Episode 21: A Coffin for Starsky

After someone injects Starsky with a deadly drug, Starsky and Hutch have twenty-four hours to find both the killer and the antidote.

Cheryl: Jenny Sullivan, Vic Bellamy: Gene Dynarski, Sweet Alice: Nellie Bellflower, Janos Martini: Seth Allen, Prof. Jennings: John McLiam, Charlie Collins: Jack Griffin, Dr. Franklin: David Byrd, Sue Bellamy: Carole Mallory, Mrs. Haberman: Fritzi Burr. Written By: Arthur Rowe, Directed By: George McCowan.


This fan-favorite is the last-filmed episode of the season and the first one written specifically for the two actors. I’m guessing in previous episodes some dialogue was either modified or reinterpreted by the actors to make it more their own because the change is so seamless, so perfect. I have read in the past that the scene in the hospital at the end, when Starsky is about to be taken away, had an entire scripted conversation which was edited by Glaser and Soul into a single mute look. This shows most remarkably how both actors were able to forge an immediate personal bond; this real life relationship is indivisible from their performances, especially here.

Of note, too, is how love and affection expressed by Starsky and Hutch – here in its most pure and urgent form – is so sharply contrasted by the rough characters, lewd or ugly situations, dirty urban settings and grim dank hallways. This, for me, is the series at its best; less successful is the last season in which a persistent upscale luster has the effect of diffusing the emotional potency.

It’s interesting the first line is “I can’t.” Starsky’s voice. “I can’t”, he says. “I can’t let …” This is an important indicator of Starsky’s iron will. I can’t let him get away with it.  And he doesn’t. That’s it, we then hear Bellamy’s evil laugh and the journey has begun.

Notice the four-tube Nixie Clock, Russian-made components glowing amber numerals under a smoked-plexiglas case, on a wood base. A 70s classic.

“Hutch. Help.” Two words, that’s all it takes; not many of us can claim a lifeline like this. Picture the unfilmed scene: Hutch arriving in a panic, breaking in and rushing to the bedroom and encountering his partner with no gunshot wound, no bruising, no signs at all that he’s been injured even though he’s unconscious. (The “pre-shot” must cause his unconsciousness, and not the fatal poison; Starsky is conscious and clear by the time he’s examined). It would be a shocking discovery for anyone but for Hutch it’s amplified by the revelation that he alone will be responsible for seeking justice for this terrible crime. Look at his stunned bewilderment in the ambulance – another great moment for David Soul, who is always able to both condense a great range of emotions into a single gesture or look.

Several times throughout the series we see Starsky parking the Torino at his apartment so it blocks garages. My guess is that he knows these are storage units and not active garages or he would not have done so; Starsky isn’t the selfish type. But even so, it’s fun to imagine a tenant’s council meeting where they argue about whether allow their oddly intimidating neighbor – who keeps such strange hours, whose friendliness is overshadowed by the fact he carries a gun – to park his car in the most inconvenient place possible. I can see the decision coming to “yes” when no one volunteers to be the one to say “no”.

There does not appear to be any doubt by either the emergency response team or Hutch himself that what Starsky has suffered is, in fact, an injection of a paralyzing agent. If Hutch arrived to find his partner unconscious but with no discernible injury all kinds of possibilities would be foremost in their minds: heart attack, overdose, stroke, aneurysm. However, Starsky has seemingly regained consciousness sometime before the rough stuff happens (stomach pumping is the most obvious first step, but that never seems to have happened, luckily) in order to tell them what has happened. Did Hutch’s experiences in “The Fix” alert him faster to the possibility of poison? Did it lead him to first check for an injection site, and be the one to find the tell-tale pin-prick in the arm? I’d like to think so.

I like how Hutch tries to suppress a yawn when the doctor leads him out of the room, a hint of the fatigue he’s fighting.

Notice how Franklin says formally, “I understand you and Detective Starsky have been partners for some time now” and Hutch reacts calmly, saying “that’s right”. But when Franklin changes his tone to the more personal, “yes, he says you were his best friend” Hutch nervously interrupts, actually waving an impatient hand in Franklin’s face to stop him. He says a curt “Doctor, what are you trying to tell me.” It’s a lovely, subtle moment: formality is good, but don’t try anything else. Franklin is unswerving, though: he says, “I don’t think your friend is going to make it.”

