The Movie (pilot)

After two college students in a red-and-white Torino are killed by hired hit-men Zane and Canelli, Starsky and Hutch try to figure out if they were to be the real targets.

Fat Rolly: Michael Lerner, Captain Dobey: Richard Ward, Frank Tallman: Gilbert Green, D.A. Mark Henderson: Albert Morgenstern, Zane: Richard Lynch,  Cannel, Michael Conrad, Coley: Buddy Lester,  Mrs. Knebel: Carole Ita White, Steele: Don Billett, Patty: Karen Lamm, Elijah: Douglas Fowley


Viewed in hindsight, this pilot episode is especially rich in thematic content, beautifully filmed and ambitious in scope. Let’s also acknowledge how breathtakingly beautiful both actors are, and not blandly beautiful either but full of character, mature even, simultaneously relatable and impossibly perfect, and how that must have hit the viewing public when this movie debuted in 1974/5. It’s also interesting to see what was right from the very beginning in terms of the characters of Starsky and Hutch and what changed over time, and it always impresses me how Soul and Glaser were able to create such realized identities with so little to go on. So many habits and mannerisms are there from the beginning: the guys’ opposite tastes in cars, food, and exercise, their unity and trust in each other, their swinging bachelor lifestyles and hard-nosed reputations, their unerring moral compass and extreme dedication to the job (“Hutch and me are willing to risk getting burned out on the street, but it would hurt like hell if we lost sitting on our tails,” Starsky tells a roomful of bureaucrats), their reliance on Huggy Bear, and a generalized distrust in institutional authority. Also consistent over time is Hutch’s idealism and Starsky’s practicality. Starsky is the hedonist, Hutch the self-abnegator. Starsky is instinctive, Hutch is disciplinary. It’s only in future episodes do we get a fuller and more complicated picture of this marvelous partnership. That Hutch, despite his car, is flash while Starsky, despite his, is sensible. Or how when cornered by authority figures, Starsky tends to adopt a mock-friendly we’re-all-friends-here attitude while Hutch attacks frontally. How Starsky likes to play the fool, Hutch the sophisticate, both adopting personas that give them a kind of psychic comfort despite all evidence to the contrary. No, these more subtle things will have to wait. For now we are treated to a broad-stroke but surprisingly fully realized portrait of two young men fired up and ready to take on the world.

The episode opens with stunning quiet, a slow pan over the twinkling dark of Los Angeles. Two gangsters sit in a car discussing a John Wayne movie. This grotesque contradiction between the genial conversation and what they are about to do is striking. Also, when they joke about the two kids smoking dope in the car, they compare themselves to John Wayne, putting themselves in the hero category of this particular movie.

The first scenes with the two guys are ripe with the sort of camaraderie we come to expect, but with the addition of a certain amount of newbie tension. They like each other, are extraordinarily at ease in each other’s company, but it’s all performative, more or less showing off, as if they still have something to prove. Given the variable chronology of the partnership, one may guess they have been partners for about two or three years at this point.

It’s kind of cool that an entrance to the gym is in the back alley, and up a fire escape. Also, Starsky does not seem to worry about parking (and then abandoning) his unlocked car in the middle of a high-traffic inner city alley. He also has no problems interrupting the furious punching of a guy fifty pounds bigger than he is in order to joke with his partner; for many first-time viewers in the gawky throes of adolescence this display of ease and self confidence would have been awe-inspiring.

If the bad guys in the opening compare themselves to heroes, Starsky in his conversation with gym manager Vinnie seems to allude to being on the wrong side of the law. He does this by challenging Vinnie: “aren’t you ever curious about what me and Hutch do for a living?” and Vinnie nervously says he doesn’t want to know: “I got no questions!” This idea – that what is good is often bad, and what seems bad can be good, is something the series will explore over its four year run, during which a variety of crooked priests, wise junkies, soft-hearted prostitutes and evil police officers will prove time and time again that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Compare the checklist Starsky and Hutch go through in Hutch’s car to the one they go through right before Hutch’s mad dash to save Joanna Haymes in Season Three’s “The Psychic”. Here, it’s playful and thorough – including a Señor Wences joke, delightfully enough – two guys who can’t wait to get out onto the street and do their thing. In the later episode the checklist is more rushed, shot through with emotion, more a grim joke than actual inventory.

Note the mug book with the pasted-in photographs and handwritten information, including a hand-drawn mustache on one of the mug shots. It’s a relic of the pre-computer age and has a nearly animistic power; I wonder where it is now.

The rousting of Coley is an obviously meant to give us a primer on how this new breed of cop is different than the old guard. They are less interested in arresting people for minor offences than nudging them on the right path. Coley going back on his word to stay out of their beat is more “immoral” to them than the crime he has committed. This liberal attitude is compounded later when they are called into the captain’s office on an urgent matter and interpret it as annoying nonsense, probably nothing more than a bunch of uptight suits lecturing them on accounting matters or fine-print regulations. This is both childish and profoundly revolutionary – ignoring this call may have gotten them killed, since Dobey is calling to warn them about an impending hit, but it also frees them to pursue their own brand of street-level justice.

At the big speech at Fat Rolly’s bar, a scene that crackles with energy and wit (and the scene Glaser auditioned with for the role) Starsky is in charge, both physically and verbally intimidating, with Hutch as glowering got-your-back. Early on, Starsky appears to be the hothead, Hutch the hang-back-and-watch. Throughout the series they change as the situation demands.

