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S.W.A.T. - The Complete First Season

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // June 3, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kim Morgan | posted July 4, 2003 | E-mail the Author
You have to really like the 1975 television show S.W.A.T. to enjoy this first season-13 series DVD set. REALLY like it. As in, you have an undying love for Robert Urich. Or you refuse to put your TONKA trucks away. Or your Uncle Frank guest starred on an episode. Maybe the one where Farrah Fawcett is kidnapped by thugs who want to steal a diamond tiara and scepter? Actually, that's a pretty good one--it's so incredibly stupid, you'll give in and enjoy the feathered inanity of it all. And you know, Farrah.

But most of this '70s TV show is so stilted, tedious and just plain dumb, its tough to watch even as a time capsule curio. Something of a gritty presentation in its time, the show takes on the increasing violence of the sleazy, yellow-tinted streets of Los Angeles where criminals are not simply robbing stores or nabbing purses, but involving themselves in organized groups of violent civil disobedience a la The Unibomber or The Manson Family. You know, like every day.

The LAPD needs to tackle the problem and so, mantles an elite agency of crime-fighters called S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics unit). With the added element of life is a battlefield, the fellows are ex-Vietnam War Veterans. Led by Lt. Hondo (Steve Forrest whom you'll recognize from Mommy Dearest) the team includes Jim Street (Robert Urich--Vegas and Spencer for Hire) Sgt. David "Deacon" Kay (Rod Perry), Dominic Luca (Mark Shera) and TJ McCable (James Coleman) all introduced in the show's funky (absolutely cool) theme song. The opening makes you excited for what's to come--the series of intense action packed freeze frames promise so much.

But we receive so little. Our first show involves the murder of Street's partner followed by a series of police assassinations. The task force is created and the boys go to work. They also have to prove themselves (that it's necessary to employ shoot-outs where civilians could more than likely be killed in the crossfire). Will they?

Oh yes. Episode after episode. Shows that usually bleed into one another with performances or stories that occasionally pop out to prove somewhat interesting. I liked the show "Death Carrier" (episode 3) where a young model's boyfriend's are being offed by an insane stalker. Street is assigned to watch the pretty little thing posing as her boyfriend and stays the night at her house, drinking coffee, reading the paper and generally trying to not have sex with her while she walks around in her nightgown. They get together of course (it's the '70s—its sexy) and the nut-ball is worked up into a red-faced, sweaty, balding manic. He's really gross. And, after laughing at him a few times, he becomes, rather scary. When he takes her up to a sea cliff, S.W.A.T. have to figure out how to kill him without killing her.

"The Steel Plated Security Blanket" (episode 10--fabulous title) is another memorable one, starring Farrah as a beauty PR Rep who, along with Miss New Mexico, is taken hostage for the afor-mentioned bootie. And "Omega One" (episode 11)has Street attending a non-aggression philosophy class only to see crazed students steal guns and take over a chemical plant all in the name of protest. But they want a million dollars or screw it; they'll blow the place up. Damn hippies! So much for Gandhi.

Though the series showcases an arsenal of weapons, some minor, tense situations and a nice turn by Robert Urich, its just not…swinging. There's camaraderie and banter between the guys, but it's rarely fun and so damn serious. Watching S.W.A.T with a collection of The Greatest '70s Cop Shows, its flaws stood out all the more. As other shows (like the magnificent Police Woman) combined grit with sex appeal or French Connection car chases with plain-clothes hotties (like Starsky and Hutch) S.W.A.T. plays like a square and uptight older brother. How it received one of the greatest TV theme tunes is beyond me. It will be interesting to see what Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell will be doing with the show in the film version. Let's just hope we hear that music again. On second thought, maybe never again.


Columbia Tristar presents S.W.A.T. in full screen, as it looked on TV. The transfer looks fine, with a little graininess present. If you think of re-runs you've seen through your life, the prints will appear almost pristine. The colors are more vivid, contrast acceptable and less fade than the usual sun-soaked California-ness we're used to.

Sound could be improved but this Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is acceptable. Sound is very important to a show with tons 'o ammo, car screeches and bombs as well as the dramatic silences. Some of these moments could have been bettered but, you'll hear everyone hollerin' just fine

You get zilch. Not even subtitles or an alternate language track. But after watching all these shows, you'll want to put this baby to bed. Still, for the curious, some kind of documentary about the show's history would have been appreciated--(sigh)--I guess.

Final Thoughts:
S.W.A.T. is one boring show. Though it carries a tiny bit of the cool of other '70s cop shows it needed extra doses of sleaze and sex to give it more appeal. S.W.A.T. was appealing to military guys and perhaps, families who didn't mind a little violence in their nighttime viewing schedule and its straight face is admirable. But soooo tedious. And though the seriousness was the point and set-up of the show (these aren't funky downtown police detectives after all) it still had an entire season to flesh some of these guys out into more intriguing people. It never did. Check out Police Woman or the first season of Baretta for a great '70s cop show.

Read More Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun

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