Episode 11: Captain Dobey, You’re Dead

Starsky and Hutch try to track down escaped felon and former cop Leo Moon before he can get revenge on Dobey, the cop who put him away.

Leo Moon: William Watson, Edith Dobey: Lynn Hamilton, CJ Woodfield: Lester Rawlins, Rosie: Claire Touchstone, Cal: Eric Sutter, Lola: Taaffe O’Connell, Pommier: Kurt Grayson, Norris: Bill Traylor, Frisco Fats: Lee McLaughlin, Sheila: Marla Adams, Mechanic: Michael MacRae, Fry: Michael Durrell, Ethel: Robin Raymond, Doyle: Marty Davis, Crenshaw: Duncan McLeod. Written By: Michael Fisher, Directed By: Michael Schultz.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Prison escapes and that prisoner’s declaration of revenge on the person who put him there are always great stories. Sometimes they are fictional and sometimes they are horrifyingly real, as evidenced by the recent high profile escapes in the news. This episode is a straight-ahead depiction of a not-too-smart guy whose lust for revenge makes him easily manipulated into doing dirty work. As with most in Season One, this episode has one foot in the staid cop dramas of the late 60s and early 70s (the staccato and heavy-handed expository dialogue, the fast narrative trajectory) and one foot in the progressive, more psychologically oriented approach that would soon change the way we see televised drama. The plot is classic but the way Starsky and Hutch move through the narrative – sophisticated, unpredictable, nearly feral – is genuinely new.

Time has not been particularly kind to the character of Captain Dobey. Watching now, we’re aware too acutely of how old fashioned he is, and the haunting professional failures (his decade-long inability to bring justice to the case of slain civil rights leader Issac Douglas, as well as his own partner’s murder in “Snowstorm”), the decision to leave his family in the protection of a sole police officer, even the fact that he lies to himself about his dietary habits (understandable), all point to someone who is not all that self-aware. Very often Dobey has to have the case explained to him (“Death Ride”, “Targets”), and very often his unthinking tantrums actually hurt the investigation (“Bloodbath”, “Tap Dancing”). Of course we must acknowledge the triumph Dobey represents and has earned, that of the African-American in a position of power, and as well we must recognize the archetypal Authority Figure (especially one that occasionally dips into comedy, as Dobey’s does) is by its very nature an unfashionable constant, while the heroic figures of Starsky and Hutch have only improved over time. Awesomely progressive then, they still seem radical, and we can thank both the writers and the actors themselves for how fresh and contemporary these characters are. In fact we are only now appreciating just how radical they were and are – their fierce independence, enlightened humanism, and barrier-breaking love and loyalty to one another is still as rare a commodity now as it was then.

A couple of interesting issues arise immediately: one, those guys in the car are dressed very well, and very warmly, for this job. A suit and a sweater vest in what looks like ninety degree heat? As well, they are awfully casual as they wait for escapee Leo Moon. They don’t position themselves by the iron manhole cover, but sit in the car. Moon has to tap furiously to signal he’s raring to get out, and precious seconds are wasted while Sweater Vest gets out of the car, gets his crowbar, walks over and opens the vault; meanwhile sirens are loudly blaring away, which should have sent them scurrying into position long before now.

How does Moon escape, anyway? He seems to have merely crawled through a super-convenient concrete tunnel system, probably some kind of abandoned sewage outflow. It seems very close to the prison and isn’t even secured by razor wire. He’s not even dirty or out of breath.

What Happened Last Night: “Just admit it,” Starsky says to Hutch, swinging his gun in its holster around in a casual way, as they sit at their desks. “You’re just ticked off after what happened last night.”
“No I’m not,” Hutch says, but he’s lying. Determined to win, he throws Starsky a manual on ways to become right-handed. “If your best friend can’t tell you, who can,” he smirks, ever the genius at undermining. “Sooner or later you have to realize this world was designed for right-handed people,” he says, after a particularly graceful lope from his desk to Dobey’s to deliver a typed accident report, “you’re just out of step.”
“I do all right,” Starsky says, all earlier confidence disintegrating.
Hutch regards him coolly. “Aren’t you a little tired of doing just all right?” What precipitates this exchange are never revealed; it’s either a marvelous script extra or lost on the editing room floor, but nevertheless this nice little scene adds much to our understanding of the characters’ complicated, amicable, and subtle dance of not-quite rivalry.

As the photograph of Issac Douglas is developed, we see it bears a striking relationship to the final photographs of Martin Luther King. It’s a great moment when Dobey comes out of the photographic room at the station and stares longingly, not at the pretty young female cop, but at the chocolate bar she’s just bought from the vending machine. The guilt and desire, it’s all about sugar and fat. His sudden craving for junk food comes immediately after a loaded emotional moment, which is both illuminating and touching.

Starsky and Hutch display an impressive social intelligence when they come to the Dobey household to talk about the Moon escape. They don’t frighten the children, they include the wife, and then discreetly leave before a marital conversation has to take place. In fact, throughout the series, they’ve shown similar sensitivities to families, particularly children.

