Sometimes, channel surfing throws up pleasant surprises and this old crime series, Hunter that ran for seven seasons from 1984-1991 is pure nostalgia.
It is an efficiently-made, fast-paced police procedural that relies on good old-fashioned legwork, unlike crime series today, where half the work is done on cell phones and computers. Because the cops have to actually go to apprehend suspects or meet witnesses, there is a parade of vintage cars on display—those huge, sleek gas-guzzlers, not today’s bulky SUVs. A lot of these turn turtle, roll down cliffs or explode—which would give Rohit Shetty of car-wrecking fame a complex.
The titular Hunter is Rick (Fred Dryer), who belongs to a clan of gangsters, but went straight and joined the Los Angeles police department. He is given a lot of grief by some of his superiors, and deliberately allotted decrepit cars to slow him down. That he is in the habit of demolishing the vehicles he drives in the line of work could be another reason for his carpool discrimination.
The very tall and very slim Hunter is paired with the petite and pretty Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer), who, with her garish make-up, bright clothes and big, curly hair looks like a young Madhuri Dixit did in some of her old movies, where her styling was ghastly by today’s standards. There is a running gag involving a rival Sergeant Bernie Terwilliger (James Whitmore Jr.) who, with his book of rules, keeps trying to trip up the trigger-happy Hunter and fails each time. Another comic character who appears in several episodes is the chatty, streetsmart informant, Sporty James (Garrett Morris).
Hunter and McCall get along very well, and there is a lot of good-natured ribbing, but no romance.The two of them date other people, then feel that tinge of jealousy too when the other gets involved. Their love lives are not too happening since their work keeps them busy.
Over the next few seasons, Hunter and McCall solve a wide variety of crimes (though Kramer quit in Season 6 and Hunter got new partners), with a line-up of guest stars like George Clooney, Brian Dennehy, Eric Estrada, Sammy Davis Jr., Chaka Khan and many others.
The series may be named after the lead actor, but McCall does a lot of the hard work, including donning a spate of disguises—from street walker, to homeless lady to pop singer. Though it is a crime show, and there is a great deal of violence, it is also lighthearted. Amidst the funny lines and witty back-and-forth between characters, there is a grim episode in which McCall is raped and left for dead, and Hunter goes after the man who hurt his partner.
There was no such thing as political correctness then, so McCall is nicknamed “Brass Cupcake” by her colleagues, but she is tough, fearless and relentless in the pursuit of criminals.
It is fun to watch the series (152 episodes, three Emmy nominations, peppy soundtrack), not just because it has exciting situations—some based on real incidents, but also to be reminded of the fashions, hair and make-up trends of the Eighties. At least some viewers will giggle or cringe at the memory of what they wore and how they looked, back in the day. And yes, also be reminded of how the world survived without mobile phones!
Created by Frank Lupo
Cast: Fred Dryer, Stepfanie Kramer and others
On Amazon Prime