Ah, the comedies of the 1980s. The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Night Court. There are shows like those, classics indeed, for their own reasons, and then there is "Sledge Hammer!"
It's just a _bit_ different. Imagine if you will the ability of a show to consistently spoof movies, or whole genres of tv show/film, and consistently nail it dead on in a 30 minute time slot. That's the quality of writing the show had, but the execution is what made it work. The three leads had consistent timing and brutally funny comic delivery. David Rasche, as the lead, was a standout, often getting the most manic material, though Page and Martin made it truly a triple threat. On one of the shows, Martin's character takes on Hammer's personality, and she nails that stuff pretty well.
In short, Hammer is the ultimate send-up of the classic loose cannon police detective. Dirty Harry is a great inspiration, but there are other aspects that work their way in as well. A few of the shows sent up the film noir detective genre. While some have compared it to "Get Smart" or "Police Squad," the thing that amazed me about it was how it reminds me at times of British comedies like "Blackadder" or some of Monty Python's skits. It is great that send-ups this consistently good got on American TV. Especially as there was almost always another, more subtle layer of humor under the more over-the-top gags. The main running current of humor was the sending up (by exaggeration) of the ultra-violent tone the action genre had taken on at the time. Yet underneath the people involved managed to work in genuine warmth, sybtle moments of humor, and genuine emotion across the board.
The show only ran for two seasons, agaist stiff competition (Put in a timeslot for example, against CBS' "Dallas" and NBC's "Miami Vice.") If only there was a better timeslot.. and maybe more budget, though the show did quite well with what they had.
I saw this in it's initial ABC run, then a few years later when a local station in Philadelphia put it on in reruns. Some of it held up very well, especially when classic genres/films were "given tribute." Some of the 80s references date it, but it wasn't bad. In fact, it rocked. Plus I remember seeing the first run as a kid, and the scene with the bazooka in the first show hooked me. Hilarious. In short, although it struggled, it built a pretty strong following among fans, and that is the definition of a cult classic. Websites have sprung up in recent years, allowing fans to chat about this truly unique show. When they put this one together, they really did know what they were doing.