DVD Review: T.J. Hooker (The Complete Series)



After Star Trek came to an end in 1969, Williams Shatner bounced around television and films in search of the role that would let him be known for more than Captain Kirk. Leonard Nimoy had it easy going immediately to Mission: Impossible to replace Martin Landau and eventually hosting In Search Of… But Shatner found himself a guest star on dozens of dramas and game shows. He didn’t completely stop playing Kirk as he voiced him in the animated series and made took the Enterprise into the new frontier of motion pictures. He had numerous pilots shot down and Barbary Coast didn’t last a season. His luck changed in 1982 after wrapping up Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Shatner found his next iconic role as an Earthbound man who wanted to clean up the streets. T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series contains the glory of Shatner with a badge.

Sergeant Thomas Jefferson “T.J.” Hooker wasn’t always a beat cop working the hard streets of an unidentified coastal city. Once he was a plainclothes detective (like Starsky & Hutch). Only Hooker’s partner met a sad fate. This death inspired him to put on his uniform and work the streets with his nightstick. “The Protectors” features Hooker working at the police academy drilling the latest recruits. He takes a special shine to Vincent Romano (Sharknado: The 4th Awakens‘ Adrian Zmed). Hooker busts Romano’s chops, but it’s because he knows that the rookie has what it takes to be a great cop. Hooker is willing to expose his life isn’t great. His marriage fell apart because he was always on the case. His ex-wife is nice to him. So he’s not that dark of a character. He dates women and isn’t hiding any other vice issues. Hooker’s a good cop and passing those life lessons onto Romano. It’s kinda like a uniformed Streets of San Francisco except the older guy is as hunky as the younger guy.

The first season was only 5 episodes, but did well enough in the ratings to get a full season order. There was a major change when a fresh face showed up at the front desk. Officer Stacy Sheridan (Heather Locklear) arrived as Captain Sheridan’s daughter. Locklear was also working on Dynasty. But since that was a big ensemble cast soap opera, Aaron Spelling scheduled it so she could hold down both roles and raise her profile beyond Heather Thomas (only The Fall Guy). Towards the end of the season, they also bring aboard officer Jim Corrigan (Venus In Furs‘ James Darren) to train the recruits and solve crimes. The crack unit keeps the action going on and off the cases so that there can be a little light comedy during rather disturbing cases. The second season brings in a few guest stars. Both Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys and Jerry Lee Lewis get to feel the protection of Hooker on the job. There’s even Beach Boys video with Dennis Wilson on the drums. “Vengeance Is Mine” reunites Shatner with Leonard Nimoy. He’s a detective looking for the man who violated his daughter. Nimoy had directed a previous episode so fans of Star Trek were looking to see them unite. There were not too many major stars on the show which works out well since you never lose focus on the base relationships between the Hooker and Romero.

Many of the plots revolve around a relative or friend showing up in the area and finding themselves a victim of crime. This leads to a classic case where the captain ponders if Hooker’s too close to the case. But even with this situation, Hooker stays on the track and saves the day. There’s also quite a few times when Hooker grabs onto the hood of a car. When Shatner hosted Saturday Night Live, they spoofed this element of the show by having Hooker just hold onto a car hood for a cross country trip.

At the end of the fourth season, ABC canceled the show. But CBS swung in to bring it back for a fifth season. At the time the network didn’t have a talkshow to compete against Johnny Carson after the 11 o’clock news. “Crime Time After Prime-Time” gave Hooker a reason to use his baton to beat down the bad guys for another season. However Zmed had split the show in order to host Dance Fever. This meant the episodes put Heather Locklear and Darren in the patrol car with Hooker. Since this wasn’t a cop show trying it’s best to look ultra realistic, the new partner combos don’t mess up the formula. The best news was that now Shatner could walk through airport terminals and hear a voice scream out, “Hooker’s a good cop!” He finally had a second persona.

T.J. Hooker was the opposite of Hill Street Blues on so many levels. Right off the bat you know that this won’t be trying too hard since it was executive produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. This legendary duo gave us Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart and Fantasy Island. They also created Starsky and Hutch. Hooker explored the tone if their previous cop hit minus a new Huggy Bear. The show does seem a bit smarter and intense compared to CHiPs. T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series is perfect for a lazy day on the sofa when you want to see guilty people busted without having to consider too many procedural and legal questions.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look fine since Hooker appears to have been shot and edited on 35mm film. There’s plenty of detail in the city that doesn’t want to expose its true nature. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels will let you hear all the gun shots when Hooker pulls out his service revolver. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series. Starring: William Shatner, Heather Locklear, Adrian Zmed, Richard Herd & James Darren. Boxset Contents: 91 episodes on 20 DVDs. Released: July 18, 2017.

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