Years later Hill Street Blues would redefine the cop genre as a mesh of overlapping storylines and workaday frustrations, but Aaron Spelling's iconic 70s show portrays LA's finest as madly heroic creatures of reckless determination and physicality. This first season is also startlingly brutal for a primetime US showit was later significantly toned down, much to the regret of fanswhile maintaining a delightful, often incongruous, self-deprecating humour. From the series pilot on, partners and best pals Starsky and Hutch work a fine line between predator and prey, relentlessly pursuing suspects while also snared by crime chieftains or short-sighted superiors. In "The Fix", Hutch's secret romance with the former girlfriend of a mafia boss (Robert Loggia) results in the lawman's kidnapping and forced addiction to heroin. Similarly, in "A Coffin for Starsky", a mad chemist injects the wisecracking cop with a slow-acting but lethal poison. "Jo-Jo", written by Michael Mann, finds our guys at loggerheads with federal officers over a dumb deal the G-Men make with a serial rapist.
The 23 episodes in this set are all fun, if sometimes shocking, viewing. Expect each character to take as much abuse as he dishes out. Still, the comic sight of Starsky and Hutch (in "Death Notice") trying to conduct business amid busy strippers is well worth the surrounding violence. --Tom Keogh