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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Greatest '70s Cop Shows (2003)

Hutch: Well don't stand there with your mouth open. Cuff him.
Starsky: Oh.

- David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: July 02, 2003

Stars: David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Angie Dickinson, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Jaclyn Smith, David Doyle, Robert Urich, Antonio Fargas
Other Stars: John Forsythe, Steve Forrest, Bernie Hamilton, Earl Holliman, Michael Ontkean, Georg Stanford Brown, Sam Melville, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Rod Perry, Mark Shera, James Coleman, Charles Dierkop, Ed Bernard
Director: various

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence, mild language
Run Time: 04hr:12m:00s
Release Date: May 06, 2003
UPC: 043396003538
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB C

DVD Review

With a few notable exceptions like NYPD Blue, do today's cop shows leave you cold as blue steel? Tired of moody cinematography and humorless dialogue? Nostalgic for the days of feathered hairdos, bad polyester and Huggy Bear? Well, your time machine is as close a 5-inch DVD. So come with me, my fellow cult television junkies, as we explore Columbia Tristar's Greatest '70s Cop Shows, a dandy release gathering debut episodes from five popular series that dominated the ratings way back when: Charlie's Angels, S.W.A.T., The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch and Police Woman

As the 1970s dawned, your typical police show had grown as stale as Efrem Zimbalist Jr's hair style; even those with cool leads, like Mike Connor's Mannix, were starting to look dated. Meanwhile, the big screen was playing host to grittier, more in-your-face fare such as Dirty Harry, The French Connection and Serpico. So, television ripped a few pages out of their cinematic cousin's playbook to create reasonably credible facsimiles that appealed to the all-important youth demographic. Although lacking in realism at times (thanks to the Standards and Practices folks), on pure escapism and entertainment levels, the programs represented on these discs couldn't be beat.

Starsky and Hutch:

Episode: Savage Sunday

Two criminals make off with a car from a coffee shop parking lot not knowing that fifty sticks of dynamite are resting inside the trunk. Undercover cops Dave Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Ken Hutchinson (David Soul) hit the streets in their trusty red and white Ford Tarino (the coolest looking crime fighting auto this side of the Batmobile) in order to nab the crooks before the timing device goes off at rush hour's peak. Although far from the best episode of the series, the perfect chemistry between Soul and Glaser still resonates with fun after all these years. As far as support, was there an informant cooler than Antonio Fargas's Huggy Bear or a more lovably gruff superior than Captain Dobey (Bernie Hamilton)? Keep your eyes peeled for a gorgeous pre-Three's Company Suzanne Somers as a chatty go-go dancer and tv veterans Hope Summers/Arthur Peterson (from The Andy Griffith Show and Soap, respectively) as unlikely suspects.

The Rookies

Episode: Concrete Valley, Neon Sky

Young rookie cop Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown) uncomfortably returns to his old stomping grounds to help thwart off a potentially deadly battle between rival street gangs before it becomes a police matter. Unfortunately, his over-eager partner Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean) wants to make a good impression on Lt. Ryker (Gerald S. O'Loughlin) and attempts an unsuccessful intervention that draws Webster back into the conflict. Somehow I remember Rookies being a much better program than this strained opening outing indicates; it certainly doesn't help that most of the gang members look like upper class family men or male models (Harvey Lembeck of the Beach Party movies had more credibility). On the plus side, it's cute to see Kate Jackson in her pre-Charlie's Angels phase, complete with hippie-chick hairdo as the wife of Officer Danko (Sam Melville), as well as Brown and Ontkean at the beginning of their careers. Finally, dig the Papa Was a Rolling Stone/Smiling Faces Sometimes hybrid of an opening theme courtesy of Elmer Bernstein (who knew the Elmster could be so funky?)

S.W.A.T.

Episode: The Killing Ground

On morning patrol, officers Rob Duran and James Street (Robert Urich) are caught in the middle of a deadly ambush. Although the latter escapes to safety, Duran is not as fortunate, dying on the operating table a short time later. In memory of his fallen comrade, Street asks Lt. 'Hondo' Harrelson (Steve Forrest) for a chance to join the newly formed S.W.A.T. team setting up shop in his territory. With the two murderous brothers on a cop-killing rampage still at large, time is of the essence to put the team together before another officer is shot down in the line of duty. During its original run, my little brother adored S.W.A.T....naturally, I had to hate it (save for that exhilarating theme song courtesy of Rhythm Heritage). However, I think my younger sibling may have been on to something. But for the dated fashions and surroundings, it's a well-oiled combination of drama and action that holds up (which is probably why Hollywood recruited the concept for a feature film version due in Summer 2003). Although Steve Forrest's slightly overbearing Hondo is just shy of Frank Dreblin's Naked Gun territory (at least in this initial outing), the rest of the cast is terrific, especially the wonderfully talented—and sorely missed—Robert Urich. Geoffrey Lewis (one of Clint Eastwood's frequent co-stars) is creepy as the mastermind behind the killing spree, and Smallville fans will recognize a very young Annette O'Toole as the wife of one of Lewis' accomplices.