I don’t know why, but it cracks me up when Starsky retrieves the pieces of paper and goes through them he says, “Let’s see what we got here.” He pulls out the first one and announces, in an it-figures tone, “French!”

Not that there’s any justification for it, but Rolly is simply not fat enough to inspire so many fat jokes and a cruel nickname.

Up to now, it’s been the Glaser show. He’s shown many sides of his character: boisterous, funny, determined, tough. But abruptly the spotlight comes to Soul, who has his first real moment in the episode, and it’s breathtaking, not only because the writing is so good but because we get to hear that distinctive honeyed voice. “There’s something you should know about Starsky and me,” he says quietly, radiating menace. “We’re not like most partners. You know usually there’s usually there’s the one guy who’s kind of folksy, who wants the best for everybody, you know the Pat O’Brien kind of guy.” “Yeah,” Rolly says, encouraged by the friendly tone Hutch is taking.
“And then there’s the other guy, the rough-em-up hard-nosed kind of guy. But that doesn’t work for Starsky and me. You see, we’re both hard-nosed, Rolly. And we don’t like it when people don’t give us everything we want.” This is the truest statement anyone has ever made about the partnership. That is, they’re not complimentary, not opposites, not good-guy-bad-guy, not mirror-image. They’re the same person.

Coley wasn’t arrested for something he did – pickpocketing – but Rolly is arrested for something he didn’t do – public intoxication.

It’s said the stolen Torino was driven out to the beach where the shooting occurred. And yet the shooting obviously happened high on a hill overlooking the city. Why the mix-up?

Hutch is mistaken by officious bureaucrats for Starsky in the mistaken-identity briefing.

During the meeting, the men from Internal Affairs and District Attorney Henderson are sour-faced bullies who make their dislike of Starsky and Hutch obvious. When Henderson says the hit may have been an attempt to stop Starsky from testifying he says it angrily, accusatory, as if Starsky is at fault. Of course we find out later what secret Henderson is hiding, but his bad attitude is a puzzle. Is it just because Starsky and Hutch are young and lighthearted, seeming not to take this seriously enough? Does he dislike and distrust them because they’re as close to being hippies as it’s possible to be and still carry a badge?

Why, with two different actors, did they stick with the name “Dobey” after the pilot? It would make more sense, and work as well, to have their captain just be a different man with a different name.

I swear the woman being wrestled out the door and spewing Spanish invectives says very clearly “son of a bitch!” just as she leaves the room.

The squad room is never shown in this pilot episode, but the booking room and other large, busy areas of the police station are, including the mortuary. (A note about the sets: they are beautifully filmed, realistic, and complex. As the series goes on some of this is lost and the sets become cheaper looking, perhaps because of the camera technology used for a television series). When Hutch goes down to see Rolly when he’s released, he spies him making a phone call. Rolly only dials four numbers, which implies he’s dialing someone inside the department. This is a major clue and Hutch should have waited a little longer to eavesdrop rather than interrupting him with a menacingly friendly, “Calling your bookie again?”

One clue that Hutch was married twice (Nancy and Vanessa) is that he tells Starsky that Nancy used to run back inside, thinking she had left the water on. Vanessa would never do that. For one, she’d never make that mistake. For another, she wouldn’t care if she had.

Elijah: a lovely scene in which Hutch gives him a dollar “just in case,” and Elijah, excited, runs to his friend in the alley, thereby smashing a bottle on the ground. One wonders if that smashed bottle, symbolizing the absurdity of fate, was planned, or just a wonderful accident. (Hutch’s giving Elijah the money apparently was an unscripted detail).

“How ‘bout that alley?” Hutch suggests as they try to outsmart their tail. “That’s a fine idea, Ollie,” Starsky says, Hardy-like. This is another long-standing and much-cherished joke, and it foreshadows many of their (interchangeable) partnership quantities: Ollie the obnoxious boss, Stan the long-suffering sidekick.

When does a tail become a chase? And what would be the point of either one? Following the nicely cinematic chase through the gloomy streets, Starsky and Hutch leap onto their pursuers (Starsky riding his like a rodeo bull) only to find out that crime boss Tallmann wants to meet with them at his mansion. It seems to me this could have been accomplished without all the fuss. Same too with the abruptly violent way Starsky and Hutch deal with the two heavies escorting them to the steam room – they are attacked and thrown back down the stairs even though both detectives then politely follow the instructions and disrobe for their meeting. If this is just a knee-jerk reaction to symbolic castration, I’m certain their guns would have been returned to them at the front door on the way out; Tallmann isn’t interested in making enemies at this point and they know it. So if they meant all along to obey the rules, why attack the goons? For fun? To preserve their tough reputations?

There only two notable females in this episode and both involve discomfort on the part of Starsky and Hutch. One is the smirking secretary handing over the towels and the other is Patricia Talbert’s roommate who says she prefers a man to be physically fit. This minor theme of female sexual desire being either embarrassing or pathetic will be restated many times throughout the run of the series.

A Havana cigar in a sauna: is this good for it, or bad? I can never remember the humidity rules. Also, the leather chair worries me slightly, and not only because of the uncomfortable image of a damp bottom getting stuck to it. Wouldn’t it warp in the worst way?

Tallmann gives a philosophical speech about the absurdity of being found guilty “two years after I’m dead”. If this is the case, why is he so disconcerted about being framed for the murder of Starsky and Hutch? It would most likely take far longer to prosecute such a circumstantial case as that.

There are many actors in this episode we will get to know well in the next four years: Michael Lerner, Richard Ward, Gilbert Green, Richard Lynch, Buddy Lester, Douglas Fowley and especially Michael Conrad.

Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall and universal darkness buries all. “Voltaire, 1744,” says Zane. Fat Rolly says nervously, “I knew that.” But in fact it’s from Alexander Pope’s “Dunciad.” Is Zane testing Rolly, or is he just an idiot? Interestingly, this is the first of two examples of hitmen duos, one of whom is a book-reading quasi-intellectual and one is a brutish thug (here, and “The Shootout”). This quote, though, is apt: as Elijah remarks earlier, the end of the world has already happened and this is hell.

It’s great when Hutch makes Starsky repeatedly laugh during their rain-soaked stakeout. As an aside, this looks like the single most uncomfortable shoot in the entire series, wet and cold and miserable. I can easily imagine the two actors, as they rocket to superstardom, being less inclined to do this sort of thing.

On the subject of cold and miserable, this entire episode is shot in a kind of gloomy darkness entirely at odds with the accepted image of Los Angeles being warm, sunny and bright. Was it a deliberate choice to go against that image?

Continuity error, as Starsky isn’t wearing his famous sweater when he first emerges from the pool.

The guys spend an inordinate amount of time in towels, soaking wet. This is Hutch’s third time in a towel, and Starsky’s second.

“Who are we supposed to trust?” Starsky says when it becomes clear there is a rat in the department. “The same people we always trust,” Hutch says. “Us.” This is a wonderfully intense moment – the audience at the time would see for the first time how truly connected the two are, how deep the friendship is – and variations on this conversation will happen repeatedly over the years.

Two amusing things at the porn theatre: the fact that Starsky buys popcorn, and the old lady putting salt on the tomato and munching away like she’s at a church picnic.

Dobey isn’t as consistently written as the main characters are. Starsky and Hutch suspect Dobey may be in on the plot to kill them, but this is the last time they ever suspect him of anything nefarious. It’s interesting when they rely on Huggy to give him the scoop on their captain rather than relying on their own instincts: apparently he’s “a pretty good cop. But he likes the ponies too much.” This gambling side of Dobey is never mentioned or seen again.

In this pilot episode Huggy is subtly different than he becomes later. Here, he is quieter, more intense, more “other”. When he emerges out of the shadows at the theatre he’s as slithery as a snake. He seems less savory, somehow, and more dangerous.

Starsky mentions a kid he played football with in high school, series creator William Blinn’s inside joke about the origin of Starsky’s name. He also directed an episode of The Rookies featuring a character named Huggy Bear.

Patricia Talbert is identified through her fingerprints. Did she have a criminal record?

Patricia Talbert spells Henderson’s name with a little heart in place of the “o” on her class schedule, a clue that is not commented on but is there to see for the observant viewer, and it speaks volumes about what is going on.

Starsky and Hutch wonder aloud why Patricia’s effects were not entered into evidence. Although we know this is an inside job, the question remains: just how far does Henderson reach into the department? Yes, he is the District Attorney. Yes, he has political power, and is involved in most aspects of policing. But able to squash primary evidence? Able to stall a brutal double homicide? This would mean he’d have law enforcement officers willing to do his bidding, from the scene-of-crime investigators to the legal team in his own department, and maybe one or two nosy journalists as well – a Son of Sam-type killing with all the elements of youth, beauty, drugs and sex would be just too juicy not to be front page news. And yet Henderson makes it all go away. Could it be the Bay City police are just too beleaguered by a high crime rate to stand against him? Was it just easier to take the bait he was offering?

Stopped by a black-and-white, Starsky is called “Hutchinson” by the contrite officer. Starsky explodes in the now-familiar “I’m Starsky, he’s Hutch” refrain; one wonders how the police officer mixed them up while looking at Starsky’s identification, unless he was carrying Hutch’s badge. Not outside the realm of possibility, but still. Also, notice how sanguine Hutch is throughout this incident. In later episodes he would more likely be the one to become explosively angry.

The action scenes at the end of the episode are suspenseful and believable, despite the lack of blood. Of note is the loud, almost distorted sound during the gun battle in the underground parking lot, which will be echoed, remarkably enough, in the very last episode of the series, “Sweet Revenge”.

In all the shows in which there is a shooting, fatal or otherwise, wouldn’t Starsky and Hutch be suspended with pay, pending investigation?

The grand old oak is rotten at the core: It is important this series begins with an episode about internal corruption, and supposed good guys who are not good at all. It’s part of a recurring theme of the dangers of authority, and the importance of staying on the outside of orthodoxy. It’s something overtly stated both here in the very first episode, and in “Sweet Revenge”, the very last. That there is a certain rarefied social and political strata that, once grasped, has a cruelly homogenizing effect on all who grasp it. A kind of hellish ledge upon which lawyers, judges, police officers, and criminals from the lowest hoodlum to the most powerful mafioso all sit, clustered together and united in their amorality.

It seems Henderson chose to use Starsky not because he had any specific beef against him but because he thought Starsky was an easy mark: inexperienced, unstable, with peccadillos that made him vulnerable to exploitation. He also thought nothing of using and then discarding a beautiful young woman who had everything to live for. This is the arrogance of the institutional elite, and in this way he perhaps even worse than old-world gangster Tallmann. But why does Henderson bother with this elaborate plot in the first place? If he wanted to get rid of a clingy young girl who could make life difficult for him, why not arrange an accident? He obviously has the brains and the resources to have her drown in the surf or die from an overdose, any number of things that wouldn’t raise the interest of the police. But no, he wants to rid himself of her and bring Starsky and Hutch down, or at least inconvenience them to an extraordinary degree. Just what his motivation is remains a mystery. Does he really despise them all that much, as evidenced in their one meeting near the beginning of the episode? Throughout, Henderson is a murky villain. His death – shot in the hallway – seems beside the point. He drops out of the frame and that’s that.