“Who’s the boss around here anyway,” Dobey murmurs to his loving wife. “I am,” she says, but notice he does what he wants to anyway, despite her wishes he stay home.

More expository dialogue as we get a hasty explanation of who Leo Moon is and why he’s gunning for Dobey. And here comes what I consider to be the secret heart of this episode, slipped in as if it means nothing: “We went through the academy together… The beat you guys have now is the one he had.” Here, in the space of a few seconds, we learn several astonishing things about Dobey. One of his best friends was murdered. And another close friend (“we went through the academy together” must be short-hand for the kind of camaraderie that comes from such an experience) was convicted of murder through Dobey’s testimony, which is a kind of cruelly necessary breaking of that friendship. And now, years later, Starsky and Hutch walk the beat Moon once had. Dobey must be both reminded of tragic events and feel as if, on some level, he has rectified the sins of the past. He is a deeply religious man. Does he ever see this turn of events in a spiritual way?

I wish Leo Moon’s crimes were more fully explained. It would be interesting to know how a cop could turn bad, and who exactly he killed, and why. And also how Dobey managed to be in a position to know what happened. Moon and Dobey were not partners, but Dobey was partnered with the tragic Elmo Jackson, whose murder is revealed in the later episode “Snowstorm”. We never know how these time lines intersect, if they do at all, and most times I do not like to draw links too strongly between episodes unless the writers themselves do. Each episode, to me, is its own island. That said, it’s impossible not to think about Elmo Jackson and how his murder, along with Moon’s murderous acts, affected Dobey psychologically. It could be that his intemperate bumbling has a lot to do with his perceived failures. And it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Leo Moon might have been working with Stryker, who eventually had Jackson killed, which would make Dobey even more complicit in events than he says.

“I used to leave my bike out when I was a kid too,” Starsky says genially, after Dobey shouts for the kids to clean up, another example of Starsky defaulting to child status, the free spirit in a world of grownups. “I’ll bet you did,” Dobey says, in a sudden burst of emotion bordering on anger. It’s a jarring moment, and discomfiting. Nerves, or something else? Does Dobey find it upsetting to see harsh police matters intruding on his private sphere? And if this is the case, why express it in such a passive-aggressive way?

Dobey’s house is protected, but he isn’t. He’s allowed to drive himself to the television station and back at night. Sure, he’s a police officer and should be able to take care of himself, but he’s also a civic official who has been behind a desk for some time. Doesn’t anyone see him as vulnerable to attack?

Ignoring a man’s outstretched hand is as nasty as it gets, and it shows that Pommier, even though he is an expert and a trusted henchman, is not one of the cool kids in Woodfield Industries, but rather an outsider who can easily be let go.

The Fat Man’s bad attitude as he wins at pool would eventually get him into serious trouble, wouldn’t it? Cackling and grinning as he beats some poor schlub at pool is eventually going to get him killed. As well, note the tiresome amount of fat-baiting on this show, aimed at this guy and then at Dobey (twice).

At the TV studio, Hutch delights in taunting Starsky about the left-handed “midget” Maxie Malone (such an offensive word I can hardly bear to type it) who ran the show he once attended as boy scout, insinuating it was left-handedness, of all things, that brought the host down in a hail of disgrace. This sort of extended, detailed torture takes a lot of imagination. What did Starsky do to “last night” to provoke this sort of elaborate reprisal? Beat Hutch at darts? At pool? At arm-wrestling? Attracting a girl attracted to lefties?

Isn’t Dobey worried about slander on Sutton’s show when he accuses Woodfield, along with showing his photo, of murdering Douglas? Or is this the reckless behavior of someone who no longer cares about the legal ramifications of lobbing as-yet-unproven accusations?

Going to the massage parlor to track down missing girlfriend Lola, we’re treated to a lovely little scene where the world-weary madam swans around with a cigarette cracking jokes and teaching her girls chess. It’s these details that add so much to the texture of any episode, even if its whimsical view of prostitution is a tad romantic. Although, as an aside, Leo Moon leaving both his name and phone number is a pretty stupid thing to do. The guy’s an ex-cop, but apparently any cop-like skills have rusted pretty badly in prison.

The actual working police aren’t much better if Moon can get the drop on one of them so easily, especially on a clear, quiet street. But while Moon is breaking in, we get to see Edith’s bravery and fast thinking as she wards him off and then dares to race into the night to find out why they were unprotected. I really don’t appreciate Dobey’s refusal to even look at his son Cal in the aftermath, instead ordering him to check on his sister. Hopefully there was a moment we didn’t see where he comforts and praises his son. Rosey’s shy tottling down the stairs and into Hutch’s willing arms shows again how natural and unaffected Hutch is around kids, and how Starsky hangs back, in most cases more effective at acting like a child and not a parent. Their tenderness toward the child – particularly Hutch’s beatific smile – is a beautiful sight.

