Sidney Sheldon's Hart to Hart had a rather successful broadcast run between the years of 1979 and 1984, and it's pretty easy to see why: It starred a pair of charming and photogenic actors, it had a light-hearted and globe-trotting demeanor that kept the fans happy, and it had a painfully addicting little theme song. This small-screen Thin Man wannabe sure isn't high art, but as far as shows about a gorgeous, jet-setting, millionaire married couple who spend their days busting crime and thwarting nefarious schemes ... it had its moments.
Starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as a pair of beautiful, rich people you'd hate if they weren't so darn charming, Hart to Hart was high-concept TV programming of the highest order. Someone actually thought the idea of an ultra-wealthy husband & wife who jot all over the globe to fight crimes and solve mysteries would be really popular ... and they were right!
Featuring a lovable chauffeur sidekick named Max (played quite wonderfully by Lionel Stander), a cute little dog called Freeway, and enough exotic locales to keep the shut-ins entertained, Hart to Hart was hardly the benchmark for realism, but if shiny network escapism is what you're after, the show (oddly enough) still holds up pretty well today. (Except for the clothes, of course. And the slang. And the music and the cars. And the hairstyles.)
One week would see Jonathan and Jennifer delving into the mystery of the murdered debutant and the blackmailed congressman. Next week you'd get an assassination attempt in Puerto Vallarta or a kidnapping in Napa Valley. (One thing I never understood when I watched the show as a kid: If you're THAT rich, why wouldn't you just hire some mercenaries and detectives? Seems kinda pointless to get murdered and lose millions of dollars, just because of sheer busybodiness.)
The ladies loved the frequent kissy-facing between the two leads, the guys dug Stefanie Powers and the intermittent gunplay, and the kids were just grateful to be allowed to stay up late and watch some "grown-up" television. So I had a pretty good time walking down memory lane with Hart to Hart. It holds some nostalgia value for me because it was my grandmother's very favorite program, which means I got to see it a lot. Those who remember the enjoyably kitschy series with some fondness should be happy to sign up for a DVD revisit.
And be sure to count how many different ways in which the theme song is rejiggered and re-used throughout any given episode. It's a fun little side-game. Another one is the game of "name the face." Heck, in the first four episodes alone I caught sight of Roddy McDowall, James Noble, Jill St. John, Michael Lerner, Craig Wasson, Cesar Romero and Dee Wallace! You just never know who'll pop up, Love Boat-style, in Hart to Hart!
1. Hart to Hart (Pilot) -- When the authorities label Sam Roberts' death a suicide, the Harts believe otherwise and set out to determine the truth. (08/25/79)
2. Hit Jennifer Hart -- When Jonathan uncovers a scandal involving dockworkers, a hit man posing as a long-lost cousin is hired to kill Jennifer. (09/22/79)
3. Passport to Murder -- On a Mexican fishing trip, the Harts must save Max's old friend from extortion by drug traffickers. (09/29/72)
4. Jonathan Hart, Jr. -- A small time crook pressures a former girlfriend to claim their young son is actually Jonathan's child. (10/06/79)
5. Death in the Slow Lane -- After Jonathon buys an antique car for his wife's birthday, a mysterious couple goes to great lengths to get it for themselves. (10/13/79)
6. You Made Me Kill You -- A Hart Industries employee's infatuation with Jonathan endangers Jennifer's life. (10/23/79)
7. Murder Between Friends -- A prominent lawyer's murder casts suspicion on a disgruntled employee at his firm. (10/30/79)
8. Cop Out -- The Harts pursue a serial killer that preys on prostitutes, unaware that the killer is really a vice squad detective. (11/06/79)
9. Max in Love -- Max falls in love, unaware that his new girlfriend is part of a burglary ring that robbed the Hart mansion. (11/13/79)
10. A New Kind of High -- The mysterious death of a scientist at a Hart-owned chemical company risks exposing a pair of chemists who have created a powerful new hallucinogen. (11/27/79)
11. With This Gun, I Thee Wed -- A suspicious invitation to the wedding of Jonathan's former girlfriend exposes an extortion scheme aimed at gaining control of a large family fortune. (12/04/79)
12. The Man With the Jade Eyes -- The death of a local importer draws the Harts into a battle over a valuable Chinese artifact. (12/11/79)
13. Color Jennifer Dead -- An up-and-coming artist's premature death exposes a collector's scheme to increase the value of his own collection. (01/08/80)
14. A Question of Innocence -- Jonathan sets out to help a popular newsstand owner who's being blackmailed for a murder she didn't commit. (01/15/80)
15. Night Horrors -- The Harts' night in a haunted house turns into a deadly search for the previous owner's hidden treasures. (01/22/80)
16. Which Way, Freeway? -- The Harts' dog exposes an elaborate scheme to kill a reclusive jeweler and steal millions of dollars in gems. (01/29/80)
17. Downhill to Death -- Jennifer and Jonathan head for Vail to investigate a cheating husband's plans to murder his own wife. (02/05/80)
18. Raid -- Jonathan, Jennifer and Max head for South America to save a pair of Hart Industries scientists from a vengeful fugitive. (02/26/80)
19. Sixth Sense -- A young clairvoyant woman uncovers the murder of a twins sister she never knew. (03/11/80)
20. Does She or Doesn't She? -- Jennifer and Jonathan's investigation of a beauty salon shooting spree exposes a loanshark's scheme to blackmail a popular hairdresser. (03/18/80)
21. Cruise at Your Own Risk -- A series of thefts aboard a Hart-owned cruise line sends Jonathan and Jennifer on a cruise to find the thieves. (04/08/80)
22. Too Many Cooks Are Murder -- The murder of a famous French chef sets off a search for his valuable collection of recipes. (05/06/80)
23. Death Set -- Their friend's rocky marriage draws the Harts into a murder investigation. (05/13/80)
(Episode synopses come from the Sony DVD cases.)
Video: The episodes are presented in their original full frame format, and they actually look a whole lot cleaner than I expected! The two-parter pilot episode shows a little more wear & tear, but the overall picture quality is quite solid.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 in your (strange) choice of English and Portuguese. No English subtitles, but the Portugal folks get their subs.
Disc 1 - On the pilot episode you'll find an audio commentary with Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers and writer/director Tom Mankiewicz, which is suitably warm and friendly and bursting with compliments and anecdotes. Also included is a 22-minute featurette called The Hart of Season One, in which Sidney Sheldon, Leonard Goldberg, Tom Mankiewicz, Robert Wagner, and Stefanie Powers look back on the show with much fondness and storytelling.
Disc 1 also has a trio of previews for Bewitched: The TV Series, The Partridge Family, and "'80s Hits"
Hart to Hart is well-scrubbed, entirely glitzy, and completely unrealistic. An old-school piece of network TV escapism, it's fun for nostalgia value, but only the most ardent fans will come back to these episodes more than once or twice.