Why does Starsky say he “hate soapy scenes” and makes Dr. Franklin give Hutch the bad news? It only takes a second for Hutch to open the door and confront him with the situation. The soap is in the aftermath, and not in the moment of the telling, something he knows he will not escape no matter who conveys the news.

Original script details included Hutch’s realization that he was intended to be Jennings’ first victim, the revelation that Starsky’s toothpaste was drugged, and a lot of dialogue in the farewell scene (including Starsky making the connection about Bellamy’s education), which was replaced by the long look that couldn’t be scripted.

Hutch, when questioning Starsky, says, “what about the voice? Did you … did you fix a pattern?” This sounds like air traffic control. Maybe Starsky is right when he says Hutch can’t handle this. Remember how Starsky confronts Hutch in a similar – if not more difficult – situation in “The Fix” when he tries to make Hutch remember details following a disorienting trauma. Getting into his face, barking out commands. “Names. Names.” This is much more effective and emotionally real than tentatively asking to “fix a pattern”.

The whole conversation with Hutch, Starsky and Dr. Franklin has the undercurrent of sexual assault. In a way it is, because a rapist inflicts pain for no other reason than the pleasure of inflicting it. “Whoever it was wanted to enjoy himself,” Starsky says.  And then, with a touching attempt at bravery he adds, “It’s about as dirty a laugh as I’ve ever heard.”

Hutch tells Dr. Franklin he assumed because Starsky was in the hospital, that he would be treated successfully. Later, he rails about doctors, “You get sick and they can’t even cure the common cold!” While under a great deal of stress, he has now said two opposite opinions in five minutes. Starsky displays similar ambiguous feelings in “Black and Blue” about the medical profession as well: when calling to find out Hutch’s condition after being shot, the nurse comments Starsky apparently doesn’t trust doctors.

We now come to the only scene in this harrowing episode with a glimmer of humor, and it’s wonderful. Starsky’s display of pique as he releases himself from hospital – “You mean you want me to hit the streets with no pants, no badge, no gun – no dignity?!” shows that he, too, uses Hutch as a means of releasing tension, although more rarely. Hutch plays his part admirably by lamely holding up the watch, the only thing he’s remembered to bring, enabling Starsky to hit the roof. It’s a complex but tidy little moment and terrific fun to watch. A lot of things seem to be happening all at once: Starsky blaming Hutch for something he couldn’t possibly be expected to do – Starsky is so sick it’s inconceivable that he’d be released at all – Hutch acknowledging the importance of a watch to his partner, despite his constant scorn on the subject, and the use of explosive temper at the other as a way of decompressing and focusing on the task at hand. We can see both Starsky and Hutch have the ability to absorb tension and transform it into useful energy. Plus, it’s effing hilarious. Also, it’s entertaining to see how Hutch is able to be subdued by Starsky’s criticism. He recovers quickly, though, bitching as they walk down the hospital corridor about how impossible it is the choose between Starsky’s “equally crummy blue jeans”. Fighting back and refusing to apologize is a way of equalizing the partnership again, Hutch indicating he now feels his partner is strong enough to be trusted, and so his retort becomes both a compliment and a stimulus. The whole scene has a joyous energy that practically zings off the screen.

Hutch knows Charlie Collins well when he calls in, is impatient with him to the point of rudeness. When gently remonstrated by Starsky, who as usual plays the peacemaker, Hutch relents and softens his tone. He doesn’t tell Charlie what it’s all about but tells him to check with Dobey and mentions the hospital, which is almost the same thing. Of note is Hutch’s authoritarian ease even though Charlie is at least twenty years older than he is, and has double the experience. Later, bringing in the files, Charlie apologizes for “the static”, but to Starsky and not to Hutch, and then proceeds to hover anxiously in later scenes.

The name ‘Bellamy’ is an in-joke on quiet director Earl Bellamy.

“The way I see it,” says Starsky, “it’s who-do-we-trust time.” And the two of them proceed to give each other a deeply penetrating look. A stops-time look. The look very, very few people will ever get a chance to either give, or receive, in their lives.

