23 August 2017 | elvimark01
T.J. Hooker and Its Origins
Looking back over the various guest roles that William Shatner has played over the past couple of decades, there are two guest shots he made over the years that would indicate that he was the perfect choice for the role of Sergeant Thomas Jefferson 'T.J.' Hooker (incidentally, everyone, including his wife, calls him 'Hooker'...the only person to ever call him T.J. was Henry Darrow's character in "A Cry For Help").
First off, there's Shatner's 1971 guest appearance on Ironside, in an episode entitled 'Walls Are Waiting"...imagine a parole officer who's just like Hooker, and you have the Shat in this episode about a hard-ass P.O. who has a hard-on for pushers (due to his sister being an addict). When he receives several threats on his life, he suspects one particular pusher, and naturally, Ironside isn't so sure.
Fast-forward to 1975, and here's Bill on The Rookies, donning the uniform as yet another wacko veteran officer, the type of guy Sam Melville's Rookies character, Mike Danko, seemed to be always partnered with. In this episode, "The Hunting Ground", the cop played by Shatner is hunting down criminals on his off-time...emphasis on the word 'hunting'.
Watching both of these roles, you get the feel for the Hooker character...all that's missing are the constant references to 'maggots'...yes, in every episode, Hooker vows to 'get these maggots off the street!' I was always under the impression that 'maggots' was a substitute for a certain epithet that rhymed with it, and that ABC (and possibly Aaron Spelling and Columbia) were a little skittish about using *that* word too much.
Now to the series...while it's not the greatest crime drama ever, it certainly fits the action bill with Shatner jumping on the hoods of moving cars, sprinting after suspects, etc. And while Hooker starts out the series as an alcoholic hard-ass, he lightens up considerably during the show's run, becoming more of a friend to his young stud partner Vince Romano (Adrian Zmed). The requisite 'cute female' is Officer Vicki Taylor in the first season (April Clough), replaced by Stacy Sheridan (Heather Locklear) for the remainder of the series. Their Captain is Stacy's Dad, Dennis Sheridan (Richard Herd), and near the end of the first season, Moondoggie, I mean, James Darren comes aboard as Officer Jim Corrigan.
The stories are naturally the usual Aaron Spelling cop show fare, with Hooker taking on pimps, pushers, crooked cops, etc. The villains are played by many of the usual cop show villain actors, like Don Gordon, John Vernon and Jonathan 'The World's Most Interesting Man' Goldsmith, to name a few. And let's not forget the manly power of the Shat...yep, even with the toupee and the paunch, he's quite the stud, landing beauties like Lisa Hartman, Cristina Raines, Kristen Meadows (very hot in a white swimsuit!) and Michelle Phillips, to name a few. Ladies' man Romano manages to score a few times himself, as do Stacy and Corrigan.
The series lasted a little over three seasons on ABC...if it had continued on the Alphabet Network, it would've turned toward comedy, as the last ABC episode featured Hooker getting a transfer to Chicago and being partnered with a jive-ass cop. The rest of the cast would've been gone. Instead, ABC canceled the series, CBS picked it up for their Crime Time After Prime Time feature, Hooker went back to L.A. with Stacy and Corrigan, but no Romano...Adrian Zmed had rightfully moved on to host Dance Fever. The CBS season was the final one.
Throughout the run of the series, Shatner and the rest of the cast deliver the action like clockwork. T.J. Hooker is a bit dated, sure, but for a good, quick action fix, it doesn't hurt to catch an episode now and then. Watch out, Maggots...Hooker's on the job!