At the airport, chasing down the lead of the rental plane that brought Moon to Los Angeles, Hutch is seen through an office window nonchalantly stubbing out a cigarette in the ashtray before he leaves. Although the man at the desk touches the cigarette himself while taking a call, it still seems as if Hutch either took it for himself or perhaps used it in one of his patented menacing moves, stubbing out the cigarette of someone he wanted to intimidate.

When Starsky and Hutch hear about the pilot, they immediately leap to understanding the large and complicated conspiracy that is in motion. This is some pretty impressive deduction.

Talking to the Mandalay Airport mechanic, Starsky and Hutch are particularly masterful. Starsky has his thumb hooked in the pocket of his jeans as he comes around and confiscates the tool the mechanic is holding. He does this in a mildly threatening way that would make anyone shake in their boots. Both are asking questions requiring uncomfortable answers. Hutch reaches out – like lightning – to grab hold of the guy’s wrist. Both are calm, focused and controlled, all business, no nonsense about left-handedness in sight.

Leo Moon tells Lola, “The Captain’s never late for Sunday service, right.” Dobey later tells Edith, “We’re going to arrive at church five minutes late, but we get better protection that way.” It seems as if Moon has misread his adversary. This points to a common thread in the series: how criminals, especially the Big Bosses, often crash and burn when over-protected, and over-praised, by their underlings.

The film negative is flipped in the car scene, showing the car being driven from the right side. Is this a glaring continuity error or a crafty comment on left-handedness?

Harold Dobey and C.J. Woodfield are both religious but there is a difference in how they view it. In Woodfield’s mind, religion and patriotism are merged into a militaristic code of conduct, necessary to to stave off the general downfall of American society. Dobey is a humble practitioner.

“Did I ever tell you about my aunt?” Hutch says, apropos of nothing while the three of them – the guys and Dobey – sit around the Dobey table drinking tea obviously prepared by Edith. Dobey has just been pessimistic and Starsky replies with a remark about always seeing on the bright side. Hutch laughs at Starsky, and then, in the aftermath of affection, is compelled to ruin the moment. “She was left-handed,” he says.
“What did your family do, lock her in the attic?” Starsky says.
Dobey demands to know what the hell they’re talking about, and Hutch says, “Did you ever notice about left-handed people, captain, that they’re a little strange.” And allows himself The Hutch Specialty: a smug chuckle. It’s a private, inward gesture both excluding and alienating, as if Hutch is conducting a secret conversation in his head. I always love this scene, Hutch suddenly resurrecting the subject of left-handedness right in the middle of the most complex, most frustrating part of the case. They can’t pin anything on Woodfield, the case is stalled, and so Hutch makes a little trouble, decompressing by casting aspersions at Starsky. And Starsky accepts this detour, instead of fighting back as anyone else would have. He knows what Hutch is doing.

C.J. Woodfield and the Collapse of the Confederate South: Woodfield is a rich old racist, suffering from what looks like the effects of polio and living in a vast suburban pile meant to look as plantation-like as possible. Played to the hilt by Broadway star Lester Rawlins, his slight frame, reptilian face and menacing southern drawl make him one slithery villain indeed. “I’m a simple man from simple roots,” he tells the detectives after an obnoxiously showy prayer as they sit with gleaming silver service and obsequious wait staff. This specious declaration is common to many of the gangsters at the apex of the food chain: they declare themselves to be regular guys who just happen to get lucky in life, whose riches haven’t changed their simple souls. Woodfield is an interesting variation on this because of his diminished physicality and the force of his religious beliefs, which bleat nonstop like Baptist hellfire. I wonder why these two embellishments, delightful as they are, have been added to his character. It could be the withering of his body echoes his moral withering, and it could be that a hypocrite of this magnitude plays well against the Dobey family’s simplicity and piety.

At Woodfield’s “breakfast” Starsky plays it with a measure of social awkwardness and bluntness ordering on rude, while Hutch goes for the smooth superiority that comes so effortlessly to him. He still, however, wants to have a little fun at the expense of his partner – you can see him intercept Starsky for the coffee pot, and Starsky’s annoyance. Hutch eats his oatmeal the proper way, spoon out toward the far end of the bowl, letting Starsky do the dirty work, threatening Woodfield and his crony. When Starsky makes a smart-ass comment about Woodfield serving “this mush”, you can see Hutch grin, enjoying his partner’s crude ways.

Dobey takes his son Cal for granted. He’s sharp with the boy while saving all his affection for his daughter. It puts one in mind of Jackson Walter’s relationship with Junior in “Manchild on the Streets”. Cal, like Junior, is sensitive. He’s putting up with his father without complaint during these extraordinary circumstances; he’s either afraid for him or of him. But, as time goes on, he’s going to become one surly, resentful young man, maybe in trouble, and Dobey will be at fault.

I can do without the sexual undercurrent of Lola’s tackle on the bed, with Hutch smirking, “Too much for you, partner?” as Starsky holds her down. I also wonder if Lola could have played it cool when she saw Hutch at the window, maybe lying her way out of trouble, but that’s pure speculation and perhaps unfair, because it’s clear throughout that Lola is not at all prepared for the dangers of this lifestyle, even Starsky remarks on her lack of smarts.