Starsky tells Huggy someone broke into his house last night and gave him “a shot”. Huggy doesn’t ask “a shot of what? Bourbon?” which would be the logical thing to say. No, he looks genuinely upset, doesn’t press for details, and quietly gets on with it.

“11:36,” Starsky says, in the office with Hutch and Dobey going through files of suspects. Dobey tries a joke: “I always did think you were a clock-watcher.” Then, when his joke fails, Dobey does something uncharacteristic and tries for informality. “Now Dave there must be something remember about this guy.” This too falls flat. This catastrophe has drawn Starsky and Hutch so tightly together there is no room for anyone else. “You hear that?” Starsky says to Hutch, “he called me Dave.” Hutch has the death’s-door humor ready to go: “The things people will do to get on a first-name basis.”  “Really,” Starsky says, deadpan. This exchange is for their amusement only and has the effect of pushing Dobey even further to the margins, forcing him to do what Hutch refused to do earlier: apologize.

When you think about it, do you wonder why they call each other by their last names? It’s a custom long gone out of favor by the swingin’ seventies. People, particularly California people, are all about being casual and friendly, hugging people they’ve just met, for instance. Granted, the cops sometimes call each other by last name, but usually it’s senior-to-junior, and Starsky and Hutch aren’t cops to each other. Besides, the guys call the uniform cops by their first names all the time (“Fix”, “Lady Blue” and many others). Are Starsky and Hutch exhibiting an old habit from the academy which is hard to break, is this about keeping up formal appearances, or could it be an acknowledgement of some deeper, hidden truth about each other?

Speculate on Dobey’s miscalculation, calling Starsky “Dave” because he wants to be a real friend, even though Hutch, closer to Starsky than anyone will ever be, only uses his last name. Dobey’s social ineptitude in difficult circumstances is one of the more entertaining aspects to his character. It reminds me of a scene far off in the Fourth Season, in which Dobey is so thrilled by a compliment from a FBI bigwig he forgets to lead an urgent meeting (“Targets, 3”).

Dobey announces, “Twenty possibles reduced to these three primes.” This calculation has always made me nervous. Who’s doing the figuring on this one? Someone had to input information into the police computer system, so how did they know what variables to add? How come Prudholm isn’t on this list, and why do Starsky and Hutch accept this dramatic reduction as a given? Would they be tempted to look at the other names in case something rings a bell?

A cop is, for all intents and purposes, the victim of premeditated murder. This is about as heinous as a crime can get and the one thing, other than a child murder, most likely to rile up the entire police department. Surely there must be ten, a dozen, even fifteen other cops racing around chasing down those “twenty possibles”, turning the city upside down trying to find information that might help a fellow officer. And yet the squad room seems blurry, inert. There are no ringing phones or slamming doors. The other detectives, when we glimpse them, are abstract background shapes. Even Dobey is merely blaring noise that passes for language; he may as well just go “blah blah blah” for all the sense he makes. There is only the two of them, isolated inside their own world, intent on each other and their quest. Nothing else matters. This is when the series reveals its true nature: it is, in fact, abstraction rather than realism. For all its gritty detail, this has nothing whatsoever to do with real life. This may be exculpatory of me to say so, and perhaps is due solely to the privileges of hindsight, but to apply the measuring stick of realism to “Starsky and Hutch” is beside the point. Sure, there are continuity errors and lapses in logic, and anyone can point a finger and say undercover cops don’t do this or that, or list procedural errors and oversights. I have done the same on occasion. But when we notice that all extraneous details have been blacked – other officers working the case, or whether someone as sick as Starsky would even be allowed on the premises – shows us how reductionist this series is prepared to go in order to keep its emotional integrity. (However, when issues become distracting – as in the case of “The Trap” and that rickety impractical barn, or the silly prosthetic in “Quadromania” – does it make sense to criticize.)

How did Janos fit in with the “primes”? There is no mention of him ever threatening to waste Starsky or Hutch, and when confronted he seems genuinely weak and ineffectual. He’s merely a purveyor of pornography with a penchant for assaulting women. Yuck, for sure, but does he really fit the profile?

Hutch first notices Starsky starting to suffer as they walk up the staircase to Bellamy’s apartment. See him take note of a brief lag in Starsky’s step, then the sweat Starsky quickly dabs away as they approach; he checks again as they stand in front of the door – a swift, subtle look that’s easy to miss if you’re not intent on finding it. His face gives away very little, and yet you can read his mind: here it comes.

