Cop shows of the 70s are not at all comparable to today's popular Law and Order spin-offs. Starksy and Hutch is a grand trip into the past. The dynamic duo shoot first and ask questions later, handle all the evidence, move all the bodies, and are way more hunky (if not quite as funny) as Jerry Orbach. If you have dreams about Gran Torinos, and still like to don cable knit sweaters and striped Adidas, Starksy and Hutch: The Complete 2nd Season's 21 hours of pure 70s style action won't disappoint.
A show in its sophomore season can sink or swim, even after a wildly successful first season. Starsky and Hutch is made to be an action show and it certainly doesn't fail on that account. What is perhaps surprising is that the 2nd Season also manages to successfully add genuine drama AND humor to the mix. Because the TV audience has gotten to know the boys a bit, Detectives Ken Hutchinson (David Soul) and David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser), the scripts seem to be written with their personalities in mind. And the various cases add depth instead of pure randomness.
Episode 3, "Little Girl Lost," features Kristy McNichol as a tomboy who has had a hard-knock life. Originally airing near the holidays, it's full of Starsky's boyish charm and Hutch's cynicism. And Hutch's distaste for the commercialism of the Christmas season is both amusing and relevant to the present. How could you not laugh about an episode called "Vampire," (9) that features bloodsucking dance teachers or the swaggering, jive-talking Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas) dressing up the duo in 40s Zoot Suits for their trip to Vegas (Episode 1 "The Las Vegas Strangler"). An yet, there's actually some real feeling in Episode 8's "Gillian," when Hutch admits his real fear and love as he freezes, trying to cover Starsky, as Starsky hides the painful secret of Hutch's new girlfriend from him. It wasn't enough to make me cry (although I do have to give a warning, it's not a happy episode) but I felt some acting come through. With the addition of a crying call girl and all those sly and subtle homoerotic moments, it was more than enough for me in a retro cop show.
Both Episodes 21 and 25 bring up the serious issue of police corruption. In 21's "The Committee," in a twist that does almost reach the complicated plot lines of Law and Order, a band of crooked cops, headed by the chief of I.A., tries to sweep Starsky into their vigilante justice. While the Season Finally, 25's "Starsky and Hutch are Guilty" is a pure and frustrating frame up job. Don't worry, in 1977 they didn't know the meaning of cliffhanger ending. You'll be satiated.
The package design itself is pretty satisfying, with a host of retro elements that manage to capture the era without cluttering the space. Each of the inside covers outlines an actor in gold and orange rays against the cherry red backdrop, with that iconic Gran Torino as the 5th most important character. The video image is vibrant in comparison to its cable syndication counterparts but retains enough of that warm tinge and graininess to still feel vintage. Not everyone might appreciate this less than perfect translation, but I appreciated the Technicolor injected fade.
Besides the sirens and whizzing bullets, sounds occupies minimal effective space in Starsky and Hutch. After about 3 or 4 episodes of hearing the same canned whiz-bang of high pitched soaring bullets I wished to god that they could have altered some of the length or pitch of the exactly copied gunshot sounds, but alas, it was not to be.
Soul and Glaser made cameos on the recent feature remake spoof of the show, and I would have loved to see them make an appearance here. They didn't. I could've also loved any sort of extra commentary by anyone involved, or even random folks a la VH1's I Love the 70s. All you get are some Glaser narrated TV promos with Atari-like rounded-corner title screens that change colors and get old real fast. Because they really don't add anything, I'd rather just watch the show. The added previews are completely irrelevant and superfluous. I don't mind previews but considering them a DVD bonus feels condescending. While a preview for Starsky and hutch's 1st Season might make some sense, or some other oldies, what business does 1999's Blue Streak or National Security have on S&H's 2nd Season? I didn't see any Martin Lawrence, age 12, appearances. I'd rather have repeats of the extras from the 1st season. At least it had some substance.
Starksy and Hutch is just dressed up adventure after adventure. If you believe Columbia Tri-Star's mantra "Action never looked so good" then your entertainment nostalgia could easily marathon its way through your night and into your next morning.