Is shooting Dobey at a church Woodfield’s idea? There are other, less public ways to do the job. I suspect it is because religion, and its perversion, plays such a big part in this episode, as Dobey declares he’ll give his thanks to the Lord following the shooting death of Moon. Also, the funereal decorations of coffin and hearse are amusingly reminiscent of the curtain swags at Woodfield’s home.

That’s some splendid act of subterfuge that lets Woodfield’s man Pommier sneak into the Dobey home under the auspices of Tri-State Telephone Co., fooling five police officers who should have known better.

Starsky tells Dobey that Pommier worked for Woodfield Industries for twelve years as a pilot and “explosives man”. What on earth would Pommier have to do with explosives in a seemingly legitimate business like that? It’s never said, but I wonder if the illegal awarding of contracts came about through the gentle persuasion of dynamite bouquets delivered to civic officials.

That is one amazing tackle Hutch does from the airplane to Woodfield’s man – fifteen feet at least, hard on the tarmac.

It’s interesting how much betrayal there is in this episode. Woodfield betrays Pommier, Lola betrays Moon, the aircraft mechanic betrays Pommier. In a sense, Dobey betrays Moon by testifying against him.

There are strong similarities between the two characters of C.J. Woodfield and James Marshall Gunther in the last episode “Sweet Revenge”. Both are older, lonely men without friends or family, whose vast empires are about to fall thanks to the relentless, pesky interference of Starsky and Hutch. A quiet servant comes to announce the arrival of the police, each man says thank you and asks to be left alone. There is a gun on the desk, and a moment of silent contemplation before the arrest, which I cannot help but draw comparisons to the cold realization in the Führerbunker. Both men seem to consider suicide at this point, even Gunther, who holds the gun on his lap and later points it at Hutch but in a way that feels more symbolic and sad than defensive. Woodfield arranges the disposal of his most trusted deputy, just as Gunther murdered his, without qualm or hesitation. Both men long for an imperial past when things seemed simpler. Both are beyond reason, psychotic, half in this world and half in some antediluvian fantasy. In both scenes Hutch is the first one through the door. Rights are read in a way that underscores this will be an above-board, fully legal arrest without a hint of vengeance, despite the enormous emotion beneath the surface. Lastly, we can see just how far the series itself has come in the space of four brief years: while well-written and well acted, Woodfield’s arrest is straightforward, a satisfying conclusion to the plot. In “Sweet Revenge”, the entire scene is swirling in a cerebral miasma, half-spoken thoughts and long intense silences, more real than mere reality. It is not satisfying in the traditional sense, but profound and sad. If this doesn’t make you grieve for the lack of a fifth season nothing will.

Tag: Dobey is tricked into admitting praise. We must come to the conclusion that Edith is the intelligent one in this family, no matter how many demure “yes dear”s she murmurs. Dobey refers to himself as “Chief of Detectives,” but later, in “Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty”, it’s Chief Ryan who has the title. Hutch tells Starsky, after learning that Rosey is left-handed, “One out of two ain’t bad,” a statement that remains a mystery to this day. Is he just making stuff up to bolster a non-existent competition persisting throughout this episode? Unable to resist having the last word, no matter what?

Clothing notes: Starsky is wearing a red hooded sweatshirt that looks fresh and modern. Hutch is wearing his green t-shirt, a short black leather jacket we don’t see very often, and the turquoise cargo pants that have made an appearance in other shows.

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31 Responses to “Episode 11: Captain Dobey, You’re Dead”

  1. Kit Sullivan Says:

    This episode has by far my favorite sequence featuring the Torino in glorious action:
    Moon, in his hearse/ getaway vehicle, having shot up the police caravan and very nearly having succeeded in killing Dobey, squeals away from the chaotic scene, with all the attending police oficers diving for cover and shooting blindly in defense.
    At this exact moment, the Torino bursts onto the scene, not too dissimilar to the way Superman shows up in a big swoosh just in the nick of time.
    Executing a beautifully-balanced, tire-smoking, fish-tailing slide around the corner, Starsky expertly guides his Torino in pursuit of Moon’s hearse, all the while as Hutch fearlessly hangs out the window, firing his .357 Magnum at the escaping hearse.
    Eventually, Hutch manages to shoot out a tire on the hearse, causing it to come to a stop.
    Starsky defly slides the Torino in a tire-shredding skid in front of the hearse, blocking any escape attempt.
    As the Torino screeches to a halt, Hutch uses it’s momentum and launches himself from the paseneger door, executing a flawless tuck-and-roll maneuver.
    A quick fire-fight between Moon and the boys results in Moon’s demise.

