I grew up in the '80s watching many of Stephen J. Cannell's programs, and still consider Hardcastle and McCormick to be one of the best of its genre. The episodes were fun to watch as most were an equal blend of action, drama, and humor. Brian Keith (as retired judge Milton C. Hardcastle) and Daniel Hugh Kelly (as ex-con Mark McCormick) played to each other's acting strengths, and their on-screen chemistry was one of the main things that elevated this series. The dialogue was crisp, and the two tough-yet-intelligent lead characters were well-defined, once the writers settled on their backgrounds (Hardcastle's home state was changed in the first season from Kansas to Arkansas, and Mark claimed to be from both Florida and New Jersey, although that could have been in keeping with his character's lack of stability). In addition, the judge's age and his length of time on the bench seemed to change each season. It also appeared that Mark spent his two years of incarceration in every prison in southern California, although San Quentin was the location first mentioned in the pilot episode, and the one most frequently referenced. The men's constant (although often good- natured) bickering and competition seemed to be the foundation of their friendship, which was regularly mentioned lightly and sometimes showed in grander gestures, such as in the episode where McCormick sells his beloved race car in order to raise enough bail money to get a framed Hardcastle out of jail, or the one where Hardcastle risks his prestigious law career by assisting Mark's dead-beat dad in stealing some wire-tap tapes from a government safe to bargain for the release of a kidnapped McCormick.
The series had its flaws, as did most of the macho, shoot-em-up, action shows of the time period, but what it lacked in realism and consistency it made up for in originality and heart. This series is a great addition to the other classic television shows now available on DVD, such as The Greatest American Hero and Starsky and Hutch.