I wonder, though, how he managed to get everything to work so perfectly. Yes, he got Cannel and Zane off in return for being bad-shot hitmen, but how on earth did he get a car-stealing juvenile delinquent to successfully convince a good girl like pre-law student Patricia to get in a car with him, especially if she was still in love with her professor? And pregnant, to boot? Prior to their ill-fated date the two did not know each other.

Tag: So much for me-and-thee, when Starsky wants to be paid back for paying Hutch’s gym membership by being taken to dinner, and suggests a chili place. Hutch gives him the look. When Starsky says he’s dubious about Hutch following in his car to the place, Hutch says, “Trust me” and then drives in the opposite direction.

Clothing notes: the sweater makes its debut, and I miss the knit cap Starsky wears although it only works for very short hair and not the exuberant mop he eventually grows. He also wears a semi-long khaki army coat that looks great. His clothes seem more East Coast than California, marking him as an outsider in a way Hutch is not; this impression fades fast in the next few episodes. Let’s now take a moment to appreciate what Hutch is wearing during his workout in their first scene together, and what he is not wearing in the second. Hutch is spectacular in his caramel-brown leather jacket and aviator shades. Starsky wears brown suede cowboy boots and not the soon-to-be iconic Adidas.


25 Responses to “The Movie (pilot)”

  1. kit sullivan Says:

    What can one say about this, the first ever appearance of legrndary TV cops Starsky and Hutch? Here, and during the first few episodes they were known as Starsky “and” Hutch…they did not become Starsky “&” Hutch until after the first few episodes in. No matter, this production had it nearly 100% correct right out of the box…very rare for very nearly all typical TV shows. Characters, along with thier habits, personalities, appearance, background and even the actors who portray them are often tweaked mercilessly by show-producers, usually from demands made by producers networks and opinions of the finished and aired pilot. Not so here: the introductory version of our heroes went from pilot to setirs virtually 100% intact, save for Richard Ward’s casting as Dobey. I suspect the exact details of the Dobey character had some specific meaning for creator Naar, as Bernie Hamilton is a near carbon-copy of Richard Ward insofar as general appearance. Unlike most fan’s love for Mr. Hamilton’s portrayal of Dobey for the run of the series, I feel Ward’s rough and gruff “Dobey” is more hard-edged and believable as a hard-nosrd police captain trying to rein in two maverick street cops like Starsky and Hutch, as opposed to Hamilton’s less-believable hard-edged but sometimes-comical, and often bufoonish actions. On the other hand, Hamilton’s portrayal of “Dobey” provided a little remief from the relentless macho, alpha-male aggression from the guys in most circumstances. It’s all good…
    Clearly, messrs Soul and Glaser inhabited these characters fully right from the beginning. Kudo’s to each of them for delivering something far and away superior to typical “movie of the week” performances. I have always been slightly dissapointed to know that not only niether one of them expect the pilot to actually lead to a “pick-up” for a weekly series, they each hoped it would NOT get picked up. Glaser’s early disdain and multiple attempts to quit the show are well-known. Likewise, both Mr. Soul and Mr. Glaser each seem to harbor clearly-palpable animosity for “Starsky & Hutch”, even to this day…ironically the very thing that provided thier peaks of career success.
    No matter though to viewers…none of that came across on screen ( at least not until later seasons).
    The plot of this pilot surprisingly suceeds in making an astonishing achievemnt: the typically simplistic and juvenile plotting and narrative of the story somehow manages to pack a great twist that first-time viewers will never see coming: the late revalation that Starsky and Hutch were never the actual targets for assasination, merely used as cover to obfuscate the real intended victim. Brilliant.
    Some trivia: the Torino(s) in this pilot movie are painted quite differently than in any other appearance of Starsky’s favorite car, as well as carrying a diiferent license-pmate number, as opposed to the famous series-version ” CA-537 ONN”.
    The boys carry different guns than in the series, but that could simply be explained as our heroes buying new guns between the time of the pilot versus the time of the 1st episode.
    The scene in the apartment laundromat where the boys are drying thier clothes has a small item that seems a little odd: Starsky drys his gun, and tests the mechanism by dry-firing it. No one who knows and cares about guns would ever dry-fire a pistol…it can sevetely damage the innards. However, that could logically explain why Starsky has apparently purchased a new pistol by the first episode!
    As Hutch climbs into the Torino in the police parking garage, the sloppy paintwork of the white stripe is all to obvious: ameturish overspray in the door jamb, cheap black pinstripe tape hastily applied around the stripe and a defective exterior door handle are all easy to spot.
    Special mention of Lalo Schifrin’s pounding, driving musical score for this movie must be made. Along with “Mission: Impossible” and “Mannix”, this definitely one of Mr. Schifrin’s all-time great scores. The music for this pilot is very similar to Schifrin’s equally-riviting score for the similar-themed Steve McQueen starrer “Bullitt” of only a few years before. While Tom Scott’s 2nd-season theme for the show (“Gotcha!”) Has become the defacto “official” theme with most fans over the years, I personally much prefer Schifrin’s score. The end music practically makes the single-largest dramatic contribution to the crazily violent and frenetic climax.