Sweet Alice is one of the reasons Starsky and Hutch is such a groundbreaking show. She’s smart, sensitive and likeable but also frail and obstinate, a well-rounded portrait of a complex person. I like how she says, in a casual way that implies both are more or less the same, “did you just come by to bust me, or just for a little friendly conversation?”

Is that a mezuzah outside Sweet Alice’s door? It can be seen when Starsky is counting to twenty and waiting to knock.

The whole vaudeville scene at the front of the pornography studio is an excellent example of the psychic energy going on. Starsky and Hutch couldn’t possibly have cooked this banter up beforehand – who is “stupid” and who is “creepy” etc. It’s obvious this a mutually gut reaction, both knowing simultaneously what is needed in the circumstance. I figure most of us trundle along in life with a unique set of instincts based on past experiences, genetic predisposition and learned skills. It’s our own psychic recipe shared by no other. But this is not the case with Starsky and Hutch. Somehow, against all odds, and for reasons I will now spend thousands and thousands of words trying to explain, they have forged and inherited the same instincts. Starsky drives this point home with his comment to Hutch that he tell Janos “a funny story”. Hutch knows immediately what he means and goes for it.

Filming Notes: In the alley, for the sake of realism, Glaser went down quicker and harder than Soul (who was to catch him) expected, bruising himself and genuinely startling his costar.

Starsky feels the need to cut through the intense emotion of the scene with an acerbic tale of his aunt Rose who made him just as sick from the chicken soup she couldn’t “get the hang” of, although she made a good won ton. His jokey response to trauma is a mainstay of his character. Does he do this for his own sake, or because he knows it’ll make Hutch feel better?

I would really like to know what a gum movie is.

“Softly,” Starsky says to Hutch, who is railing away about the inadequacies of the medical profession, “don’t antagonize the people I need.” This quiet admonition is enough to stop Hutch in his tracks – he acknowledges his stupid outburst with a nod and that’s that. Later, when Hutch is ill in “The Plague”, it’s Starsky who antagonizes the people they need, causing Hutch to call him off.

The police lab is shown rarely, despite how useful it would appear to be. We see it again in Season Four, during “The Game”, when the effects of botulism are explained to Starsky.

“How you doing, huh?” Hutch says in the lab. “I’m scared,” Starsky says, and you can tell from Hutch’s reaction that he’d hadn’t been expecting – or really wanting – an honest answer. (This is another example of Soul’s uncanny ability to transmit a complex emotion in a micro-second.) Interestingly, Starsky seems to twig to Hutch’s anxiety because he then gives what Hutch wanted in the first place: sarcasm, much like his face-saving wise-ass comment about Aunt Rose earlier. “Just enough time to catch a double feature at the Riverley and finish the book I’ve been reading,” he says. Hutch responds to this with a gesture of nearly unbelievable tenderness.

Why does Bellamy only get a year sentence when caught with the drugs with Jerry? He had already been convicted of pimping, pushing, armed robbery and suspected of two homicides.

What’s the story with the blue carnival dog Starsky has in his desk? I’ve read it actually belongs to Glaser, which means it has the same mystical properties of teddy bear Ollie. It’s spectacularly ugly, and seems to be at the ratty end of its life. Starsky takes it out of the desk drawer and stares at it, as if it encapsulates a memory, then roughly shoves it back in.

Starsky, in a wonderful moment, says “if this was a cowboy movie, I’d give you my boots”. Using 1950s pop culture references to express deep emotion is something Starsky often does. At the hospital in “The Plague”, for instance, he compares a dying Hutch Captain Marvel. This was a kid, I suspect, who spent a lot of riveted moments in front of a television forming an earnest, black-and-white sense of righteousness, which is why he became a cop in the first place. (Hutch has no such illusions; his childhood was compromised and troubled, his boyhood heroes disgraced – as in Maxie Malone).

It’s really incredible that they are, for a very long time, holding hands in the squad room.  Hutch is so reluctant to break the hold that he practically slams Starsky’s hand down on the desk when Mrs. Haberman comes forward with the photographs, exploding “Lady – !” and then, in frustration to another officer, anxious to get her away from him, he says, “Ted, will you …?”