    Upon careful viewing, it is clearly obvious that this scene was assembled in the editing room from 2nd-unit footage done by the stunt team at one location, along with 1st-unit footage done with the lead actors at an entirely different location.
    Mention must be made of the impressive and skillful stunt driving of Charles Picerni, Sr…Stunt coordinator for the series as well as Mr. Glaser’s stunt man.
    Mr. Picerni’s expert handling of the very big and ponderous Torino has bestowed a performance and handling reputation on the Torino in general that in reality it does not deserve.
    Sound effects and expert editing compliment the wonderful acting of Messrs Glaser and Soul, and complete the magic. Kudos!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Kit, thank you for your vivid comments regarding the beloved Torino. I really like your diffrent take on things – especially the technical details – and I hope you keep them coming. I agree wholeheartedly about the incredible driving expertise, especially of Charles Picerni (who also makes several nice cameos in the episodes), leading viewers to regard the Torino as a supermobile when in fact it was always a major test of a driver’s skill and probably a bit of a pain.

      In fact, your comment gives me an idea for a future post that will showcase the under-appreciated contributions of the stunt team.
      Thanks again!

  2. hutchlover Says:

    Did you know that Mrs. Dobey was played by Bernie’s then wife? The obvious affection they had is greatly played against Dobey’s colder personality when he removes the handkerchief from his pocket & gives it to her. You can see by the tension in his arms that he wants to comfort her more, but Dobeys personality doesn’t allow for it.

    I’m just loving your analyses, and can’t atop reading this blog.

  3. King David Says:

    I like Mrs Dobey. I didn’t know she was also Mrs Bernie, or became the ex-Mrs Bernie.
    That Torino has the road-handling ability of a wardrobe. Stunt drivers are unsung heroes in films.

  4. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    Hutch’s weird anti-left-handed vendetta is bizarre and hilarious and I looooooove it. It’s so him, and because it’s so him, it’s adorable here when it would be annoying for any other character in any other show.

    It’s obviously just an excuse to pick on Starsky, since there’s no way Hutch actually believes a word he’s saying, but Hutch usually doesn’t persist in this kind of stuff for a full episode like he does here. He generally razzes Starsky about something briefly and then drops it, both of them knowing it’s just one of his quirks. I wonder if he’s decided that Starsky predicts him too well and so is now throwing him off balance by sticking to one criticism the whole time instead of coming up with new ones each time he decides to criticize. Maybe Starsky did something similarly unpredictable to him “last night.” Or perhaps Starsky annoyed him by rattling off one of his lists of trivia about how many geniuses and inventors and great artists were left-handed. Starsky lets it slide because he always lets this stuff slide, but also, he’s probably weirded out from Hutch springing the left-handed thing repeatedly, going “wait, this thing again? Shouldn’t he have moved onto my clothes, or food, or car, or education, or choice of women or taste in movies by now? Why’s he sticking to this one? Wait, is he actually serious this time?” I think (though I’m not sure) that in season 1, Hutch was generally more successful in genuinely catching Starsky off-guard and denting his self-confidence with his little pranks than he was in seasons 2-4.

    This is sort of off-topic, but I guess this episode is the most appropriate place to mention how much I love the happy coincidence of the symbolic perfection of Starsky and Hutch having opposite handedness. Not only does it fit their personalities (overall, Starsky does seem a bit more stereotypically right-brained and Hutch a bit more stereotypically left-brained), but conceptually, the symmetry and the reinforcement of the idea of each of them having what the other lacks, being strong when the other is weak, being two sides of the same coin, two imperfect halves of a perfect (and ambidextrous) whole, is just wonderful.

    And visually, aesthetically, it’s really pleasing as well. Think of all the times they are wielding their guns side-by-side, each of them able to elegantly synchronize like mirror images due to their opposing hands (one example, when they corner not!Father Ignatius at the end of the movie theater aisle at the climax of “Silence”). Or how about, even more powerfully, in “Targets Without a Badge I” where that glorious silhouette of them throwing their badges into the ocean looks so much stronger when they’re throwing from opposite hands? Or how about how easily they are able to toast each other without moving apart to free one hand or putting anything between them while lying closer than twins in a womb in the hospital bed at the end of “Sweet Revenge”?

  5. Mary Anne Says:

    Isn’t this also the episode where Starsky is asked if he is Catholic and he gives a very vehement denial? I know Glaser is Jewish, but Starsky is a huge fan of Christmas in a later episode, so his background comes up for debate.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I think the episode you are referring to is “Terror on the Docks”, and Starky’s denial might have something to do with the fact he is being measured up as a suitable son-in-law. He’d probably deny having a driver’s licence under that sort of scrutiny. You’re right about Starsky’s love of all things Christmas, and birthdays, and all things involving gifts. One of his most endearing characteristics.

