"A gun is a dangerous weapon, and if used properly
can be a wonderful source of entertainment." - Inspector Sledge Hammer.
Creator Alan Spenser took that sentiment and ran with it when he created
the 1986 television comedy Sledge Hammer. Filled with
slapstick humor and a lot of over-the-top violence, this show is unlike
all the other situation comedies that have aired. It isn't set around
somebody's family, and it doesn't have a bunch of wise cracking kids. It is a
police show that also pokes satirical fun at Rambo, Dirty Harry,
and all of the violent cop movies that have been made. This is a
sitcom for people who hate sitcoms. Oh yeah, and it is funny; very,
Sledge Hammer (David Rasche) is a cop who is on suspension.
Always. His long suffering Captain (Harrison Page) would like to
fire him, but he can't since he gets the job done. On paper Hammer
looks exemplary, with a fantastic arrest record. It's just the way
he gets the job done that causes problems. Sledge doesn't have any
problem with using excessive force and violence, in fact he prefers it.
In one show he comes across a person on the side of a building who's going
to jump. Instead of trying to talk the man down, Sledge takes out
his gun and starts shooting at the guy, who quickly climbs back through
To try to take the edge off of the department's most violent cop, Hammer
is partnered with Officer Dori Doreau (Anne-Marie Martin) an attractive
yet competent officer who likes to do things by the book. Though
Hammer chaffs at her insistence that he not beat up a criminal in front
of city hall, for example, she's not above kicking some creep in the face
when the situation demands it.
"What could a killer's motive be to murder fifteen
Elvis impersonators?" -Dori Doreau
"Obviously to get in the Guinness book." -Sledge
One of the best episodes is "All Shook Up" which Alan Spenser wrote
as a tribute to his friend the late Andy Kaufman. There has been
a rash of murders in the city. Fifteen Elvis impersonators have been
killed. What's worse is that nobody can identify the bodies because
they all look alike. Sledge decides to go undercover to catch the
slime ball whose snuffing imitations of the King. First he goes to
"The Famous School of Elvis Impersonators" to get some training, then enters
an Elvis impersonator contest. This is a wildly funny show with only
one pitfall: Unfortunately they were not able to obtain the rights
to any of Elvis' songs.
The great thing about Sledge Hammer is that he is so over the top.
He overreacts in every situation. Why talk to somebody when you could
shoot, and why shoot a gun when you can fire a bazooka? This broad comedy
is both funny and aptly suited to parody the movies of the time.
Once you see Sledge Hammer, you'll never be able to watch a Clint
Eastwood movie the same way again.
"A gun can't solve the world's problems, but give
it a shot anyway." -Sledge Hammer
The one actor who really makes the show is David Rasche. He plays
Sledge as a straight character, similar to the way Leslie Nielsen played
his roles in Airplane and the Naked Gun movies. Rasche
doesn't play the character for laughs, which makes it that much funnier.
He's very serious, and even squints and sneers like Eastwood does in the
Dirty Harry movies. When the show was originally optioned
by HBO, they wanted to have a comedian like Dom DeLuise play the title
role. That would have ruined the show, since Sledge himself
isn't funny, it's the way he goes way too far in almost every situation.
Rasche realized this and was able make this show a gem.
"Between Miami and Dallas? What a terrible
place to be." -Sledge Hammer
If this show is so laugh out loud funny, why did it get cancelled, and
how come more people haven't heard of it? Well, it all has to do
with scheduling. During it's first season Sledge Hammer was
opposite both Dallas and Miami Vice, two incredibly popular
shows. It habitually rated 60 out of the 61 shows in prime time that
season. The creator was sure that the show would not be renewed,
so he decided to end the first season with a huge bang, and a cliffhanger.
As luck would have it, the network did renew it for another season, and
they even moved the show to another time. Right opposite The Cosby
Show, a juggernaut in the ratings at the time.
The last thing that I want to mention about this DVD is the laugh track.
Alan Spencer had it written into his contract that there would be no laugh
track on this show. The screen the pilot to a test audience both
with and without canned laughter. The laugh track version scored
much higher, and Alan had to compromise and let a laughter be added in
order to get the show on the air.