I like how Hutch unloads Starsky from his arms at the doorway to the Bellamy apartment.

Bellamy says, from his hiding place on the roof, “what’s the matter, Hutchinson? You lose your piece?” And then gives the exact laugh the two have been searching for the entire time. Read piece as peace, which means war.

After Starsky kills Bellamy (an example great shooting – it’s dark and he’s so ill he’s lost much of his vision and coordination) Hutch comes up to him. In what is one of the most beautifully staged scenes between them, he gently reaches down and takes Starsky’s gun, then lays his head against the concrete, leaning into him. Harsh shadows and strong light make this all look very noir. Starsky begins to lose consciousness and they both go down against the wall, and it’s almost romantic, although the word seems inadequate, in the way he locks eyes with Hutch as he does so.

Franklin tells Hutch he has to bring Starsky “upstairs”, which I suppose echoes a death/heaven image; Hutch is trying to be professional but doesn’t want to let go. He goes over to Starsky, leans down close, and says “Hey buddy, I have to go now.” Not you, but me. Starsky has something more to say. He says, “hey.” Hutch leans in closer, but there are no more words. Instead there is a long look that speaks volumes.

It’s always surprising to hear Dobey say, “well, that’s it, huh” when Starsky is back in the hospital. Hutch is right to fly into a rage. But notice this is the emotion that vaults him into a moment of transcendent revelation, solving the case. It seems anger helps Hutch as much as it impedes him: the surge of adrenaline clears his mind and allows him to shut out all extraneous information. “We only have two hours,” says Dobey, to which Hutch yells, “I don’t care if we have two minutes, we don’t give up.”

Why doesn’t Hutch drag the professor back to the lab with him? It would seem he would be of some help in diagnosing the antidote.

Let’s analyze the professor’s thinking throughout this whole thing. Why, if he was so angry at Starsky and Hutch because of what happened to his son, did he not just take a gun and shoot them both? Or get Bellamy to give Starsky an immediately lethal shot rather than a slow-acting one? Why take the risk of the discovery of an antidote? If he wanted them to suffer over a period of time, as he himself suffered, and as he believed his son suffered, then why not give them both the shot at the same time? They would be far less likely to solve anything if both were incapacitated, and Bellamy could have easily gotten to them in the same night. Perhaps the professor understood that one of them watching the other in misery was the worst sort of trauma he could inflict, a sort of “watch your loved one die as I had to watch mine die” manner of thinking. And yet, how would he know how much they loved each other? Did he spend a lot of time in secret observation, drawing his own conclusions as to the way to inflict maximum pain? Why didn’t George Prudholm think this way?

Also, why did the Professor not do the injection himself, and instead bring another person into his plan? Did he doubt his ability to creep into Starsky’s house and do the deed? He’s old but he’s not infirm, and besides, Starsky was already compromised by an earlier dose of something. Was Starsky just coincidentally the first to get it, did Jennings just look at a map and think, he’s closer, let’s do him first and then lose his nerve when it came to Hutch? Or perhaps there was a purpose to his actions. He certainly is calculating, cunning, and nothing he did was by accident. Maybe he thought Hutch would be more destroyed by Starsky’s suffering and death than the other way around. Or maybe it was Bellamy’s idea. Maybe he was nursing an even more poisonous grudge than Jennings. After all, it was Bellamy who really “seemed to enjoy himself”, according to Starsky.

The professor’s daughter Cheryl exclaims, “They tried to protect you in this report,” meaning the report of Jerry’s death and the accidental shooting, and Hutch ameliorates this by trying to explain how his gun accidentally went off while they were struggling with Jerry, who was in a drug-induced delirium. Hmm. First, this means it was Hutch who directly caused Jerry’s death, furthering the questions as to why Starsky was the one to get hit. Secondly, it’s unlikely Jerry grabbed for Hutch’s gun, or if he did it was probably a clumsy, half-hearted swipe at it and certainly nothing to worry about. Hutch has faced thugs a lot quicker and more dangerous than a stoned college student whose brain was “soup”. It’s more likely Hutch shot him on purpose – although why he felt forced to do that will always be a mystery. It’s possible his account was slanted to make the events seem more accidental than they really were as a way of shielding Jennings from the true horror of the incident. Possible, but unlikely, since both Hutch and Starsky have a reputation for honesty above all else, and Jennings does not seem to be a particularly close or valued friend. If Hutch has even a fraction of culpability, for whatever reason, this might explain the very slight, but noticeable, shadow over him this whole time – a sense, not of guilt, but frustration that his own actions might have inflamed the circumstances.