  6. Patricia Ackor Says:

    If Charles Picerni was indeed the stunt coordinator and the Torino’s stunt driver in S1, I sincerely apologize for the comment I made in a post on an earlier episode. By the time I was involved with the show, at the beginning of S2, Paul Picerni was PMG’s stunt double and the one driving the Torino. He had a very hot shoe and usually overcooked it into the turns, fishtailing more than Paul did the few times he did his own stunt driving. You can almost always tell who’s driving by whether it fishtails or not

  7. Patricia Ackor Says:

    Hi Kit, As Merl says, I did the research on S&H for S2 through S4 and, every time I was on the set or a location, Paul Picerni was PMG’s stunt double and stunt driver, not Charlie, his older brother. In fact, in S1’s “Savage Sunday,” as someone else has pointed out, it is Paul Picerni who drives the ‘green chivvy’ into the construction site, bailing out of the car and scrambling up the hill, not PMG. Charles Picerni had several guest-starring minor roles in the various seasons of S&H and directed at least one episode, “Partners.” But, as far as I know, every time you see a face that is supposed to be Starsky but is recognizably not PMG, (for instance, when “Starsky” comes out of the bushes he’s been tossed into by Ginger’s boyfriend, and puts his hands up to fend off further mayhem in “Death Notice”) it’s Paul Picerni, not Charlie. I’m really sorry if this is contrary to your information.

    • Kit Sullivan Says:

      No, it doesn’t contradict my info, per se: Maybe I am confused as to thr correct names. I always thought that Chuck Jr. was PMG’s double/ stunt driver, and that Paul was older and either Jr’s father or uncle.
      I thought the character in the Jeep ( bad guy) in “Playboy Island” was Paul Picerni, or Chuck Sr.
      I’m so confused!

      • Patricia Ackor Says:

        I completely understand, Kit. They do look somewhat alike, but when you saw them side by side, the difference was definite. Someone on the crew told me they were brothers, and that Charlie was the elder; that’s all I’m going on. Paul (known as “Picerni” on the set, in order to avoid confusion) was PMG’s stunt double, and drove the Torino in all the scenes I actually witnessed. And, yes, he did have a small speaking part, and drove the jeep in the long desert chase in “Murder at Sea.”
        I’m interested in where you know the title “Playboy Island” from? When I did the research on that script, I had to tell the producers that they would require the consent of Hugh Hefner for the use of that word. Since they didn’t want to do that (or Hefner turned them down) the episode was re-titled “Murder on Voodoo Island” for airing in this country. It’s “Voodoo Island” on my DVD, too. Did you see it elsewhere? Just curious. Paul Picerni may have had another role in that one, too; I haven’t watched it recently enough to remember.

      • Kit Sullivan Says:

        When that episode first aired it was listed in TV guide as “Murder on Playboy Island”. I remember that clearly. The titles were never shown on the episodes, but the “close-up” featurettes TV guide did at the time listed episode titles.
        Strangely, when “The Fix” was first shown in syndication ( around 80-81), it had the on-screen title of “Dei Werchstig Hutch”, or something like that. I assumed they were German titles, but I don’t know. That struck me as odd.

      • Patricia Ackor Says:

        That’s really interesting, Kit. I honestly don’t remember that (although I guess I should since it involved my job), but I believe you. It’s possible that, after that title was used in TV Guide, the production company heard from Hefner’s lawyers and were forced to change it for all future airings, etc. Many episode titles changed from the time I did the research on the script: “The Monster” became “Vendetta,” “Nightlight” aired as “Bust Amboy” (a very bad title, I thought), “Jinx Ship” became “Murder at Sea,” and “Snowball” became the unforgettable “Starsky’s Lady.” Those are the only ones I have in my notes but there may have been others I’ve forgotten. Always interesting tidbits to remember and/or unearth. That’s one of the reasons why this blog is so terrific! Thanks for your input. Pat
        P.S. did you ever figure out how the German title translated? “The Addicting of Hutch” perhaps? Again, interesting.

  8. Sandra Says:

    I’m German and this is not a German title. It might me Dutch, I think, but unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch so I don’t know what it means.

  9. stybz Says:

    This episode was cute. I loved how Starsky reads the book that Hutch gives him. It shows something I’ve often seen in this season so far, which is Starsky’s willingness to listen to Hutch’s critiques, whether they’re for his own good or not. 🙂

    Anyone notice Dobey’s gesture toward Starsky and Hutch when he’s standing at the candy machine and he spots them walking toward him, catching him buying the chocolate bar? It looked like a spontaneous thing and totally out of character for him.

    I thought the act of Hutch stubbing out the cigarette was his way of trying to stay healthy and not breathe in the smoke. It’s like he’s trying to heal the world. LOL! 🙂

    Did anyone notice how when Moon was firing from the hearse none of the windows had bullet holes? They only got them during the return fire. Was he shooting through an open window that I didn’t see?

    The whole left-handed vs right-handed thing looks to me like Hutch is just using it to break the tension and tease Starsky a bit.
    I think while Dobey considers Starsky and Hutch his top team, he often thinks Starsky can be a bit childish (hence the bike comment earlier in the episode). So when Hutch teases Starsky at the kitchen table, he’s doing it to distract Dobey to get his mind off the case, and get him to side with him all in the name of good fun. Sadly, Dobey doesn’t get it and doesn’t play along.

