Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Sledge Hammer! -- Dirty Harry Ad Absurdum

David Rasche (center) flanked by Harrison Page and Anne-Marie Martin
Last week I talked about the inexplicably long-lived '80s-'90s series Hunter, which attempted to translate the sensibilities of the popular Dirty Harry movies to the small screen. That in turn got my neurons firing about Sledge Hammer!, an ABC skein that took the Harry/Hunter formula and spun it into a left field, comedic direction. While I'd argue this formula proved far more successful creatively, I think its brief lifespan proves that when it comes to trigger happy rogue cops, audiences prefer them without the satire, please. Here's the intro:

That's David Rasche as the title character, a tough guy who really loves his gun. Dreamed up by wunderkind comedy writer Alan Spencer in the '70s when he was just a teen, Sledge finally hit the screen in fall of '86, perfectly placed for maximum satirical effect in the midst of the gun-nuttery of the Reagan era. In addition to Rasche, it also starred Anne-Marie Martin as partner Dori Doreau, and Harrison Page as Hammer's long-suffering captain. The show was very much part of the same comedy continuum that included Police Squad! and eventually The Simpsons. Here's a clip that illustrates the style of humor:

In one of the oddest bits of corporate synergy I've ever heard of, Sledge Hammer! was produced by New World Productions, which at the time was also the owner of Marvel Comics. The result was this bizarre bit of pop culture flotsam. Weird.

While Sledge Hammer! was beloved by critics, its scheduling on Friday nights, opposite Dallas on CBS and Miami Vice on NBC meant there wasn't much audience left to find the off-kilter series. Nonetheless, by some miracle it managed a second season, which was good. However, ABC shifted it to Thursday nights, against NBC's Cosby Show juggernaut, which was less good. Thus, predictably, it was two and done for Sledge, with the show ending its run after a too-brief 41 episodes.

Hunter, meanwhile, kept going, and going, and...

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Getting in the Crib With Muppet Babies

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The First G.I. Joe Movie

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Highlander: The Animated Series -- Yep, This Exists

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