Clothes: Hutch wears one of his best outfits of the entire four seasons throughout this show: brown pants with hip pockets, brown shoes (white socks, but all is forgiven), midnight-blue turtleneck, and a caramel-brown leather jacket (collar up, of course). Starsky wears a tan shirt with a periwinkle t-shirt beneath and his “crummy” jeans. He wears the awesome brown leather jacket. Huggy looks great in the “what it is” scene with his red-brown leisure suit, tortoiseshell glasses, and white hat.



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57 Responses to “Episode 21: A Coffin for Starsky”

  1. jeanroc10 Says:

    I really liked this episode. Do you have any idea of the filming locations of the series?

    • merltheearl Says:

      I wish I did! However, details about filming are difficult to come by. If anyone was involved in the production of this series and happens upon this blog, I’d love to hear from you!

      • John Daley (@lysurgis23) Says:

        G’day merltheearl

        My wife & I really love your blog – challenging, insightful, funny, amazing. Certainly gives us the opportunity to think about The Lads from new perspectives. Thank you!

        Regarding filming locations – without wishing to sound like one of those tiresome people pushing their own web presence, I have been working on a blog/map of S&H filming locations. This has been compiled via the www from the other side of the world, and is not yet finished – but we have found it very interesting to compile!

        Its URL is:


        Thanks again for your hard work on this blog, merltheearl.



      • merltheearl Says:

        John, thank you so much for your extremely kind comments. It makes me happy to think my blog provokes household discussions halfway around the world in beautiful Australia.

        Your blog is incredible. I had no idea Venice Place is not only “real”, but extant, and with the same sign! I was pretty shocked, and pleased. I’ll be a regular visitor to read about your findings, and what a labor of love it is for you to do such exhaustive research. Your job is a lot harder than mine – all I do is throw around a lot of half-baked theories while you have to nail down the hard facts. Wonderful!

        And also, like you, I am enormously indebted to the canon compendium compiled by Pepper Ckua. This was the inspiration for the blog and still my first stop in the search for answers.

  2. Shelley Says:

    I love your write-up on this episode. This episode is one of my favorites, certainly in my top five. There’s so much going on here. The love between the two (straight, apparently) guys and how willing they are to express it is noteworthy. It’s interesting that this was the first script written specifically for them . . . I wouldn’t have guessed that, although I knew many of the early scripts were not written for this particular show. Glaser and Soul really made those scripts their own somehow.

  3. Nadine Says:

    One of my favories too. The upsoken words, the looks – just enough without being too much.

    But they really needed to get the stunt doubles to match Hutch’s socks – the scene in the alley with the two “turkeys” – Hutch’s socks went from white to dark colored:) Same with Bounty Hunter!

    Wish the show would have gone on for a few more seasons – but we fans are glad for the 4 that we had.

    Love your comments and analysis – I’m re-watching the shows and always check out your blog to see if I caught everything mentioned here. Keep up the great work – even when you come to the end of the episodes, I’m sure you’ll think of something new to analyze!

  4. Shelley Says:

    The stunt doubles in this show are pretty bad. 😉 I’ve seen the stunt double for Hutch have straight blond hair that flies all over the place during an altercation, then the camera cuts to Hutch after the fight is done with, and Hutch’s wavy hair is neatly in place. Sometimes the stunt double for Starsky has the wrong color shoes, which is noticeable since Starsky almost always wears blue shoes.

    • Louie Says:

      I feel like a perv for saying this, but I have, on more than one occasion, picked out PMG’s stunt double even from the back with his face totally hidden…not because of shoes or anything so obvious as that, but because…well…the stunt double’s ass is simply not as delectable as PMG’s 😉

  5. June Says:

    Merle, just for fun:
    The house that Starsky’s car is parked in front of is actually at 2000 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles.

