Friday, November 19, 2004

DVD: The Greatest ‘70s Cop Shows

Kim Morgan reviewed this disc of pilot episodes at her blog Sunset Gun. I knew I had to see it for myself. If I echo a lot of her thoughts, well, too bad. There’s only so much that can be said about processed cheese.

S.W.A.T. – The Catholic Church condemned this series for its violence, so my parents declared it off limits. It put me at a disadvantage when my friends and I would play S.W.A.T. in the alley behind the Morton house. “I wanna be Hondo!” “I call Street!” “I’m T.J. McCabe!” They’d look at me with pity and say, “You can be Luca.” Luca’s the Serpico knockoff whose jokes fall flat. I can see why they’d stick me with him.

The pilot is all set-up, complete with training montage. Geoffrey Lewis is great as a hillbilly cop killer with a cloudy motive who dances a jig over his victims’ bodies. We don’t see him do this. We just hear Steve Forrest say it through his permanently clenched jaw. Which is somehow worse.

THE ROOKIES – This thing ran for four years? I don’t know if that means people took too many drugs in the ‘70s or nowhere near enough.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS – The dullest episode of the bunch. Way too much plot. I didn’t watch during the Farrah years. (It took me a while to wear down my parents’ resistance to jiggle TV, which the church wasn’t too fond of either.) She’s no Cheryl Ladd. But I was always a Sabrina man.

STARSKY & HUTCH – A slo-mo SPEED about a bomb in a stolen car. The chemistry between Glaser & Soul makes it bearable, and Suzanne Somers turns up as a go-go dancer.

POLICE WOMAN – Easily the class of the lot. This episode, about an SLA-style gang of bank robbers, still packs a wallop. The cop banter is funny, and there’s some semblance of actual police work. Pepper Anderson is a real character, nipping from a bottle stashed in the office when the violence gets to be too much. Angie Dickinson was always underrated as an actress. She’s one of those smart, earthy women like Janet Leigh that Hollywood didn’t know what to do with.

Oddity alert: both THE ROOKIES and STARSKY & HUTCH include cop-on-punk basketball games scored to “Sweet Georgia Brown.” You see, kids, the Harlem Globetrotters used to be popular. And standards were lax at the ol’ Aaron Spelling factory.

Three of these shows have been turned into movies, none of them winners. It’s worth noting that the only one to play the material straight (S.W.A.T.) is the worst of them. While POLICE WOMAN goes begging for big-screen treatment.

But for the love of God, Hollywood, stay away from THE ROOKIES.