    I always find it amusing when heavily-censored TV characters are forced to use G-rated language while attempting to subtly deliver R-rated dialogue: Hutch’s goofy “I don’t barkin’ believe it Starsk…will you find out what those yo-ho’s want?” It’s almost as comical 70’s TV version of street-hardened thugs and pimps aggresively insulting someone by calling them a “jive turkey creep!”

    I watched this movie in April of 1975 on ABC when it premiered, and as a car-crazy 14 year old teenager, I was instantly hooked.
    When it was scheduled to re-run in September later that year, I recorded the entire movie (audio only…VCRs had’nt been introduced yet!) to have a record of the show. During the rebroadcast, it was announced that the series was coming soon and I was so excited I could hardly stand it.
    I watched every single episode of the series first run, never missed a single episode. I may have been angry and dissapointed towards the end of the run with how the show was seemingly becoming unglued, but I watched every episode.
    And this where it all began. An all-time classic!

  2. Jill Says:

    Thank you for creating this site. I’ve recently begun watching the series on DVD – many episodes I haven’t seen since the 70’s. So, your site is a wonderful companion to the viewing experience.

  3. hutchlover Says:

    Mr. Green did not portray Stryker in the Pilot. He was Tallman. Therefore, S&H would not equate him to Elmo Jackson here. In Snowstorm, however, that’s a jarring error, as every cop is aware of recent fallen brothers – esp their Captain’s partner.

  4. June Says:

    Sorry to be a Fussy Gussy, Merle but DS’s role as a vigilante cop was in the second Harry Callaghan movie, “Magnum Force.”

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, June. I often need correcting on these bits of historical detail. Because I write these with no secondary research, or very little anyway, I am liable to be wrong more often than I’m right.

  5. King David Says:

    I read somewhere that Soul injured himself with that thudding leap onto his Ford; is this correct?
    The premise of this pilot was clever, I recall, when I first saw it back in the day. All twisty and gave us 13 year-olds something to think about. The City looked grim and grotty, S&H looked like products of the street, and I remember being cross at Hutch because he was mean to Starsky.
    Fancy having to sit outside in all that rain. Fancy being allowed to keep such a big dog in an apartment.
    I really cannot see S&H pulling any wool over Richard Ward’s eyes. But I also can’t see him being a credible recipient of any fondness or warmth from S&H, either.
    That Torino was the coolest car I ever saw. Amongst a panoply of huge Yank tank cars we saw on prime-time TV (Six Million Dollar Man, cop shows various), it was an individual, and instantly recognisable. Hutch just would never have a car which was a performance vehicle, and performance vehicles are an outlet for testosterone, aren’t they? Starsky is so comfortable in his own skin he can pour some of that masculinity into a car and still have plenty to spare. He is generous with his attachments; he puts up with Hutch’s derision of the Torino, and won’t relinquish it. Hutch is a performance vehicle of sorts, and Starsky won’t relinquish him, either.
    The more I watch this episode the more I like the ‘streetness’ of it, the little black beanie Starsky wears, and the daily slog. They’re not glamourous, they aren’t moneyed, they work hard for their pay, and they love it.
    And what’s not to love about the sauna scene? “You aint wearin’ a badge, honey!”
    (Personally, my favourite theme music is series three.)

    • Hutchlover Says:

      Yes, DS hurt his back in that scene, however, the major injury was done when he took a bad spill while filming ‘Swan Song’. That’s what really caused his requirement to have back surgery between S3 & S4. And why he was wearing a brace & big shirts in S4.

  6. orietta Says:

    Love this show!! Love them both, but Hutch oh Hutch what a beautiful man, all perfection!! Love you David Soul!!

  7. Alex Says:

    I’m starting the series all over again with this blog in hand. What a treat to read this blog and other viewers/readers’ comments. I don’t have much to add. Others have much more insightful comments. I will say I’m glad Starsky switched to Adidas instead of the boots. He slipped and slid all through the hotel. Wish he’d kept the shorter hair throughout the series. David Soul should never have butt planted on that car. Ouch.

    I’m surprised the writers let Starsky be the one to figure out who the real target was. Hutch is supposedly the smart one. I guess Starsky is street savvy though so while he might not know Lugusi from Lugosi he knows the criminal mind.

    Fat Rollie was a southpaw. Surprising how you notice things like that when you’re a lefty too. There was another lefty – female – but can’t quite remember who now. Three in one episode is sort of surprising to me. Starsky came out of the swimming pool sans sweater with gun in right hand then it immediately switched to him in a sweater with gun in left. After having watched the entire series this past couple of months I know there are an inordinate number of lefties in this series. I’ll probably point them out since Hutch makes such a big deal of Starsky’s left handedness in Captain Dobey…You’re Dead . But there certainly aren’t as many lefties as there are volkswagens. If I didn’t already know Ford had the transportation contract I’d think Volkswagen did. In this second viewing of the entire series I plan to look for one episode that doesn’t have a shot of a slug bug. I doubt I’ll find one.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Alex, and welcome. I had to laugh at your comment about Hutch supposedly cast as “the smart one”. In Season Four’s “The Game” Hutch, while undercover as a vengeful ruffian, is shocked when hearing front desk man Ernie disparage the intelligence of the two detectives, especially Hutch. “I thought he was supposed to be the bright one!” Hutch exclaims, indignant.