  6. King David Says:

    A favourite episode for all the closeness, if not for the fairly thin plotline. Why, with all the perspiring he’s doing, doesn’t Starsky take off that heavy jacket? At least in the squad room where his firearm won’t matter.
    I was gobsmacked when I looked at this one, which somehow got missed way back in the day, and saw them holding hands, The positioning of the two so far apart made the gesture poignant, when it could’ve gone all maudlin and OTT had they been seated closer; still, a brave move. In fact all the comforting gestures have been cleverly framed and balanced so that the tenderness and care shows through, without any descent into unrealism.
    I’ve no idea what a gum movie is, either, but it’s entertaining to wonder!
    I try to overlook any continuity or stunt-double errors, as I don’t want anything to interrupt my suspension of disbelief.

    • rycardus Says:

      It s a common misconception that people who are feverish and perspiring must feel hot. Actually, the opposite is usually the case. When the fever causes the skin to be hotter than the ambient temperature the air feels cold in contrast. This leads the patient to load on blankets and layers of clothing. Of course, this results in the fever to rise even more so removing those layers is the wisest thing to do. However, most non-medical people like Starsky wouldn’t know that.

  7. Dianna Says:

    Thank you for your insights and bits of trivia and points to ponder. I loved your observations about how they put themselves into a sort of emotional isolation boot, excluding everyone else.

    I think we don’t need to wonder how aneurism, stroke, etc. got ruled out so quickly. When Hutch arrived at Starsky’s apartment, he almost certainly saw signs of an intruder, whether it was a door left ajar when the intruder left, or something more subtle, so he would know instantly that this was something bad that someone did, and not a natural illness.

    David Byrd was probably chosen to play Dr. Franklin at least partly because his odd face shape would look particularly surreal in the wide angle shots when Starsky is looking up from the examining table. I do notice that we meet Dr. Franklin at about 8:15 AM, and it is clear Starsky has been at the hospital for almost 3 hours. The same doctor is still on duty at 2 AM. One wonders if he went home and slept while Starsky & Hutch were out doing their detective work.

    When Starsky told the doctor he hated soapy scenes, he probably simply needed someone _else_ to say the difficult words, and he needed to deflect the chance that Hutch would think he was joking about his imminent death.

    Ribbing and teasing between the partners is their way of reassuring each other that things are ok. When the teasing stops, you know the situation is really dire. I see the “No dignity!” comment as Starsky’s signal to Hutch that he does not want to be babied just now; it takes Hutch a second to absorb this and force himself into his normal role of needling Starsky.

    When Hutch offers to drive, and Starsky says, “What? And get us both killed?” He pauses and says, “Why am I trying to make _you_ feel better?” Which is additional proof that they find the humorous insults to be a source of reassurance.

    Every time Starsky parks in this episode, he does it with a screech instead of his usual gunning of the engine. He’s not feeling jaunty and assertive, no matter what a brave face he tries to put on.

    I did not understand why they wouldn’t have examined Bellamy’s cast or checked his medical records, because that looked far too fresh for any 4-week old cast.

    King David wondered why Starsky doesn’t take off his jacket when he’s sweating. I have two thoughts about this:
    1. Unless it is warm out, taking off the jacket would give him the chills.
    2. It seems to always be November in this version of southern California; there is never summer heat.

    When Starsky tries to get Hutch to apologies to Dobey over the radio, I just love Starsky’s little smirk, because he has (temporarily) put himself back in control of this uncontrollable situation. He has staved off everyone’s mutual panic.

    He doesn’t stay in control of things very long, of course. After the collapse the alley (thank you for your background notes on that!!), he asks, “How do I look,” probably hoping for some reassuring ridicule, but Hutch can’t manage it.

    Then, when they first open the door to Janos’s studio, Starsky clings to Hutch for support. He manages to straighten himself up and give Hutch a reassuring smack on the back before anyone else can see his weakness. When questioning Janos, though, he lets Hutch do the energetic part, and supports himself, as if casually, on a piece of the wrecked scenery.

    I believe that Janos is not as wimpy as he appears in this scene, because we know he has beaten people on camera, and that Sweet Alice expresses fear of what will happen if he knows she helped the police find him.

