Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Hunter -- The Poor Man's Dirty Harry

In proof positive of the truism that mediocrity tends to flourish on television, Hunter is a run-of-the-mill cop show that enjoyed an inexplicable seven season run on NBC. Created by Frank Lupo and produced by Stephen J. Cannell, it was pretty clearly meant to trade on the "cop who plays by his own rules" model popularized by Clint Eastwood vis-a-vis the then-ongoing Dirty Harry series (the third Harry flick, Sudden Impact, had just hit theaters in December of '83, mere months before Hunter debuted). Here's the intro for the first season (with theme by Mike Post):


The show starred ex-NFL player Fred Dryer as tough-as-nails police sergeant Rick Hunter, and Stepfanie Kramer as his tough-as-nails partner Dee Dee McCall. Though it was set in Los Angeles instead of Harry Callahan's San Francisco, and the producers swore up and down that any similarities were completely coincidental, the Dirty Harry influence ("Well I'm all broken up about that man's rights" etc.) was just all over this thing. Of course, given the differences between what movies could get away with and what network TV could get away with, it came off more like Dusty Harry.

With a Friday timeslot competing against Dallas on CBS, ratings were slow at first, but NBC stuck with it at the urging of Cannell, giving the series a second season and, confirming Lorne Michaels' adage that the longer you're on, the longer you're on, five more after that. In total, Hunter lasted from 1984 to 1991, racking up 153 eps in total. What's crazy is how many people have fond memories of such a completely unexceptional show. I remember watching a lot of Hunter when I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, but I was hard-pressed to remember anything about it beyond the title.

When I went back and re-watched some episodes for this piece, I was blown away by just how bad it was. Every week, crimes would happen, and they'd solve them. That was it. By itself, that's not a bad thing, mind you, but between the painful overacting and the subpar writing, it blows my mind that it found enough of an audience to last as long as it did  Not only that, but Hunter actually had a couple of revivals over the years, including three TV movies (airing in 1995, 2002, and 2003), and a new weekly series that brought back the original stars. Here's the intro for that one:


The new Hunter weekly, which debuted in April of '03, lasted a whole three episodes on NBC before it was quickly yanked. Guess they should've called it Hunted.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Rides into the Sunset

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Beastmaster -- Walk With the Animals, Talk With the Animals

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Highlander: The Series -- Weekly Beheadings on a TV Budget

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