More career-making than groundbreaking TV, The Streets of San Francisco
is an efficiently entertaining old-school cop show from Quinn Martin, master of the four-acts-and-an-epilogue hour drama (The Untouchables, The Fugitive
). Old Hollywood meets new with the casting of Oscar-winning character actor Karl Malden (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront
) and, in the role that put him on the map, future Oscar-winner Michael Douglas
) as partners in San Francisco's Bureau of Inspectors. Malden is 23-year-veteran Lt. Mike Stone. Douglas is Inspector Steve Keller, whose "fancy degrees in criminology" don't impress Stone. The generational conflict is more pronounced in the pilot episode. When Keller questions whether a deceased woman found floating in the bay is a suicide, Stone derisively responds, "If you were born in this town, you'd know that the current under the bridge flows out to sea and not in." Though the t wo have their differences (Stone, a self-described "slob," wears the classic trench coat, while Keller is "the best dressed cop on poverty row"), Stone is a more patient mentor in the 1972 series' first 14 episodes (13 plus the pilot) that are contained in this set's four discs.
One of this series' retro-TV delights is the veteran/rookie casting dynamic that extends to the series' guest stars. The pilot episode features Robert Wagner as a slick and initially suspect lawyer, and a pre-Happy Days Tom Bosley as the victim's landlord. The future Starsky & Hutch show up, albeit in separate episodes. David Soul is a racist cop with a surprising genealogy in "Hall of Mirrors" and in "Bitter Wine," Paul Michael Glaser stars as a man who spent 12 years in San Quentin for his brother's crime. Other familiar faces from TV Land include Vic Tayback (Alice), Victor French (Little House on the Prairie), Edward Mulhare (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), and Dick Van Patten (Eight Is Enough). But perhaps this series' real star is San Francisco, an offbeat location for a cop show. Ghirardelli Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other landmarks are intriguing backdrops as the gruff but compassionate Stone and the more hotheaded Keller pursue criminals and killers, some of whom are as deeply twisted as Lombard Street. Throw in a vintage show-launch interview with Malden and Douglas conducted by former Hollywood columnist and Oscars red-carpet emcee Army Archerd, and you have a set that's a real San Francisco treat. --Donald Liebenson
While it never achieved the success of such better-known shows as Kojak
or Starsky & Hutch
, the Quinn Martin-produced The Streets of San Francisco
remains one of the highlights of the 1970s television crime-drama boom. The action-packed series also made a star of the then up-and-coming actor Michael Douglas, who, along with Karl Malden, anchored the cast as a father-and-son-like duo of crime-fighting San Francisco police detectives, 20-year veteran Mike Stone (Malden) and his eager rookie partner, Steve Keller (Douglas). Filmed on location in the city by the bay, the series distinguished itself with great acting, intricate storylines, inventive opening credits, and an indelible theme song. This collection presents the shows debut series in its entirety.