  8. Alex Says:

    Yes, I remember that scene. It flew in the face of what we’d been led to believe and had me scratching my head until I read in your blog that they had to switch roles because of David Soul’s back injury. That was an aha moment. For the scene to work the desk clerk had to be slighting the person to whom he was unknowingly talking so they had to say Starsky was smarter. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn Hutch’s line that you quoted was added after he took on that role so the scene would be more in keeping with how the show had portrayed them. I can’t picture Starsky saying that line if he’d kept that role. He would have whined that Starsky was just as smart as Hutch or something like that.

  9. Adelaide Says:

    Still one of my top 5 episodes ever. There are so many elements in this episode that I wished the show had continued to develop and put more emphasis on. I really like King David’s comment about it’s “streetness.”

    Now, I don’t exactly wish that the rest of the show had been more like this pilot — as much as I love the Pilot, if the whole show was like this, it would have been a bit too cold and lonely for my tastes. HOWEVER, I will say that if the producers had taken all the two-parters in this show (with the exception of The Plague and Targets) and edited and reworked those bloated, gimmicky, forgettable ratings-bait pieces into dark, gritty, harsh, hard-edges mysteries like the Pilot, the show as a whole would have been a lot better on two fronts: #1) episodes like this would have put the harrowing intensity of Starsky and Hutch’s determination and heroism despite their hopelessly-outmatched peril and isolation in a dangerous and untrustworthy world — a tone that has always strongly reminded me, by the way, of ‘All The President’s Men’ — front and center, and magnified, via reinforcement and duplication, these same elements where they are present in other episodes. #2) the presence of so many more Pilot-esque two-part episodes would have transformed some of the other more light-hearted and silly episodes in this series, by altering the surrounding context, into far more welcome comic relief breather-episodes.

    Actually, even altering Las Vegas Strangler, Murder at Sea, and The Set-Up would be unnecessary — if just the Voodoo Island episodes had been completely deleted from canon and replaced by a two-parter that bore great similarity in tone and content to the Pilot, it would have still been enough to improve the entire series 😉

    By the way, the laundry room scene in this episode is one of my favorite scenes in the entire canon. The background music, with that implacable, chilling tension ratcheting up in its soft, isolated, pulsing beat, is extremely effective and really makes the scene. The directing, with the two men almost naked — the universal symbol for vulnerability — sitting so close together, alone in the feebly-lit, squalid, mundane utility room, in a brief, fragile cocoon of safety from the sharp-edged darkness and lurking shadows outside, is pitch-perfect. The acting — the intensity and vibrant presence of the two characters with their strong, vivid personalities and the bond of trust and loyalty and empathy and togetherness between them so mythically powerful and tangible it is nearly luminous — is as fully realized and fleshed out as any moment in later episodes. That scene is sublime — it transcends the sum of its parts to rise above the actual literal story and create an impression that leaves its mark on the entirety of Starsky and Hutch’s characters and relationship throughout the show’s run, colors every subsequent moment between them with its reflection, and sticks in the memory forever.

  10. Shelley Says:

    This blog has inspired me to start all over with the series again and combine it with reading the commentary here, similar to what Alex said above. I’ve been watching it haphazardly on TV, with episodes commonly completely out of order, so this will be entirely different.

    I like the scenes with the gritty, seedy parts of the city that Starsky & Hutch work in. As has been noted many times, these earlier shows are so much different in atmosphere than the later ones with the ‘glitz.’ Like you, I’m not sure what exactly the point of the car chase was, but it was interesting to see the tired old streets filled with litter and papers flying all over when the cars zoomed through. I found myself looking at the storefronts and other buildings more than I usually do with this show.

    Merl, I agree about the “son of a bitch” line. When I heard that, I immediately heard in my mind Lily on How I Met Your Mother saying “you son of a beech,” as she often did . . . didn’t remember that moment until I read your comment here.

    It struck me as a Captain Obvious moment when Starsky looked at the damaged Torino and said, “Hey, that looks like MY car!”

  11. rycardus Says:

    Great analysis as always of one of my favourite episodes, not only of Starsky and Hutch, but of television in general. It’s almost a ‘how to’ guide for writing a pilot. It establishes the characters, the setting, and most of the tropes that will become so familiar.

    One thing that always strikes me about this episode is how there seems to be a theme of rules, about right and wrong and how easy it is to confuse the two in modern society. Look at all the signs – no parking, rules for using the swimming pool (one of which is ‘no pets’ clearly noted behind the woman walking her dog!), rules for using the laundry facilities, etc.

    The opening line offers another ‘rule’ as a killer says, “Isn’t that smoking illegal?”

    Our introduction to Starsky is when he parks his car blocking a fire exit. (Incidentally, another continuity error as the car seems to change position three times during the opening scenes). The first things said to Starsky are “You’re late”, “you shouldn’t drink that crap,” which suggest he’s committing infractions of some sort. He responds by putting his litter in the dirty towel hamper.

    Hutch’s comment “We know what we’re doing, I’ll be damned if I know why” tells us he and Starsky are well aware of the line they’re walking as cops in Bay City in the mid- late-1970s. This remains constant in terms of Hutch’s attitude towards his job throughout the series.

    Ten minutes in and we’re still not sure if these are the good guys or not. Still, we already like them. They’re both cute, for starters, and their contrast is already evident. Hutch is the health-conscious one, the deep thinker. Starsky stops a boxer for hitting his punching bag, and gets away with it. There’s also something cheeky and adorable about him eating a danish in a gym.

    “Zebra 3” is the first indication that they are cops. How often over the course of the series do we hear that the two guys look indistinguishable from the villains they’re hunting?