    I think Hutch likes to treat Starsky as the impressionable younger brother, and thinks it a bit of harmless fun to pick on him in this fashion. I have a feeling he knows how far to go with it and would stop long before it became hurtful. I think he knows Starsky can take it to a point.

    I also see Starsky as deferring to Hutch’s opinions quite easily because Hutch seems to be more book smart than Starsky. I think Starsky is quick to consider what Hutch says before he concludes whether he’s being given true constructive criticism or he’s been had. 🙂

  10. stybz Says:

    Some additional comments. 🙂

    I think there’s an interesting, brotherly relationship between Starsky and Hutch. Hutch is probably not pleased with something that Starsky did the previous night, and it could be as simple as Starsky winning the girl or something like that. Starsky doesn’t seem to be the type to gloat for very long. He knows Hutch isn’t happy about it, but Hutch won’t admit it, either because Hutch feels he wouldn’t give Starsky the satisfaction or because he knows Starsky well enough to know that after a while, he genuinely feels bad for hurting Hutch’s feelings. Hutch knows he’s got Starsky in a position to get the upper hand. He may have lost the round last night, but he knows which buttons to push to get Starsky back. What seems to always prevail between them is Starsky’s open-mindedness and his willingness to listen and consider Hutch’s criticism, and Hutch uses that to his advantage whenever he wants to get back at Starsky for something he did or tease him.

    I’m still catching up with the show, although I used to watch it regularly as a kid. It’s been years since I watched, so this is why I may be a bit behind in episodes in order to formulate a full analysis. That said, taking what episodes I have seen, I suspect that Starsky looks up to Hutch, partly because he respects Hutch who comes across as if he is the smarter, older brother. Every time Hutch criticizes Starsky’s something like his eating habits or – in this case – his left-handedness, Starsky takes it constructively. He ruminates on it and often responds with and endearing, “Oh.” I think Hutch gets a kick out of it, not only because he gets the upper hand but also because he enjoys watching Starsky’s brain process the information.

    I think Starsky is the type of person who wants to improve himself. I could be wrong but he probably was raised on the streets, where he saw his friends and classmates fall into a life of crime. He felt he that he could do something better in his life, help those in need and try to prevent or stop the crime he saw as a kid growing up. I suspect it was a different world compared to what Hutch had experienced, and maybe in some ways Starsky is in awe of Hutch’s childhood and is interested in Hutch’s insight to things. I also think Hutch respects and admires Starsky for rising up against the world that could have pulled weaker people down. So when Hutch gives Starsky advice (whether he means it or not), Starsky takes it and ponders it, because he respects Hutch’s opinion and he wants to be the best he can be, despite being happy just “getting by”.

    Starsky seems to be open to seeing all sides of a situation. Both Hutch and he don’t often judge, but when they do they are quick to change their tune when the facts are presented to them. I don’t think either man would have worked well with a partner who judged everyone by their situation (this goes back to the raison d’etre comment in the Lady Blue thread). There are many times when others would judge a mentally ill person as a sick man who needs to be locked up, but not them. They pity the person, no matter if they’re a serial killer or a poor victim. They’re one in the same. And because Starsky and Hutch share this moral code, the teasing, the taunting and the competing is never nasty or malicious, but it’s playful and meant to just needle each other in good fun, and in many cases dispel the tension and take their minds off of the horrific events they witness day in and day out.

    Anyone else would have tossed that book Hutch gives Starsky aside and brushed off Hutch’s comments, but Starsky considers it, and is even seen reading the book as he and Hutch walk down the hall and catch Dobey at the candy machine.

    Back in the day, lefties were still being forced to be right-handed. Some parents would tie down their kids left hands in order to give them no choice but to use the right hand. It was a stigma back then, and while Starsky could get by, he probably wondered if he could do better. These days, Starsky would probably be more defensive and proud about it.

    I have an interesting Surcon 2014 story along these lines. We were all queued to get our photos taken with David and Paul. When it was my turn, David extended his right hand as I approached and I shook it while I greeted him, introducing myself. Then I turned to Paul who extended his LEFT hand (he was holding a drink in his right hand). Being a lefty myself it was no problem to switch and I shook his left with my left as I greeted him. He realized what he had done and quickly apologized, “I’m sorry. I’m left-handed.” I replied with a smile, “Me too. It’s not a problem.” 🙂

    Oh, and the flipped negative. Yeah, some shows did that. I don’t see it as continuity error. You can’t accidentally flip a negative. It was on purpose, probably because they needed another scene in the car and didn’t have time to film it. So they reused a later scene and flipped the negative to match the direction the car is driving, hoping no one would notice it was flipped. It’s what they call a “cheat”, and since there were no VCRs in the 1970’s they probably thought they could get away with it. 🙂

    The establishing shot of the car going down the street indicated they were heading one way. Had they kept the negative on its original state it would have confused the audience, because visually it would have looked like they were heading in the opposite direction. I think these days directors aren’t so worried about that as much anymore. There’s a bit more flexibility with it.

