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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hart to Hart: Complete Second Season
Hart to Hart: Complete Second Season
Sony Pictures // Unrated // September 19, 2006
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted September 18, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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This is my boss, Jonathan Hart, a self made millionaire. He's quite a guy. This is Mrs. H. She's gorgeous. She's one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them, which ain't easy. 'Cause when they met, it was murder.

Hart to Hart: Season Two is a silly, classy, splashy bit of fluff about a wealthy, married, crime-solving couple that audiences in the early 80's ate up, and it's not surprising to see why. From the beginning title sequence, which plays like a cool TV version of a Bondian opener, to the final fade-out (which usually has the Harts in bed, ready for....you know what I mean), each little episode has a certain panache to the proceedings that speak to the talent involved behind the series.

Created by trash novelist Sidney Sheldon, Hart to Hart: Season Two had all the ingredients of one his delirious, glamorous potboilers: murder, sex, money, mystery, humor, and romance. To ensure the necessary camp values, along with the latest technology in TV glitz, executive producers Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling (Charlie's Angels) were aboard to lend their populist-pleasing talents. Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz, responsible for several Bond scripts in the 70's, and son of famed filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz, also tried his hand at scripting and directing several episodes in this particular season. Promoted this season (from supervising story editor during the first season) to series Producer, Mart Crowley (The Boys in the Band playwright) keeps things light and sophisticated, with an emphasis on giving the audience an entertaining, vicarious peek at this modern Thin Man couple. And what a couple they are for TV (particularly seen against today's TV couples).

You really don't see Robert Wagner or Stefanie Powers types on TV today. Perhaps the definition of what is "fun" and "sophisticated" has changed radically since the Harts debuted (I've recently seen both of those labels applied to Desperate Housewives -- hmmm......no.). But they bring a real movie-star wattage chemistry to their scenes, and most importantly, you can tell they're having fun together. And why shouldn't they? They were both rich, confident, charming actors who weren't asked to be much more than that right here. This is total fantasy, with a multimillionaire head of a giant corporation, who never has to show up at the office, and a world famous journalist, who never writes a word. Both jet (in their own jet) around the country, getting into trouble -- and into bed -- without so much as an arched eyebrow cocked in our direction from dapper Robert Wagner. Stefanie Powers, who has numerous costume changes per episode, is the perfect kind of star for television; she's beautiful and well spoken, and yet low-key enough for us to welcome her into our homes, and feel comfortable about it.

And that, essentially, was the role of entertainment TV back during the Harts' run: comfort. Hart to Hart had a shaky start when it premiered in 1979, but when it moved from Saturday nights (the graveyard of network programming) to its permanent Tuesday night home on ABC, it fit in nicely with that network's night of fluffy, no-brainer entertainment (ending the season at 23rd, which, in those still halcyon days of network dominance, was still considered a sizable hit). The evening started off at 8 o'clock with family fun for both the kids and parents with Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. Then, when the little tykes were scooted off to bed, Mom and Dad (and maybe an older teen who snuck in occasionally) would enjoy the slightly naughty humor/slapstick of Three's Company and Ted Knight's Too Close for Comfort in the 9 o'clock hour (Come on -- you know your old man was checking out Suzanne Somers). And then, with everybody asleep and Mom and Dad getting ready for bed, they could ease into dreamland with a little classy Hart to Hart action at 10 (to counter the beer drinking rambunctiousness of that Milwaukee crowd at 8). Is it any wonder that the episodes usually begin and end with the Harts safely tucked into their own bed at home? That's probably where most of their audience was watching the show.

Sure, there were critics then who said the show was vapid and shallow, with inane mystery plots lifted from virtually every other mystery story known to man (the mysteries fall way short of Columbo, but are miles above a typical T. J. Hooker). But honestly, who cares? Some shows are designed to entertain -- period. Which Hart to Hart admirably does. Yes, it's campy and coincidental, but it's also done by professionals who know their job, and as any pro in the business will tell you -- chemistry and charm are the most elusive ingredients to get over to an audience. Heavy drama is, by comparison, easy.

Here are the episodes featured in Hart to Hart: Season Two. My personal favorite highlights follow in red:


Murder, Murder on the Wall
A bank robber's death unleashes a search for the five-million dollars he stole from his accomplices.
John Ryan (It's Alive!)! Sid Haig (tons of horror and exploitation films)! Don Gordon (the other cop in Bullitt that no one remembers because Steve McQueen was a huge star)! Bergdorf Goodman gift boxes. Tiffany & Co. gift boxes. A huge not-so mobile phone, tethered to the inside of the car. The most expensive wallpaper known to man. John Gavin (Psycho)! Tavern on the Green lunch of death. Dune buggy of death. Motorcycle of death.

What Murder?
After losing his memory in an accident, Jonathan recalls witnessing a murder.
Some Rear Window action. Moped of death. TV's most common aliment: amnesia. No big stars. Very little Max. Pool fight of death.