    It’s interesting that as soon as the petty (and not so petty crooks) think S&H are dead they’re immediately back to their bad behaviour. I’d guess our heroes are doing an excellent job of keeping their corner of the world safe. They may not be loved, but they are respected.

    We learn that Starsky has a reputation for being a ladies’ man. Who’d a thunk it?!

    “Hutch and me are willing to get burned out on the street but it would hurt like hell if we lost sitting on our tails.” That’s the S&H philosophy right there. Tied with, “The same people we always trust: Us.” Have you ever noticed how often S&H say “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me”?

    Elijah says the end of the world has already come “and we’re all in hell.” A good view of this world in which he and S&H live. And Elijah shares his windfall by treating his friend to coffee. This isn’t the only time we see people on the outskirts of society having more humanity than those deemed ‘civilized’ in this series.

    Could ‘Fat Roley’ have acquired his nickname because it resembles ‘roly-poly’?

    More topsy-turvy: ‘bad guy’ Tallman wants to keep our guys alive, while the ‘good guy’ cops would be happy to see them dead. This is a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate world and no one believes in heroes any more. Not even the heroes.

    I do have to point out one last thing: the Captain Dobey here isn’t ‘our’ Captain Dobey. I don’t mean it’s a different actor, I mean it’s a different character. This Capt Dobey is Wm R, not Bernie Hamilton’s Harold C, whom we know and love. Are they cousins? Brothers? I’d like to think they’re related in some way. (Oh, and is it a coincidence that the name is almost a homonym for ‘dopey’?)

    • merltheearl Says:

      These are wonderful comments and observations, rycardus, thank you. I like how you express how the Pilot encapsulates the upending of social and political mores in this turbulent decade. Nothing is as it seems.

    • Adelaide Says:

      [Have you ever noticed how often S&H say “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me”?]

      I have, and I love it! I wasn’t sure if it was just confirmation bias on my part, but I’ve always had a very strong feeling that this was the case. The more I think about it, the more I feel it IS the case. Neither character talks about himself, singular, much at all, in fact. Most of the information about each character as an individual come from his actions or from what his comments indirectly imply about his personality. When they talk about themselves, it’s usually about THEMselves, plural entity.

      Especially when they talk about personal things that most people wouldn’t feel comfortable presuming on their friend’s behalf, or just wouldn’t even have the opportunity to presume on their friend’s behalf (all paraphrased of course): “we feel” “we want to” “we thought” “we won’t” “we will” “we hit the jackpot” “we’re in trouble” “we got set up/cheated/lied to/embarrassed” “we don’t trust” “we do trust” “we’re going here” “we’ll be there” “we plan to” “we don’t make deals” “we don’t like to do such and such” “we can’t let this or that happen” and most amazingly “WE are on the lam at the moment and if this doesn’t work you can visit US in San Quentin” etc etc etc.

  12. Wallis Says:

    I’ve always loved this episode so much. I feel like I should say so many things about it, but everyone else pretty much beat me to it. Maybe the most unique part of the Pilot was the feel that Starsky and Hutch are really, *really* alone and abandoned and unable to rely on anyone else. In the later episodes, they seem to have a little more support, even if that support is usually fairly marginal, around-the-edges stuff. From one-shot case characters, from other cops, from their numerous one-episide friends, from Huggy, and from Dobey. Whereas here, they actually think it’s possible that Dobey is the one trying to whack them, and his portrayal doesn’t make this an unreasonable suspicion. I may be a minority here, but I liked this Dobey better than the real Dobey. Not as a person, but as a character. I do think that the later Dobey provided a lot of much needed explosiveness and comic-relief (he also got so many great one-liners!), but I somehow feel that comic-relief might have been better coming from another character who wasn’t their boss. Yes, Dobey needs to be somewhat ineffective for the show to work, but I think ineffectiveness through being unsympathetic and detached like pilot-Dobey would have been better than ineffectiveness through ridiculousness. Might have made for some good plots too, as I can imagine pilot-Dobey lying to and manipulating Starsky and Hutch into getting into a lot of interesting unpredictable situations for ‘big picture’ goals, in a way the regular-Dobey wouldn’t have.

    Also, I sort of see this episode as taking place a couple years before the rest of season one. The little changes in their characters – the way they dress, Starsky’s super-short hair, the slightly different sets, the tentativeness and secrecy in their relationship with Huggy, and the slightly more showy and flashy not *quite* as old-married-couple way they interact with each other (though that’s very relative – compared to most other TV characters, they’re pretty damn married-ish already), makes it feel like this episode takes place a while back. Maybe like…one of the foundational events that really cemented their absolute trust and indivisibility in the rest of the show.

