TV Thursday: Hardcastle and McCormick (1983)

True story. During family dinners as we sat in the living room I would generally be the one who determined what was being watched, for the TV series Hardcastle and McCormick though this was not to be the case. I was however allowed to watch the intro of the show every week as a concession.

Created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell productions and starring the late great Brian Keith as Judge Milton C. Hardcastle, and Daniel Hugh Kelley as Mark McCormick, the series debuted on ABC in 1983 and lasted until 1986.

Thanks to the all knowing Wikipedia for this description of the series:

“The show’s premise involves the retirement of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Milton C. “Hardcase” Hardcastle. With file drawers filled with 200 criminals who got off on technicalities, he takes a page from his childhood hero, the Lone Ranger, and makes plans to go after these criminals. Mark McCormick is a smart-mouthed, streetwise car thief who is looking at hard time for his latest theft, a prototype sports car, called the Coyote X, designed by his murdered best friend. Together they strike a deal: Hardcastle helps Mark catch the murderer; Mark agrees to be released as the Judge’s right hand man. In addition, Mark is allowed to keep the Coyote, which proves to be an excellent pursuit vehicle for their needs.”

Mike Post and Pete Carpenter were responsible for the popular “Drive” theme song, with vocals by David Morgan. Mike Post has done a few other notable theme songs to series, you’ve might have heard of a few of these:

“The A-Team, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Blossom, CHiPs, The Commish, Doogie Howser, M.D., Hardcastle & McCormick, Hooperman, Hunter, MacGyver, Magnum, P.I., NewsRadio, Profit, Quantum Leap, Renegade, Riptide, Silk Stalkings, Stingray, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, The White Shadow, Wiseguy, the BBC series Roughnecks, and Law & Order.”

A big thanks to Jaz0220 for uploading the television intro to YouTube!

TV Thursday: The Avengers (1961- 1969)

In my youth, my Father would often tell me about some of his favorite TV shows, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and the Prisoner. But his favorite television show was another British creation, the Avengers. The storyline for the series may have been Spy related set during the Cold War but during its long run (The Avengers was the longest running espionage TV series until 24) most of its episode dealt with what some fans of the show have called Spy-Fi.

The main focus on the Avengers was on one John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and his more than capable partners, all of them working as agents for the “Ministry”. Macnee at the beginning of the series wasn’t the star of the show, that honor went to Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) who teamed up with Steed when the good Doctor’s office receptionist and fiance, Peggy, was murdered by a drug ring. The first two episodes had Keel and Steed avenging her death, hence the name of the show.

A strike cut short the first series and when the second series was beginning production, Hendry went off to pursue a film career which thrust Macnee in the spotlight. He worked with a rotating series of assistants, Dr. Martin King (Jon Rollason, though he only appeared for three episodes), Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), and Dr. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). Venus was a nightclub singer and appeared in six episodes, but the last four episodes featuring Dr. Cathy Gale would set the tone for the rest of the series. Gale was an anthropologist who knew the art of Judo and had a liking for leather clothes.

By the beginning of the third series, Venus and Dr. Martin King were dropped with Gale taking on the role of partner to Steed. The writers also established a certain amount of longing between Steed and Dr. Gale but obviously were not allowed to progress anything beyond some flirting and the odd innuendo. Though surprisingly enough it was revealed in an episode, “The Golden Eggs”, that Gale was living at Steed’s flat; her rent was to keep the refrigerator well-stocked and to cook for him. Though it would seem she did neither of those. Though to head off any outrage perhaps it was also stated that the arrangement was merely temporary while Gale looked for her own place and Steed was staying at a hotel.

It should also be noted that Steed during this time was transformed from a typical trench coat wearing agent to his ‘trick’ umbrella carrying, Saville Row suit, and bowler hat sporting gentleman that fans love.

With Season Four in 1965 the series was picked up by ABC television, paying a then-unheard of 2 Million dollars for the first 26 episodes. It was also one of the first British shows to be aired on U.S. prime time TV! The Fourth season also introduced the most popular partners of the series, Ms. Emma Peel, who was played by the absolutely stunning Diana Rigg.

For the American audiences the opening had an additional voice over to help stem some of the confusion concerning the characters and the missions they undertook. Thanks to the all knowing Wikipedia for the description:

“In the opener, a waiter holding a champagne bottle falls dead onto a human-sized chessboard; a dagger protruding from a target on his back. Steed and Mrs. Peel (dressed in her trademark leather catsuit) walk up to the body as the voice over explains: “Extraordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur. Otherwise known as The Avengers.” During this voice over, Steed pours two drinks from the wine bottle and Mrs. Peel replaces her gun in her boot. They clink glasses and depart together. Fade to black and then the opening titles proper begin.”

