During 1997 and 1998 our national television blessed us with another good work form the 1980s, where big part of being good is just by belonging to the 1980s and its TV values.
Spenser was a prince. I mean who would be the other detective that you know who read all of these books and is ready to quote from them anytime ?! The character was confident, friendly, and not that violent too.
..Speaking of which, we come to the matter of his guarding angel, the darkest sidekick in the history of TV, Mr. Hawk himself. Hawk was the evil man who had gone wrong turning into good guy. Spooky good guy to be precise. At that time, there were so many good detectives on TV, but Hawk was totally unprecedented character that still is incomparable till now. He stole the lights especially with his distinctive marks and remarks, plus his forever vagueness' halo, his sudden appearances to rescue his friend, his undefeatable persona, and the fact that he's capable of doing what Spencer can't (being nasty, fierce, or scary).
It was winning deal to watch them both; 1) What a complete friendship, 2) What a perfect force, 3) What a philosophical look into the human being whereas we're half good and half evil so what a great thing to have the best of both sides, 4) It assured that one kind intellectual man must have a wicked streetwise half to get through life.
The attraction's factors are many : The start's combination of always very well made teaser, great music theme, and catchy opening credits—was highly enjoyable; I recorded it back then to watch it endlessly. Then the narration of Robert Urich as Spencer. The sexy Barbara Stock, and the tender Carolyn McCormick, OK, both were so right for what they were, yet McCormick's character started as the sharp intense Assistant District Attorney Rita Fiore to end up as the soft delicate Rita or Spencer's girl ! Although Richard Jaeckel was fine, but I didn't like Ron McLarty as the fat sloppy Sgt. Frank.
The music score captured my heart, to the extent that I longed for a soundtrack for every episode. The cinematography was sensitive at times, with fascinating look to Boston all the time. The scripts were never formulaic; a lot of previous and next shows like (Columbo), (The A-Team), and (Walker Texas Ranger) got stuck into the tragedy of "if-you-see-one-you've-seen-them-all", however Spenser was different. Yes, not ALL the episodes was so perfect, but at least it had certain amount of fun. It wasn't about sexy girls or car chases; it was about crime, mystery and a continuous conflict that needs brains and some muscles too.
Some episodes managed to be above average : Spenser's house is burned, Spenser's hand becomes paralyzed, Spenser kills a young assassin and must face his kids, Spenser vs. Hawk himself as a bodyguard of some villain, Spenser and Hawk babysitter a marked witness.
For me, the best of it was the rare chemistry between the 2 leads as characters before as actors which made the show one of the most important buddy-cop shows ever. Actually waiting for Hawk to show up was some treat for every episode, so how about his lines and attitudes also.
I've always believed that Robert Urich is a star more than an actor, and how his powers as an actor lacked a lot to be more effective. He used to deal with the performance by his heavy charisma, a smile, and touch of elegance. Anyhow, that wasn't a show about acting in the first place. Avery Brooks was the kindest ogre you would ever see. He provided the show with great appeal, despite that his role wasn't deep at all; it was just tough menacing and funny lines which he mastered to the utmost. Obviously, the 2 characters consummated each other perfectly, and maybe that was one of the reasons why the spin-off (A Man Named Hawk), starring Hawk only, didn't find the same success, you'd feel all the time something like : Where is his other half ?!
Skip the 4 TV movies of the 1990s utterly; they're nothing like the original show. Watching them is like watching ghosts from the 1980s through cold tasteless movie of the week stuff. I still ask myself not which one was their best ? No, but which one was worse than the other ?! Worth the look if only you're a big BIG fan of the 2 leads.
True that Spencer was the prince of detectives, but hey.. Magnum, at the time and till now, was / is the king. Nevertheless, whatever.. for the 1980s' nostalgia; when the TV shows were legendarily nice and entertaining, the friendship, the mystery, your love for the leads.. for any of these reasons or all.. you've got to miss (Spencer : For Hire).
P.S : I wrote another IMDb review about the spin-off (A Man Named Hawk) entitled "The Most Evil Good Hero Ever" where I talked more elaborately about his relationship with Spencer.