  13. Patricia Ackor Says:

    Hello, Merl, and all readers of this wonderful blog. My name is Pat and I was the legal and production researcher on S&H during seasons 2-4, but I have had no contact with the world of fandom since then. It was only about a month ago that I even learned that not only were David and Paul still alive, they were still together whenever possible. This was a revelation to me, and I have spent every available moment since immersing myself in the various websites. I have posted a few “Recollections” of my experiences on the show, and a few script adaptations and treatments on the site, under the pen name, D P Patricks, for anyone interested in how I remember things.
    As for the pilot “episode,” the comments above are insightful, apt, and wonderful to read. I would like to refer to one of the unique things that no one else has mentioned though, except in passing: the car chase, and specifically, the 630 degree turn. I grew up with television; my parents got our first set in 1948. Yep, my dad loved all new “gadgets.” So I was a TV addict; I watched everything! And it had all gotten pretty boring by 1975, car chases especially. But suddenly, here was a TV movie-of-the-week about two guys, out-of-the-box cops that were intelligent without the script telling you they were, savvy, in perfect tune with each other, as no pair before them had ever been, and enjoying what they were doing, no matter how dangerous or dirty. And one of them drove that COOL car! Then, out of nowhere, in the middle of this complex plot (and as pointed out above, without a very good reason) we have The Required Car Chase (BTW, all that lovely “refuse” in the alleys that blows around? Most of it was script pages, scattered diligently by the prop department, then just as diligently collected after the scene) but this one was different. The guys were joking around in the car, still completely in tune with each other, and it was FUN. Then, to top it off, the Torino begins a screeching turn in an intersection, followed closely by the black Lincoln (or was it a Continental? I honestly don’t remember) that becomes a full circle, and then, of all things, continues the turn. The two cars complete almost two full circles before the Torino angles off into a parking lot. Never, in all my TV watching, had I seen a 630 degree turn. And never since. It was unique. And I was hooked.
    One other thing I’d like to comment on is the fact that most of the “errors” and “inconsistencies” and “that makes no sense” parts of the story, here and throughout the entire series, can be blamed on poor writing. Not all, but most. I know. The scripts I had to read were sometimes almost illiterate, the plot lines made no sense and the dialog couldn’t be said (you’d be surprised at how many writers never say the lines they write out loud). You honestly can’t expect a rational explanation for why Henderson chose his convoluted method of eliminating his pregnant girlfriend because, if he hadn’t, there would be no story, no script, and no TV movie. So it comes under the much over used heading of “Oh, Never Mind!” Far too much of this slack way of thinking and writing suffused TV at the time because, believe it or not, the producers thought the fans weren’t paying attention. And that they wouldn’t care, even if they were. From this point in time, 2014, you’re trying to rationalize things as if those making the show cared about what they were doing. Unhappily, most did not. The two exceptions were Soul and Glaser. They cared! Not only about each other but about the show, and they had to fight continuously for four years to make it as good as it was.
    I’m going to thoroughly enjoy reading each episode segment and all comments on your site, Merl. I may even have a memory or two to offer. Thanks for taking the time to do it and to help keep S&H alive for all of us out here who are still addicts.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Patricia, I was SO excited to get your comment this morning! I am thrilled to hear from you and I loved reading every bit of your reminiscences and all your insights into the production of the series. I’ve been hoping for someone to fill in some of the blanks. You know, we can spend hours making fancy theories and impressions but nothing compares to hearing from someone who was really there. I can’t wait to hear more from you as you read through this blog. Again, I’m thrilled you took the time to let us all know about your most unique experiences. And I knew it, they key to all the puzzling inconsistencies and intriguing mysteries is plain old fashioned lousy writing.

      • Patricia Ackor Says:

        Hi Merl, I’m the one who’s excited to have found your site. And I’m more than happy to offer what little I can as far as opinions, explanations and first-hand experiences. I do have a few “gems” that I’ll put in individual episode comments (I think I’ve left comments on four or five, so far), but, yes, the biggest flaw in the whole 4 seasons was the less-than-stellar writing. If you have the time to read through them, my four Recollections on the site might fill in some of your blanks and holes. Suffice it to say, David and Paul were under siege from the get-go. I was amazed that they managed to hold themselves together, and keep the show as good as it was as long as they did. I truly believe S4 was the downer it was because the writers and producers gave them such mean-spirited scripts and never let up with the malicious rumors. Couldn’t believe it when I discovered just over a month ago that they had paid everyone back by remaining friends. It’s so wonderful to see all the recent clips and interviews; the love is still there.

    • Adelaide Says:

      Wow! What an exciting commenter to have! I’m totally going to be following your recollections here. 😉

      However for the inconsistencies — I’m sure most viewers know that the inconsistencies are the result of sloppy and lazy writing, but it’s so much more interesting and delightful to try to make up plausible motivations and logic and theories for “what happened between scenes?” and “why does he say this?” and “what was he thinking here?” as if all the things that happened in the show were really happening to real people, and all the events happened because of logical reasons, not because the script said so.

      I think it’s actually even more fun to do it with a show like this than with a modern show where the writers put much more attention and detail and thought into what they’re doing, because in a show like Starsky & Hutch, we’re allowed to *completely* not give a rat’s ass what the writers intended (because they usually ‘intended’ so little) and work from what we see and what the actors convey. 🙂

      • Patricia Ackor Says:

        Hello Adelaide, Thanks for responding to my comment. And what a wonderful way to think about all the lousy script writing: a chance to theorize, discuss and come up with solutions to explain the gaps, holes, inconsistencies, etc. I’ve never been very good at leaving my Logic Shoes outside, but I’m more than willing to give it a try. When I was doing research I had to do my best to help the writers fill in the blanks and make sense of their senseless scripts but, unless the wrongness was going to get the production company sued, we had no authority to force changes. So, mostly, my work didn’t affect anything. A few, perhaps, not many. I love your final sentence; it’s a grand philosophy! Thanks again, Pat

  14. stybz Says:

    Hi Pat. Great to meet you. I’m looking forward to reading your insights, I visited the SHArchive and read your posts there too. 🙂

    • Patricia Ackor Says:

      Good to meet you, too. I hope you enjoyed the items I’ve posted to the Archive site; a little bit of everything. Don’t remember how many comments I’ve logged on Merl’s site but it’s a few; I’m usually the last to have commented on some of S1’s episodes. Let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. Thanks, Pat

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