This Lady is Murder
A case of mistaken identity results in Jennifer being kidnapped and held for ransom.
Powers plays two roles! Star Wars joke. Jimmy Carter and peanuts joke. Runaway bicycle of death. Junk yard shoot out. Forklift of death. Wacky split-screen shot. Luke Askew (Easy Rider), Andy Robinson (Dirty Harry), and Richard Romanus (TV's Night Terror where he was that creepy guy who couldn't talk, who terrorized Valerie Harper on the highway): a maniac smorgasbord!

Murder is Man's Best Friend
Freeway's role in a commercial uncovers a plan to sell pets and their owners on a highly-addictive dog food.
Mad dog of death. Tofu is introduced to unsuspecting Americans. Francis Ford Coppola/Marlon Brando joke. Robert Denison as a funny commercial director. Wagner wears a scarf knotted like Freddy on Scooby Doo. He will continue to do so throughout the season. Dog food pate of death. Kenneth Mars and Martine Beswick=high camp. Best line: Does Fellini put up with this kind of abuse?


'Tis the Season to Be Murdered
The Harts go undercover at their toy company to expose a costly security leak.
Christmas with the Harts! Gucci, Cartier, Neiman Marcus and more places you and I will never have enough money to shop in. Drive-in of death. Mr. Carlson from The Bob Newhart Show! Toy snake of death. Toy plane attack of death. Shredding machine of death. Elaine Joyce. Wagner and Powers as Vern and Edna Swandumper. Obscure (to your parents when they were watching back in 1980) reference to New Wave music. Powers as hot elf with cleavage. Max quote: It's my karma; I vibrate in symphony with the universe. Good line: What do I get if I win? A false sense of pride.

Murder Wrap
Jennifer's resemblance to an ancient Egyptian princes threatens to have her entombed forever.
Egyptian mummy of death. Entombment of death. Max as Frankenstein. Sexy Fiona Lewis (Stunts). Best line: Like every good mummy, he's gonna live to take the rap.

Murder in Paradise
At a Hawaiian croquet tournament, Jonathan and Jennifer stumble into a nest of spies competing for a list of Russian agents.
Croquet game of death. Max hulas. Some minor Blow Up action. Dolph Sweet. Wisecrackin' parrot. Warehouse fire of death. Kung fu fight of death. Croquet mallet whomping to the head. Noel Harrison (Windmills of Your Mind). Terrible line: Since when does the CIA go around accosting women? I don't know whether to report you to your superior or your mother.

Ex-Wives Can Be Murder
Max's ex-wife makes and unexpected appearance that draws him and the Harts into a battle for a stolen necklace.
Dana Wynter reduced to a Hart to Hart episode. Should be best Max episode ever -- but it's not. Insurance investigator assault of death. Chick fight of death. Allyn Ann Mclerie as Pearl. Icky line: We were like fire and wind, Maxie. We burned fast and hot, and then one day, there wasn't anything left to burn. Thank god.


Murder is a Drag
Jonathan is mistaken for a hit man and is hired to carry out a contract killing of the District Attorney.
Jennifer counting in German. Jonathan on Gotterdamerung: It's hard to believe this turkey was ever a hit. Exploding car of death. George Wendt (Hi, Norm!) Wagner and Powers as Rhett and Scarlett. Funky disco costume party of death. Gay Batman and Robin joke. Max in drag, looking like the female Tasmanian Devil. Charlie Callas! Best line: Where'd you come from? I came out of the closet.

The Hart-Shaped Murders
The Harts discover that a Valentine's Day gift to some friends is being used to transport secrets by an international spy ring.
Valentine's Day, ladies! Valentine nougat of death. Jogging. Cult actor Dick Davlos, overacting and overeating, with a Mommy complex. Teeny tiny Nedra Volz as Mommy. Multimillionaire Jonathan Hart, not allowed to eat what he wants -- wife says, "No." Playground brouhaha. Best line: That's Mrs. Bittersweet's son. He's the chocolate maker. He looks like the chief taster to me.

Slow Boat to Murder
In order to protect an illegal card game, a Hart Industries employee is framed for murder.
Disco club of death. Yacht party of death. Thin Man clip. Sensational, gorgeous Joanna Cassidy, with low cut shirt, given absolutely nothing to do. Amy Madigan looking kind of glam, too. A Mount St. Helens joke. Powers dressed like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Wagner dressed like the gayest rough trade this side of West Hollywood. A wayward urban cowboy. Speed boat of death. Jet ski of death (the old kind from the 80's, with no seat). Upsetting line, when Wagner suggests a new kind of mixed drink to Powers: An Earthquake? Oh, that sounds stimulating. How do you make one of those? A dash of undulation, shake well, and uh.... The earth moves? Um.....I'll stick to Scotch, kids.

