30 June 1999 | launchd
A TV rarity: an ensemble that takes you to their universe for intelligent crime adventure.
How to wrap up in summation thoughts and feelings for what started out as viewing a tremendously enjoyable series that has led to a desire to know the Spenser universe as well as creator Robert B. Parker? Two words: Intelligent, non-pandering. Every so often the rarity of a great ensemble cast manages to translate story-to-screen week-after-week in a way that induces the viewer to come back. Robert Urich as Spenser brought an intellect mind to the P.I. genre as no one had prior and his partnership-friendship with long-time associate Hawk (as played by Avery Brooks in the role he shall forever shine in [versus his "Deep Space Nine" stint] displayed, without ever coming right out and stating it, that men being close with other men is not only O.K.- it (friendship) is what life is all about (and that you don't discuss it- you live it AND accept it). The third ingredient, Spenser's paramour, shrink Susan Silverman (as played by the ravishing Barbara Stock) makes for a group of impenetrable smarts and savvy to tackle the most twisted of crimes and criminals. Spenser's police associates, Sergeant Belson (Ron McLarty) and Lt. Quirk (long-time renown actor Richard Jaeckel) complete the team- and... the complement. As portrayed in the novels, they each ultimately are part of a crime-fighting machine, only not in the TV-formulistic manner. One doesn't feel as though the producers of the show have a checklist being annotated during planning and blocking meetings. Stories feel real, with a human flair versus a TV production mill affair. Being set primarily in the Massachusetts-centered New England, and MUCH of the time on location also gives the series a freshness. Invariably "Spenser for Hire" will air in re-runs again. My recommendation: watch it, then go get the novels (there are now 20+). As for the "TV movies" that were on and produced by Lifetime- they are just O.K., each came directly from a Parker Novel (with screenplays authored or co-authored by the creator himself) but other than Urich and Brooks, the remaining principles are cast with different people and the "magic" never quite propagated. But even change can be surprising- which is what I am hoping the upcoming new A&E production of one of the more recent Parker novels, "Small Vices" will be.