comfort food" for people in a way that movies don't.
The Simon brothers reunited in 1995 for a TV movie, "In Trouble Again," which I haven't seen to this day, much to my eternal regret. At the time, I was acting in a high school play, so I wasn't able to watch it live, and I completely forgot to set my VCR's timer (I almost typed DVR there, and then I remembered what decade that was). I hoped I'd catch it when they re-ran it, but as far as I know they never, never did. Damn them. But hey, at least the whole series (minus the movie) is available for watching on Hulu.

Here's the opening promo for the reunion flick:


Interestingly enough, the show apparently retained enough cache with actors Jon Hamm and Adam Scott (and first-time director Paul Rudd) to prompt the trio to embark on an "ambitious" shot-for-shot remake of Simon & Simon's (second season and-on) opening title sequence, with Hamm as Rick and Scott as AJ. The results of their expansive efforts aired last fall on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, hosted by Jeff Probst and billed as "The Greatest Event in Television History." And indeed it was. Indeed it was. Observe:

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