Murder in the Saddle
At their ranch, the Harts stumble upon a plan to make local ranchers believe their land is being contaminated by a chemical company's toxic waste.
The season's first poor person! Jane Withers! Max sings Willie Nelson. John Ireland! River of death. Rock slide of death. Love Canal joke. Three Mile Island joke. Stock footage from the old War of the Worlds. OPEC slam. Ghost town of death. Behorned Cadillac of death. Cute doggie and horsy trick (Jesus.). Paul Koslo as dummy psycho. Gene Evans (no face moisturizer in years).


Homemade Murder
Posing as Jonathan, a murderer takes refuge in the Hart mansion as he searches for incriminating evidence that could send him to prison for life.
Millie Perkins getting knifed in the back! Knife throwing albino Don Stroud in a blonde Doris Day wig. Wagner as a samurai. Vito Scotti making pizzas. Canadian Mountie without the cool uniform. Squeaky dog toy of death. Max as gay interior decorator. Pompeii Pizza: You'll Leave our Pies in Ruins! Powers in geisha garb. A Bo Derek 10 reference.

A Solid Gold Murder
The theft of a seemingly innocuous barbell leads Jonathan to a legendary gold thief.
Extremely obscure Hathaway Shirt Man joke that only your parents would have gotten in 1980. Cesare Danova (the Mayor in Animal House)! Barbell freaks. Disturbing MTV moment, complete with Macho Man music track behind greasy shots of Frank Zane. Goldfinger theme referenced. Sauna of death. Barbell of death.

Getting Away with Murder
The Harts and Max go undercover on a gambling cruise to expose a counterfeiting ring.
Hey, The Love Boat set! Unfortunately, no Love Boat cast members. Cruise ship of death. Ron Moody (Fagin in Oliver!)! Peter Haskell (lots of TV shows)! Power's bad Russian accent. A genuine hot foot (ask your grandfather). Max's phoney heart attack. Raymond St. Jacques!

The Murder of Jonathan Hart
Jonathan fakes his own murder in order to find out who has been trying to kill him.
Golf cart of death. Sculpture of death. Jonathan's assassination. Obscure Frank Westmore reference. Ice bucket of death. Fiery car over the cliff death plunge. Disturbing line: I always wondered what it would be like to be in bed with Groucho Marx.


The Latest Fashion in Murder
After agreeing to model for a high fashion magazine, Jennifer becomes a deranged killer's next target.
Lois Chiles in a dual role! STYX on the soundtrack. Photo shoot of death. Max hitting on Shari Belafonte-Harper. Caged disco dancers of death. Fuzzy cocaine joke. The Hollywood Palladium. Kinky shower peeping. Kinky robe sniffing. Max as Fred Astaire. Joe Pantoliano! A totally bizarre Sandor Naszody.

Operation Murder
Jennifer cannot convince anyone that she witnessed a murder during a brief hospital stay.
Kite flight of death. Park garbage can of death. Hospital of death. Dusty, the cowboy from Dallas, in drag. Powder room of death. Hospital parking lot of death. Weird hospital sex between consenting married couple.

Murder Takes a Bow
Jennifer is the only obstacle to a community theater director's plans to make the work of a murdered playwright his own.
Anthony Newley (Doctor Dolittle)! Jerry Stiller! Bel Air Community Players of death. Alleyway of death. The Harts charleston. Fake ape suit of death. Banana of death. Houseplant homicide. Bibi Besch. Gino Conforti! Worst line you don't want associated with you if your agent happens to land you in a Hart to Hart episode: I didn't know you could be shot for a bad performance.

The Blue Chip Murders
Millions of dollars in bonds hidden by their home's previous owner make the Harts the target of a greedy stockbroker.
Home invasion of death. Most unrealistic dialogue supposedly coming from multi-multimillionaires who never do a thing for themselves: Darling, did we pay the phone company? A secret passage way! Secret passageway of death. Wagner and Powers eating a couple of dirty water hotdogs. Hidden vault of death. Wishing well of death. Grease inspired drag race in the storm drains of L. A.. Worse line: Me Tarzan. But you; you're bananas.

The DVD:

The Video:

Hart to Hart: Season Two looks fantastic. The blasted-out lighting of 80's TV is crisply represented on this full-frame DVD presentation.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital Mono presentation is straightforward and clear, with no distortion. Every quip is heard clearly.

The Extras:

Unfortunately, there are no extras. There is, oddly, an offering of an alternate audio track in Portuguese, with subtitles available only in Portuguese. Were the Harts huge in Portugal?

Final Thoughts

Hart to Hart: Season Two has all the pleasures of audience-pleasing 80's network TV. From the driving, kaleidoscopic theme music, to the movie quality introduction of the stars (I love that shot of Mrs. H behind the wheel of her car, complete with sexy smile -- what a naughty kitty!), to the jet-setting feel of the campy mysteries, Hart to Hart: Season Two delivers the goods for guilt-free, sophisticated TV fantasy. Highly recommended.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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