Greater Spy-Fi elements reared its head in the fourth season, like Steed and Peel meeting the Cybernauts.

With the Fifth season the show brought two thing, it began to be shot and broadcast in color, and it signaled the departure of Ms. Peel at the end of its season. The Sixth season would introduce Steed’s latest partner, Tara King (Linda Thorson), who would remain until the end of the run in the series in 1969.

There was one more go at the series in 1978 with the New Avengers, which had Steed working with two new partners, Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) and Purdey (Joanna Lumley). It only lasted one season though.

TV Thursday: Masters Of Horror (2005 – 2007)

As most of you are quite aware, I am an avid horror movie fan, which is often a bit of a problem as there is rarely enough good material that I feel is worth my time. Thankfully Mick Garris (Critters 2, Psycho IV, and the Stand among others) got a group of his Director friends together for informal dinners in Sherman Oaks, California. Because of this and thanks to Guillermo Del Toro who nicknamed the group the Masters of Horror (He said this in jest to a woman in the restaurant the group met in when giving her Birthday wishes from the Masters of Horror), Garris would would create and produce an original horror television anthology for Showtime, movies that were only one hour long.

I sadly do not have Showtime so I had to wait expectantly for the DVD release and as soon as I saw my first episode, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, I knew by its opening credits this was my kind of ‘television show’!

John Carpenter would come back for the second season to direct, Pro-Life. By the way…does anyone else think that it looks like Michael Meyers at the end of the intro? The blurry shape standing over the murder victim?

A great many of the most famous horror directors were invited to take the helm of an episode of the Masters of Horror, most of them coming back for the second season as well:

Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) – Incident On And Off A Mountain Road
Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Fortress, Dagon) – H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch-House and The Black Cat
Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, Matinee) – Homecoming and The Screwfly Solution
Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) – Dance of the Dead and The Damned Thing
Dario Argento (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Suspira, Creepers) – Jenifer and Pelts
Mick Garris – Chocolate and Valerie on the Stairs
John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places, Three Amigos) – Deer Woman and Family
William Malone (Creature, House on Haunted Hill, Parasomina) – Fair-Haired Child
Lucky McKee (May, The Woods) – Sick Girl
Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, God Told Me To, The Stuff) – Pick Me Up
John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Wild Things) – Haeckel’s Tale
Takashi Miike (Audition, Dead or Alive) – Imprint
Ernest Dickerson (Juice, Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight, Bones) – The V Word
Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, Session 9, The Machinist) – Sounds Like
Rob Schmidt (Wrong Turn, The Alphabet Killer) – Right to Die
Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Langoliers) – We All Scream For Ice Cream
Peter Medak (The Changeling, Zorro – The Gay Blade, Romeo is Bleeding) – The Washingtonians
Norio Tsuruta (Borei Gakkyu, Kakashi) – Dream Cruise

Showtime by the way refused to air Imprint due to concerns over its extreme content, gore and torture. Joe Dante found a way to sort of get past that as he included one of its scenes on a television in the background of The Screwfly Solution. Imprint was released though, uncut, on DVD.

Mick Garris would go on to create a new series for NBC television instead of a third season of Masters of Horror, Fear Itself, and would air 13 episodes. Mick Garris also created a second series for ABC entitled the Masters of Science Fiction with the likes of Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation) directing a short story of Harlan Ellison.

TV Thursday: Darkwing Duck (1991-1997)

I may have been finishing High-School when Darkwing Duck landed on my television but I can tell you honestly that I wouldn’t miss an episode of it, as soon as I stepped off the bus I would run up the hill to my house and plop myself down for some fun. After graduating High-School, my first video store job allowed me the freedom of watching the program and I even woke up early on Saturday mornings when it moved from weekday afternoon scheduling in 1996. Why did I follow it so long?

How could I not with an opening as awesome as this?

I’m sure it helped that there was some really great writers on the show and the animation was truly topnotch, especially compared to the deluge of Digimon type programs that seemed to be filling the television line-up at the time. Of course it didn’t hurt that Darkwing Duck had more than a few things in common with my favorite pulp character of all time, The Shadow.

I even have an almost complete collection of the Darkwing Duck toys…and they are still proudly sitting on my shelf. Watching for the other toys that step out out line perhaps? Yeah, I’m looking at you Skeletor and Darkseid. A big thanks to ReDirkulous for that awesome illustration at the top of the post!