Monday, January 8, 2007

Starsky & Son? Sanford & Hutch?

Thanks to the miracle of DVD technology, I've spent a ton of time re-visiting old TV shows from the '70s, and a favorite of mine has been "Starsky & Hutch".  Over the course of this, I couldn't help but notice the connection between S&H and my all-time favorite sitcom, "Sanford & Son".  It's amazing how many people made at least one appearance on both S&S and S&H—practically everyone from S&S except Fred, Lamont and Bubba!

First off, Captain Dobey himself, Bernie Hamilton, played a cop on S&S (subbing for Smitty in one ep), and ironically, the late Richard Ward, who played Captain Dobey in the S&H pilot episode only, played Fred’s poker-playing buddy on S&S.  Captain Dobey’s wife was portrayed by Lynn Hamilton (no relation to Bernie), who was of course, Fred’s long-suffering girlfriend Donna Harris.  Aunt Esther (the late LaWanda Page) played a blind woman in an ill-advised attempt at an S&H spinoff featuring Huggy Bear and some hick white guy—“Huggy & Honky”, perhaps?  Esther’s TV husband Woodrow (Raymond Allen), had a recurring role as Hutch’s shifty mechanic, and Fred’s best friend Grady (the late Whitman Mayo) appeared on a latter-day S&H ep.  Huggy Bear himself, Antonio Fargas, played Grady's "lawyer/tailor" on S&S, and the late Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita, who played the politically-incorrect Ah Chew on S&S, did S&H also.  Even the late Stymie Beard (of "Little Rascals" fame) appeared on both shows, as did late actress Fritzi Burr (the “White Esther” who appeared on several S&S eps as various “ugly white women” for Fred to ridicule).  Other famous personalities who made appearances on both shows include actor Roscoe Lee Browne, “The NFL Today”’s Jayne Kennedy, and the late Scatman Crothers from “Chico & The Man".  Too bad Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson never appeared on S&H--I can see it now: "Freeze, Dummy!"

While I'm on the subject of "Starsky", a few observations: If these guys were undercover cops, then why'd they go on stakeouts in a car that stood out like a turd in a punchbowl?  Ironically, the red Torino was originally supposed to be a green Camaro, but the producers had already done a deal with Ford to provide all the vehicles for the show, thus a legend was born—every block around town had at least two red Gran Torinos with white stripes when I was in 7th grade!

I also find it amusing how they recycled the same rundown hotels/store fronts/theaters, etc. (in L.A., I assume) for location shots in multiple episodes, even though the characters and situations were different each time.  Example: In one episode, this old movie theater was a porno house, and about two episodes later, it was a ballet studio!  One particular episode I watched the other day almost made me cry, too.  Starsky drove by a gas station that had unleaded for 62 CENTS A GALLON!  Absolutely heartbreaking...

And, finally: Why is it every cop show (and movie, for that matter) features a stereotypical blustery, ball-busting commander like Capt. Dobey (or the guy in 48 Hrs. being another example) who constantly bitches at his people for failing to do the job?  Meantime, the guy is always some out-of-shape donut-eating hack who makes Homer Simpson look like Lance Armstrong—totally incapable of chasing down a criminal if his life depended on it.

Anyway, in spite its flaws, "Starsky & Hutch" is the quintessential '70s crime drama show.  I hear those "Police Woman" reruns are out on DVD now too.  Oh, goody!