DVD Review: S.W.A.T. (The Final Season)

Strange to think that S.W.A.T. only lasted a season and a half in the middle of the 1970s. The series revolutionized police dramas since it was all about the firepower. No problem was too large that it couldn’t be stopped with a sniper’s bullet. This was not a show that was too smart for its audience. The theme song became a number one hit on the radio and the roller disco circuit. The show had a similar impact as Emergency with towns across America wanting their own Special Weapons and Tactics unit instead of EMTs. Everybody wanted to have their hometown punks taken out by cops in black uniforms. S.W.A.T.: The Final Season packs as much starpower as firepower over 25 episodes. What took out S.W.A.T.?

S.W.A.T. features a crack team of cops that might be part of the LAPD. Their actual location is kept hazy even though they are all about shooting down bad guys around the greater Los Angeles area. They’re called upon when maximum firepower is needed to take out the bad guys. Lt. “Hondo” Harrelson (Steve Forrest) leads his men with the same bravado as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O. The stud of the squad is Officer Street (VEGA$‘s Robert Urich). He’s often torn by the danger of his job, but he can’t surrender the firepower for a normal job. The team zips around in a black truck mobile command center that’s loaded to the roof with automatic weapons and sniper rifles. This is a certified war wagon that’s locked and loaded.

“Deadly Tide” is a double length episode that’s worth the distance. Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause) and Christopher George (Rat Patrol) arrive at a posh jewelry store dressed for tennis. Instead of heading down to the court, the duo rob the place and take Lesley Ann Warren (Mission: Impossible) hostage. S.W.A.T. is in hot pursuit of the armed robbers, but it turns out there is no hostage. Warren is part of the heist. They park the getaway car at a dock, put on wetsuits and flee underwater. S.W.A.T’s only witness is a homeless Phil Silvers (Sgt. Bilko). Also wrapped into the mystery is Susan Dey (The Partridge Family). This is a rather production heavy episode with a lot of underwater action. “Kill S.W.A.T.” proves that not everyone is happy with the unit. A few relatives claim S.W.A.T. killed their brother so they’re going to pick off Hondo and his men. If they really want to kill S.W.A.T., they could get them to eat one of Rose Marie’s sandwiches. “Dealers of Death” floods the streets with automatic weapons. Could John Vernon (Animal House) be behind this glut?

“Time Bomb” pits tough guy William Smith (Hawaii Five-O) against Officer Street. The S.W.A.T. practiced their urban warfare techniques on a movie studio’s backlot. When Street returns to get a lost piece of equipment, he bumps into Smith. This shouldn’t be trouble except Smith wants revenge on the Studio for firing hem. He’s going to blow the backlot up. The finale is hilarious when you wonder how a van explodes. But don’t wonder too hard, S.W.A.T. wasn’t the granddaddy of The Wire.

Before he became Apollo Creed in Rocky, Carl Weathers was part of a warehouse heist crew in “Criss-Cross.” “Courthouse” starts out as a botched race track robbery. The ringleaders plans a daring rescue during the trial. Only S.W.A.T. can preserve justice and the life of Deidre Hall. Anitra Ford (The Big Bird Cage) shows off her wicked ways. Joe Turkel (The Shining) doesn’t quite have the same race track action as his role in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. Proving he’s not done with crime, Frank Gorshin (Batman‘s The Riddler) is a major drug dealer. Hondo’s transporting him, but the mafia want Frank back in the family.

“Silent Night, Deadly Night” is a hollow point holiday special. Anne Francis (Honey West) is in the hospital getting a Christmas touch up with the plastic surgeon. She can’t be away from her expensive jewels which means trouble. Turns out a mobsters is posing as a patient to grab the baubles when she goes under the knife. S.W.A.T. is at the hospital to host a party for sick kids. Santa’s got a bag full of shrapnel for the bad little boys. “The Running Man” is another two parter. An undercover agent gets a mob boss convicted. His reward is a massive bounty on his head. Are Leslie Nielsen (Airplane), Bruce Glover (Walking Tall), Forrest Tucker (F Troop) or Donna Mills out to collect the cash?

“The Chinese Connection” hooks up the Kung Fu spirit. Hondo has to investigate a little trouble in Chinatown. The celebrated James Hong (Kung Fu Panada) is required to be in the mix. “Dragons and Owls” isn’t about a Ren Fair that needs to be pumped full of lead. A group of men are raping the women in a neighborhood. Only Hondo can stop Tom Skerrit (Alien). “Any Second Now” has radicals take over a radio station. They have demands or the hostages will be shot. But will they take listeners requests? Robert Loggia (The Sopranos) plays a cop. “Officer Luca, You’re Dead” wraps up the series with S.W.A.T. member Officer Luca (Mark Shera) in trouble for taking down a suspect with extreme prejudice. The episode relays the kill from different witnesses. In the end the real victim at the morgue was S.W.A.T.

ABC canceled S.W.A.T. because the show was just too damn violent. Watching it 35 years later, S.W.A.T. remains astounding in the amount of blanks fired off in the name of cops. This is lead overdose that must have inspired a young Micheal Mann who would soon create Dan Tanna for Robert Urich. I didn’t get to watch the show during it’s original run since it was on Saturday night’s opposite The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. That was the era when mom and dad ruled the dial. Since S.W.A.T. had under 40 episodes, it never got rerun in my area. It’s a great piece of kitsch action. Perhaps their M-16s really fired cheese at the suspects. S.W.A.T.: The Final Season is perfect for someone who enjoys the goofiness of ’70s TV.

The Episodes
“Deadly Tide,” “Kill S.W.A.T.,” “Dealers in Death,” “Dealers in Death,” “Time Bomb,” “The Vendetta,” “Criss-Cross,” “Vigilante,” “Courthouse,” “Ordeal,” “Strike Force,” “The Swinger,” “Terror Ship,” “Murder by Fire,” “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” “The Running Man,” “Lessons in Fear,” “Deadly Weapons,” “The Chinese Connection,” “Dragons and Owls,” “Any Second Now,” “Soldier on the Hill,” “Dangerous Memories” and “Officer Luca, You’re Dead.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the beauty of their weapons and the awkward fit of their black baseball hats. The audio is mono. The mix allows you to grasp the full force of the theme song and the gunfire. You don’t really need to hear what Hondo’s saying cause what it counts is what he’s shooting.

No bonus features.

S.W.A.T.: The Final Season wraps up a cop series that understood you wanted less talk and more rock. Such a shame the show ended so quickly since there were probably more parts of Los Angeles that needed to be filled full of bullets.

Shout! Factory presents S.W.A.T.: The Final Season. Starring: Steve Forrest, Robert Urich, Rod Perry, Mark Shera and James Coleman. Boxset contents: 24 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: May 22, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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