Police Woman:

Episode: The End Game

Sgt. Pepper Anderson (Angie Dickinson) and Detective Joe Styles (Ed Bernard) are in the midst of undercover duty when they're called in as backup support for a bank robbery in progress nearby. Arriving in a hail of gunfire, Pepper rushes to the side of a downed officer who dies in her arms. Unnerved in the aftermath, it's up to Lt. Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman) to encourage her to continue fighting the good fight. After another robbery follows, Pepper and company take on the roles of bank employees at a competing branch likely to be the next target of the highly efficient, multi-member holdup team. Although not held in as high esteem as the other series represented on the disc, Police Woman is perhaps the most realistic of the bunch thanks to producer David Gerber, the creative genius behind some of the best crime shows on television at the time, including The Blue Knight and Police Story, the latter of which spawned this spin-off. Dickinson had one of her best showcases as the tough, sexy yet sensitive Pepper in a role that won the actress three consecutive Emmy® nominations, and helped pave the way for future female crime fighters ranging from Charlie's Angels to Cagney and Lacey. Top notch support from Holliman, Dierkop and Bernard made this a highly entertaining hour of television week in and week out; if sales of season sets of S.W.A.T. and Angels meet Columbia Tristar's expectations, I'd love to see this series be given similar treatment.

Charlie's Angels:

Episode: Hellride

Following the suspicious death of a female stock car driver, mechanic Jerry Adams (John Dennis Johnson) is the prime suspect. Anxious to clear his name, it's off to the Townsend Detective Agency to request the services of a highly respected team of female private investigators who work for an unseen boss named Charlie. Swiftly going into undercover mode, Sabrina (Kate Jackson) takes the wheel as Adam's replacement driver, Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) does double duty gathering facts about the deceased while playing racetrack groupie, and Jill (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) teams with Charlie's right hand man, John Bosley (David Doyle), to pose as a father-daughter evangelical duo. Adorable or abominable depending upon whose side you're on, there's no denying the enduring appeal of the original "three little girls" that made television history. Yeah, the stories were ludicrous and silly with more emphasis on cheesecake than coherency, but nobody watched this show for Prime Suspect-type storytelling. On the other hand, I feel that critical barbs hurled toward the program's leads were extremely unjust; Jackson's all-business demeanor laced with sarcastic wit, Smith's sophisticated coolness and Fawcett's playful-as-a-pup flirt routine all compliment one another perfectly. And let's not forget the adorable David Doyle as the "so un-hip he's hip" sidekick, Bosley. Even when the costumers were having a bad week, the talented character actor could always be counted upon to deliver a smile-inducing quip or funny jab to salvage the day.

Although The Greatest '70s Cop Shows is great, nostalgic fun, it could have been even better had the compilers really did their homework and selected one truly classic episode from each of the series that represented the programs at their very best (or at least, at their kitschiest... like Angels in Chains, with its unforgettable sight of Charlie's heroines triumphing over a fast pursuing pickup truck by hurling potatoes in its path—ah, what memories). Choosing to go with premiere episodes is an interesting move, but even the best-produced opening installments find the most capable actors and writers still in search of the right tone for their characters. Still, for less picky viewers who want to gorge on the equivalent of a Whitman's Sampler of this era's cops 'n' robbers programming, this collection is, well, arresting.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Seeing that this dual-layered disc is maxed to capacity with content, it's surprisingly consistent, although there are nitpicks to be found. Starsky and Hutch and Police Woman fare the worst, with the latter suffering from some of the nastiest artifacting I've seen on a major studio release in quite some time. Interestingly, Starsky improves somewhat about 10 minutes into its run (not unlike the effect of Grandpa either pounding the top of the TV or fiddling with the antenna to make the signal better). Aside from occasional debris, The Rookies is of surprisingly good quality and the most film-like of the five; Angels and S.W.A.T. are nothing short of pristine (not surprising, as those outings were taken from the same spit-and-polish sources utilized for their respective boxed set collections).

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There's basic 2.0 monophonic audio for all shows with no real oomph, but good low end and adequate mid-range is in evidence throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Boys II, Columbia Tristar's TV Comedy Favorites
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. After The Show Cast Biographies
Extras Review: With nearly five hours of content, there's barely any room for extras, yet Columbia just manages to squeeze in shameless plugs for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and ('70s cop show in spirit) Bad Boys II. More fun for fans of the genre is the cleverly designed After the Show cast biography section that covers all the major stars of all series showcased. If there's a quibble to mention, it's the lamentable fact that all episodes have only two chapter stops: The opening sequences followed by the remainder of each show's content indexed as one long chapter. So your thumb and the remote's search button will get quite intimate while accessing "guilty pleasure" moments.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

The Greatest '70s Cop Shows takes a nostalgic trip back to the days when "Freeze!" became a national catch phrase, and blow-dried, over-conditioned hair were as important as reading a suspect their rights. Even with the inconsistent mastering flaws mentioned above, I still give this disc two hands up.

 


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