Character Studies 3: Other Cops

Starsky and Hutch’s relationship to fellow officers is fascinating. More negative than positive, they are almost always cast by others as outsiders, rebels, iconoclasts.

There have to be other younger plainclothes detectives around, and yet we never see any. Where are the other long-haired, jeans-wearing, slightly-disreputable pairs? With the exception of the tie-and-suit-wearing IA bureaucrats, there aren’t any (even Treasury Agent Kendall from “Moonshine” is another suit, despite the fact he’s supposed to be undercover). In “Snowstorm” and “Birds of a Feather” we meet the Old School guys, nearing retirement and worn out, morally and physically, their crusty suits hanging on by a thread. Corman, Burke and Kalowitz in “Snowstorm” nurse near-pathological grudges against the young detectives, threatened by their power and energy, the liberal attitudes of the now generation, which they choose to interpret as cocky insolence. Like Dan Slate and “Iron Mike” Ferguson, two other hardened veterans who attempt to buddy up to Starsky and Hutch, the moral armor has rusted, flaked and chipped away and is pretty useless now. A quick buck or a legal shortcut is how they manage problems. No, these aren’t peers of Starsky and Hutch. Possibly Simmons and Babcock, two cops hanging around in the hallway during “The Game”, are plainclothes, but this isn’t certain. It’s very possible they had simply changed out of uniform, and were on their way home, when drawn into the Starsky-gets-shot ruse.

Interestingly, the only time Starsky and Hutch are seen to work with younger undercover officers are when those officers are women – and unexpected or unwanted interlopers. They are all brought in from other departments for a special purpose and never seen again. In “Black and Blue”, “Discomania”, Fatal Charm” and “Starsky vs. Hutch” only Linda Baylor in “Fatal Charm” is initially welcomed into the fold, the others must work hard for respect (whether they earn it, or even deserve it, remains a question), and all of them with the exception of Kira are preemptively removed in the heat of the case by the bad guys. Kira is removed by the good guys. We never see any male officer promoted or in a mentor relationship with Starsky and Hutch.

Instead, the majority of the time the hallways of the Metropolitan Division are chock-full of uniformed patrolmen. Their relationship with Starsky and Hutch is varied – sometimes they seem slightly intimidated, or even hostile, as in “Pariah” and “The Committee”, but most times you see them laughing together, as in “The Specialist”, or respectfully working together. Starsky doesn’t have to reach for the name of the beat cop in “The Fix”; the fact that he easily calls him Bernie says a lot about how familiar they are with the bread-and-butter cops around them. “Anything, Bill?” Starsky asks as they go into Huggy’s in the aftermath of a violent shakedown in “Kill Huggy Bear”. Although you can bet Officer Andrews is going to steer clear of Starsky forever more (“Manchild on the Streets”), this is the only time either Starsky or Hutch is violently retributive to a lower grade. Like most effortlessly authoritative and charismatic people, they don’t have to prove anything by “punching down”, as the saying goes. They are always respectful of the uniforms, remember their names, and and remember too what it was like to be on the beat. But no other undercover detectives ever make it to screen. This contributes to the bubble – the idea that they are alone in this particular world, peerless.

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2 Responses to “Character Studies 3: Other Cops”

  1. Susan Says:

    Never really thot about this before. You do have a point. The two cowboy cops are my faves, me being partial to starsky. I truly loved that show & so love watching the DVDs now.

    • King David Says:

      In “The Set Up”, the jewellery shop owner bails up a beat cop and points after S&H. You just can’t see him running flat out after a crim, can you, not the way Starsky was belting along the footpath after Kristy McNichol.
      In “Strange Justice”, at the take-down of Slate at the end, the uniform cops look far more realistic and the scene has a greater sense of realism.
      In “The Fix”, Starsky knows Bernie’s name, but Bernie is quick to decide that Hutch is a junkie. The uniforms in the squad car say there’s that missing officer, not there’s Hutchinson, so they don’t know him by sight, so how come Starsky knows Bernie? I get the feeling that Bernie doesn’t know Starsky, or perhaps only their reputation precedes them.
      How many precincts are there in Bay City, I wonder? S&H seem to get into the media more than is good for plainclothes detectives who spend a lot of time undercover.

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