23 September 2010 | GMJames
Strong casting and production values made the TV series "Spenser" worth watching
Several weeks before posting this review, I visited Boston for the first time. While riding the city's MBTA Red Line across the Longfellow Bridge, I could not help but hum variations of the theme song from "Spenser: For Hire," which aired over 25 years ago. I never read the Spenser books written by Robert B. Parker so I have no idea if the show ever captured the essence of the novels. The series never ranked in the top 20 and was switched to several time slots during the show's three seasons. The show's major strengths were Robert Urich as Spenser, Avery Brooks as Hawk and the incredibly strong on location production values that made the show better than some current and past detective shows, depending on the episode.
Some episodes, especially within season 1, had strong, intriguing plot twists that kept my interest. Three of my personal favorites were "The Choice," (which starred Patricia Clarkson and Sam Robards as thrill killers), "When Silence Speaks" (with Phyllis Frelich as a newspaper columnist who hires Spenser to locate a letter writer) and "Discord in a Minor," in which the teenage daughter of the city's symphony director tries to run away with the son of a local crime boss.
The show was far from perfect. Both of Spenser's love interests, Susan Silverman (played by Barbara Stock, seasons 1 and 3) and Rita Fiori (played by Carolyn McCormick, season 2) were generally thankless, underdeveloped roles. Arguably, both actresses tried their best with the material given but, more often than not, the dynamic between Spenser and Hawk was more interesting. In addition, several episodes depended more on chase scenes and stunts instead of correcting plot deficiencies, great stunt work notwithstanding.
I watched "Spenser: For Hire" on SlashControl.com and, as of this post, over 50 of the show's 65 episodes are available for streaming. Overall, the show was a nice diversion and a better-than-average detective series.
Update (6/14/2012): Sadly, with AOL ending SlashControl.com, Spenser: For Hire is not being streamed as of this update. I hope Warner Brothers will reconsider and stream and/or release the program on DVD in the future.
Update (2/3/2015): The WB Shop has released season 1 of "Spenser: For Hire" on a made-to-order DVD basis.