If the shows of the Super Saturday Short-Lived Showcase were like old classmates of mine, Automan would be the kid who sat next to me in second grade, moved to Wisconsin over the summer, and I never saw again. Visionaries would be the underclassman I occasionally passed in the hall or saw in the lunchroom, but never talked to. But our next show was a good friend. Maybe not my best friend, but we hung out together when my best friend wasn’t home. I’m talking, of course, about Street Hawk.
Street Hawk came along at the tail end of what is sometimes referred to as the “super vehicle craze”. Most would credit Knight Rider for starting it, but I would actually go back a few more years to The Dukes of Hazzard. As you’re probably aware, the Duke boys perpetrated most of their redneck shenanigans behind the wheel of a supped-up ’69 Dodge Charger called The General Lee. It didn’t take long for the car to become the star of the show - well, that and Catherine Bach’s cut-off denim shorts - and a phenomenon was born.
By the Year of our Lord nineteen and eighty five, several such vehicles were stars or co-stars in 80s prime time. You had K.I.T.T. (from the aforementioned Knight Rider), the Airwolf helicopter from the show of the same name, Mr. T’s jet black van from The A-Team, Magnum’s red Ferrari 308, the Manta Montage from Hardcastle and McCormick, and the Screaming Mimi from Riptide, just to name a few. Even films weren’t immune to the phenomenon, with Blue Thunder (later a short-lived TV series of its own) and Firefox getting in on the action. And bringing up the rear was Street Hawk, a show cut from the same cloth as Knight Rider, where a well coiffed hero worked in secret for a vaguely defined agency to fight crime with the help of a super vehicle. Lasting only thirteen episodes, Street Hawk is nonetheless fondly remembered as one of the best the genre had to offer. Noel and I will be the judge of that.
And this being the 80s, Street Hawk needed a kick-ass theme. It got one, courtesy of German electro-pop group Tangerine Dream. The track, titled "Le Parc", wasn’t specifically written for the series, but it fits hand in glove and if people remember nothing else about the show beyond the motorcycle, they remember the theme.
With only thirteen episodes on its resume, Street Hawk has only seen the occasional run in syndication over the years and I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched an episode. That means this is going to be almost completely fresh to me, especially the finer details.
I’ve got the first episode cued up and ready to go and I’m really looking forward to watching it with Noel, and hopefully with you, too.
But before we begin, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about our new partnership with the Made of Fail family. Noel's been with them for some time now, first as fan and then as co-host of his own podcast (which you really need to go listen to now). Let me just say that it’s an honor to be a part of the growing MoF empire and I promise not to embarrass the brand. Well, at least not any more than Noel.
I've never seen Street Hawk. I've never read about Street Hawk. I didn't even know the series existed until 80s guru Tony filled me in on it with a single sentence: "It's Knight Rider with a motorcycle." I thought, "Hey, that could be cool," until I remembered the last time I saw an episode of Knight Rider and figured I was in for some awesome car shots, a few quippy lines, and a dull story with guest stars who never quite graduated to the "character" level of actor.
Imagine my surprise when I learned Glen Larson had nothing to do with this series. Surely, if anyone was going to knock off Knight Rider, it would be the king of the knockoffs himself. As we established with Automan, Larson knew how to leap on a trend and try to cash in on it for all it's worth, even trends of his own creation. Then he'd get bored three episodes in, pass the reigns to a shifting creative team, and try to find the next hot ticket to bet on.
Instead, this show was made by people I've never heard of. Not to brag, but I've picked up on so many names over the years that it's a rare feat for me to not know someone on a creative team. Looking at the credits of creators Paul M. Belous and Bob Wolterstorff, Street Hawk is definitely their most prominent work in a list of sporadic freelance tv writing, and it seems the show must have impressed the right people because it won them the roles of supervising producers on the second season of Quantom Leap (a series by Glen Larson protege Don Bellissario, weaving our web tighter). Beyond that, Belous seems to have gone his own way, leaving Wolterstorff to write solo for another decade before he, too, went quiet.
As for the intro, it looks gorgeous. The sleek black rider on the bike, backlit by blue, gives it an alien quality that's both gripping and menacing. The stories look to be exactly what I'd expect, which means I fear many an episode involving rich white men and their money laundering schemes, but it doesn't look to have the same level of camp as Larson's shows. The intro mentions the character is recovering from debilitating injuries, so I'm hoping they keep that as a strong thematic layer as the character keeps pushing himself, maybe even farther than he should.
I'm not overly familiar with the cast. The only thing I've seen lead Rex Smith in was the lead in the 1983 filmed version of Pirates of Penzance, which is certainly a different role than we're getting here. But, hey, if Chuck Wagner can make that Broadway swagger work on screen, here's hoping the same is true for Rex. Jeannie Wilson looks lovely, but I can't place her. I'm curious to see if they let her do anything of substance or if she's just the pretty lady rolling her eyes at the hero when he's not rescuing her from peril. Richard Venture and Joe Regalbuto are familiar character actors, of course, but I have to admit I've never been a big fan of Regalbuto, who I've always found to be a poor man's Matt Frewer. Which, when you look back on Frewer's career, must make for a really poor man. I'll push that aside and give him a shot.
The theme is pretty catchy with its beats of hope and atmosphere of imagination. I'm a little surprised to see it's from the synth masters Tangerine Dream. Slightly less surprised to see they didn't do it for the show, it rather being a remix of a title track from one of their hit albums.
I'm curious. As with Automan, this is the type of 80s formula show I don't usually go for, but I'm looking forward to see what the untested creators had in store for the audiences of 1985. Is it a hidden gem, lost before its time, or something that didn't catch on because it was really no different from everything around it? Follow along as we find out!
Tune in this Saturday Morning for the pilot episode of Street Hawk.
If you'd like to watch along with us, the entire series is available in a DVD set which can be purchased through Amazon US, Amazon CA, or Amazon UK.