Starsky and Hutch
By Tom Keogh
In the rough-and-tumble, wildly entertaining world of Starsky &
Hutch, impatient cops--anxious to join a foot race in pursuit of a
villain--throw themselves out of moving vehicles and roll to a bruising
stop. Undercover detectives Dave Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Ken
"Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul), hardly imbued with the powers
of Spider-Man, routinely scale walls, hop from rooftop to rooftop, and
fling themselves down steep hillsides to stop bad guys from doing what bad
Two years before Hill
Street Blues redefined the cop genre as a mesh of overlapping
storylines and workaday frustrations, Aaron Spelling's Starsky &
Hutch capped a five-year run (1975-1979) portraying LA's finest as
madly heroic creatures of reckless determination and physicality. The
Complete First Season reminds us how startlingly brutal this
primetime series could be while maintaining a delightful, often
incongruous, self-deprecating humor.
From the series pilot on, partners and best pals Starsky and Hutch work
a fine line between predator and prey, relentlessly pursuing suspects
while also snared by crime chieftains or short-sighted superiors. In
"The Fix," Hutch's secret romance with the former girlfriend of
a mafia boss (Robert Loggia) results in the lawman's kidnapping and forced
addiction to heroin. Similarly, in "A Coffin for Starsky," a mad
chemist injects the wisecracking cop with a slow-acting but lethal poison.
"Jo-Jo," written by Michael Mann, finds our guys at loggerheads
with federal officers over a dumb deal the G-Men make with a serial
The 23 episodes in this set are all fun, if sometimes shocking,
viewing. Expect each character to take as much abuse as he dishes out.
Still, the comic sight of Starsky and Hutch (in "Death Notice")
trying to conduct business amidst busy strippers is well worth the
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& Hutch: The Complete Second Season proves the 1970s ABC
series, in its sophomore year, both codified its earliest strengths while
continuing to evolve into a sharper, wittier, and often darker show.
Contributing to those improvements were the stars themselves: David Soul
(who plays maverick police detective, intellectual, and health nut Ken
Hutchinson) and Paul Michael Glaser (as Hutch's more impulsive,
junk-food-junkie partner Dave Starsky), each of whom directed exemplary
episodes in season 2. Series creators also struck a more entertaining
balance between the comic and dramatic possibilities inherent in Starsky
and Hutch's bluntly honest, fraternal relationship. A number of stories
placed the guys in intentionally funny undercover situations: as garish
gamblers in the two-part opener "The Las Vegas Strangler;"
entertainment directors (named Hack and Zack) on a luxury cruise ship in
"Murder at Sea;" gigolo-like dance aficionados in the
playfully-titled "Tap Dancing Her Way Right Back into Your
Hearts;" and, most amusingly, stunt men in "Murder on Stage
Those are all good shows, and the duo often bicker within them, to
great comic effect, like an old married couple. (Soul and Glaser's
commitment to their schtick as well as their more emotionally raw
collaborations is truly admirable.) But it's the relentlessly tougher
episodes that prove each character's mettle and demonstrates the depth of
Starsky and Hutch's mutual trust. Among these is the powerful
"Gillian," in which Starsky discovers Hutch's classy new
girlfriend is a prostitute and breaks the news to his shattered friend.
Somewhat lighter but just as revealing is "Little Girl Lost,"
starring a young Kristy McNichol as an orphaned street urchin whom Hutch,
lately in a misanthropic, anti-Christmas mood, takes into his home.
Glaser's directorial debut, the harrowing "Bloodbath," gives
Soul a lot of room for an intensely physical and psychological performance
as Hutch scurries to find his kidnapped partner. Soul returns the favor
with "Survival," in which Starsky desperately seeks his missing
pal, trapped and slowly dying beneath a car wreck. All in all, a very good
season, with (of course) Antonio Fargas still sharp as sidekick Huggy