For this DVD set, Anchor Bay has removed the laugh track! The
show plays much better without it. It actually lets the viewers decide
what's funny instead of telling them. There are some clips of the
show as it originally aired included in the extras, and the version presented
on these DVDs is vastly superior. Since this is the way the creator
originally intended the show to be seen, I do not consider this to be a
alteration to the show.
This four disc set is presented in a sturdy book style case that opens
to four plastic pages that contain the DVDs. I like this style of
packaging. It is more compact than four regular sized cases, and
you don't need several feet of shelf space to lay the set up like the folded
up sets (Buffy, West Wing etc.)
The first disc opens with a short intro by Alan Spenser which sets the
tone for the show. A nice feature.
The stereo soundtrack sounds nice and clear. There wasn't
any noticeable hiss at ordinary listening levels and the dialog was easy
to discern. There are not any subtitles or close captioning for the
show though, which is a negative if you know someone who is hearing impaired.
The full frame video quality was pretty good over all. There was
some cross coloration, where an artificial rainbow effect is generated,
and there is aliasing. Fine parallel lines in the background such
as Venetian blinds tend to shimmer when the camera moves over them also.
Some of the background images looked just a little blurry, but this was
most probably a problem with the original tapes. These were rather
minor critiques, and the image was generally fine.
There are no chapter stops in the episodes. You can't skip over
the opening credits if you want, and it makes it harder to find a certain
scene you might want to locate.
This season set includes a good number of extras. First off there
are commentary tracks on four episodes, including the pilot, by creator
and executive producer Alan Spencer. These were pretty interesting
with a lot of background on the actors and analysis of the scenes.
He talks about what scenes wouldn't be allowed to air in post 9/11 America
too. One of the things that I liked about the commentaries was that Alan
threw out a lot of dry jokes over the course of the episodes. He
doesn't give a wild-and-wacky joke-a-minute stand up routine, but he includes
a lot of jokes that are delivered in the same tone as the rest of the commentaries.
This makes the track even more amusing since you never know when Alan is
in the middle of joke.
The biggest extra is a 32 minute featurette: Sledge Hammer: Go Ahead,
Make Me Laugh. This is a great look at the show. There
are current interviews with the cast as well as creator Alan Spencer.
They discuss how the show every got on the air, and how the various actors
were cast in their rolls. The cast reminisces about the show and
tells interesting anecdote about the filming. This is a great look
at this funny show.
Original pilot that was delivered to the network is included on the
fourth DVD. This is about ten minutes longer than the pilot that
did air and contains several differences. There is a different theme
song, and some scenes are extended a bit.
The six minute electronic press kit from 1986, that was sent out to
the TV critics of the nation
There are five TV commercials advertizing the show. All of these
are original spots, not just a series of clips with a voice over.
Most of them are pretty funny too.
After Sledge Hammer's pilot aired to critical acclaim, Alan Spencer
sent a plea to the nation's TV critics begging for viewership. The
two minute audio tape is reproduced on this set.
If you have a DVD-ROM drive on your computer, there are also the entire
scripts for both the ABC pilot and the pilot for HBO. Both are in
Lastly, there is a gallery of stills, production photos and memorabilia,
and the TV bumper from when the show aired.
Included inside the packaging is a miniature report file on Sledge from
Internal Affairs. This 16 page dossier has promotional ads and photos,
trivia, jokes about the show, and profiles on the actors. This was
a really cool extra, and I'm glad Anchor Bay went to the expense to include
Cult shows often don't age that well. Something that was edgy
and creative 20 years ago often look hackneyed and trite when viewed today.
Parodies fare exceptionally poorly, so I was expecting Sledge to
fall into this category. Surprisingly, it doesn't. This show
is still as funny as when it originally aired. The true test of any
comedy is how much you laugh, and I found myself cackling at this show.
The unapologetic over-the-top attitude that this show has still entertains
today. The set is packed with extras, and has good sound and video
quality. Just what you want in a season set. Highly Recommended.