    Notice the reflection of the sun over Starsky’s head in that flipped-negative scene and one later when the negative is the right way. It’s the same scene, but they used different pieces from it. 🙂

    • Wallis Says:

      That’s a really interesting and unique take on Starsky and Hutch’s relationship, stybz. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it before. I admit when I first read this comment I was inclined to be a tad skeptical because in the series overall I also saw a lot of the inverse of the older/younger brother vibe: Starsky being excessively protective of Hutch, Starsky making decisions for Hutch, Starsky indulging Hutch a lot. But then I thought about it for a minute, and remembered that those things are in totally different fields, not related to intelligence or education. And your observations ring very true for a lot of the first season especially.

      However, I think Starsky’s deference to Hutch’s intelligence, whether due to gullibility or admiration, declines over the course of the series. Not in a bad or mean way, just that I think Starsky slowly realizes more and more that Hutch has a lot more weird and complicated motivations going on under the surface, and gets quicker at telling the difference between Hutch offering him real advice and Hutch toying with him for shits and giggles. Some of the rose-tinted glasses come off.

      Thanks for opening up a whole new layer of characterization for me to consider! I love it when another fan can make me see a new angle that I missed.

      • stybz Says:

        Thanks for that insight, Wallis. I still have to watch a good portion of season 2-4, so I’ll definitely be looking to see how their relationship evolves throughout the series. 🙂

    • Louie Says:

      stybz, all the things you have in this comment are really interesting. I’ll be thinking about them next time I watch an episode. I get sort of jealous at people who can come up with so much analysis.

      • stybz Says:

        Thanks, Louie. I’m still very behind on the episodes, though. So it’ll be interesting if I change my view. I’m going to wait until I get through all of them before I revisit this theory. 🙂

  11. Patricia Ackor Says:

    This is not to continue the above thought line this morning, but to sincerely apologize to Kit Sullivan for comments I made above, in September, regarding Paul and Charles Picerni. I’m truly sorry, Kit; you were right and I was wrong. I hope you, and everyone else who reads this wonderful blog will believe me when I say, I certainly didn’t do it on purpose.

    Please allow me to attempt to explain. I have no memory of the exact circumstance now but it must have been one of the first times I was on the set when PMG and Picerni were there together. Someone on the crew (and I have no memory of who it was) told me the look-alike was PMG’s stunt double, Paul Picerni, always called simply “Picerni” on set in order to avoid possible, and obvious confusion. (Why would I have been told that, if his name was Charles? I was a nobody, not someone worth misleading, or lying to; I wasn’t, at least I didn’t think I was, a part of either David’s or Paul’s factions on the crew, and, yes, there were factions, although the guys tried very hard to nullify them; why would whoever it was have told me that, if it wasn’t true?) So, from then on, in my mind, PMG’s stunt double, and the Torino’s driver was Paul Picerni. (I’m pretty sure I never spoke a single word to him, in person; I was a nobody, and wouldn’t have dared.) On another day, when Picerni’s brother was there, I was told that was his older brother, Charles. Again, I had no reason to doubt. And, when “Murder at Sea” aired, I didn’t bother to read the credits (did any of us?) If I had done, I might have caught the fact that Paul Picerni was credited with the role of the older brother, Patsy, and Charles had the role of Nicky. Which would probably have confused the heck out of me because, to my knowledge, that was backwards! Anyway, I never questioned my understanding of which one was which. Until now.

    A few days ago I watched the recent interview of PMG on Emmy TVLegends, where he mentions the show’s stunt coordinator, Charlie Picerni. I froze, remembering your comments, Kit, and began to realize I’d been wrong for 40 years. So I’ve been investigating, in my copious spare time, watching ‘Murder at Sea’ again and reading the SH Compendium site, and this site as well. Indeed, I was wrong in the name I’d been giving “Picerni” all these years. But, in all the times I was on the set and locations, I never heard him referred to as anything except “Picerni;” never Charlie, Charles or Chuck.

    Anyway, I am sincerely sorry if I’ve offended anyone in the SH world, or pissed anyone off. It was not intentional. I’ve been so long, and so far removed from fandom, I should have done more research before offering comments. In future, if I feel I have something worthwhile to offer, I’ll make absolutely sure of my facts first. Again, my sincere apologies to everyone.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Patricia, thank you for a lovely, sincere apology but to my mind it’s really not necessary, it was an honest oversight and not a big deal. I have a feeling Charlie and Paul Picerni themselves would get a kick out of being mixed up, as they worked so closely together for many years, Charlie being Paul’s stunt double and stand-in.

  12. June Says:

    Hi everyone. As always, love your sum-up, Ollie. I do so agree that Mr Hutchinson is quite a devil with his undermining of his partner when he thinks it’s needed – Bad Hutch comes out at times like that. I thought I’d add the Dobey address so it can be Googled. It’s 2815 Club Drive, LA and what a lovely home/area it is. And the church used is the St Joan of Arc Catholic Church at 11534 Gateway Blvd, LA.

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