    It is a darn good thing the pharmaceutical lady is pushy and insistent about examining those photos. He keeps calling her, “Lady,” instead of “Ma’am,” even after she’s given them the information they need. The emotional isolation booth has closed down so hard that Hutch is really rude to her, and most people would have simply given up and left.

    A minor continuity glitch: Back at Bellamy’s apartment, Hutch leaves Starsky clinging to the right-hand side of the apartment door, but when Hutch leaves to chase Bellamy, Starsky has evidently spent energy he does not have, because he is now at the left-hand side of the door.

    It would have been far better to have left Starsky at the car, despite his “vested interest,” because he slows them down a lot on the way up the stairs, and of course there is the disastrous shooting, which I don’t think is an example of great shooting; he was probably trying to wing him, but then he spasmed and shot 5 times.

    Interesting question about the contrast between Prudholm and the Professor. Prudholm is an experienced criminal, but not a deep thinker. He would not have had a chance to observe the emotional bond between the partners, so he just lashes out at the whole police department. The professor, on the other hand, is a deep thinker, and has been watching and observing for a while. When he chooses a delayed-action poison, he may have assumed that Starsky would stay in the hospital for the chemical analyses, and/or that Hutch would be paralyzed with grief and fear.

    I expect that Bellamy was hired because the professor didn’t have the criminal experience that would get him silently into Starsky’s apartment. Bellamy also adds a layer of protection for the professor, who has been shown to prefer avoidance over face-to-face confrontation, judging from the way he has been avoiding his daughter for a long time.

    At the end, when Starsky prances down the hall of the police station, no one even gives him a second glance. No one welcomes him back; no one stares at his antics. This is an interesting counterpoint to the scene where Starky & Hutch walk out of the hospital with Starsky in the patient gown, and Hutch glowers, “They’re all looking at ya!”

    Transcription note: Starsky is probably saying “a double feature at the Rivoli,” not “Riverly,” because Rivoli is a common name for a movie theater.

    Thank you for giving me so much to think about, and a place to share it!

    • merltheearl Says:

      These comments are so lovely. Perceptive, generous, and enlightening. I never tire of dissecting this wonderful episode and it’s very nice to have so much new material to ponder. I love your comment about the Rivoli. Very nice catch.

      • Dianna Says:

        I never knew dissecting them could be so much fun. I’ve watched this several (fifteen?) more times now, and feel like I could write a thesis on the issue of “control” in this episode.

      • King David Says:

        I, too, thought ‘Rivoli’, like Tivoli, as they are common names, but didn’t know how to mention it. Thank you Dianna.
        I didn’t think about Starsky getting chilled if he took off the jacket, but rather that if he did, he might not perspire so much and feel so dreadful. Another good point you make.
        I love the line “What! And get us both killed?” It’s so gallows.
        And I agree that Hutch was very ungentlemanly with Mrs Pharmaceutical. How come buying the fixings for a cast was unusual? And I think, from memory, it was on OVER his jeans; odd…and they didn’t pick up on that.
        I really do love this episode.

      • Dianna Says:

        I tried to tell whether the cast was actually over the cast, but couldn’t be certain. We can’t see a place where the jeans were cut off, but it might just be obscured. It would be really really strange if Starsky & Hutch would miss a glaring thing like that. But, as Hutch later says, they are very rushed.

        It would not be unusual for a hospital or clinic to want material for a cast, but for a private citizen, it would be a little odd.

        I’ve thought of something regarding the tag scene: Starsky is too smart to have Huggy phone his confirmation into the police station instead of to his house. I suspect he is playing a joke.

        And how long did that recovery take, anyway? Several days would seem awfully fast for such a horrendous incident, but if it were several weeks, Hutch at least, if not Dobey, would have visited him a whole bunch of times and been aware of the pace of his recovery.

        This should have been the last broadcast of the season, to give viewers a chance to recover, rather than jumping so soon to the lame-by-comparison “Bounty Hunter,” in which Starsky does not seem to bear any physical or emotional scars from his ordeal.

      • King David Says:

        I used to wonder at the miraculous recuperative powers of my favourite TV stars, also, but I have since learned that one show didn’t link to the next, in what we now know as an arc, because the networks whichbought the show may not have broadcast them in the filmed order. Logically, gunshot wounds would take many months to overcome, and the rehab plus return-to-work routine would be lengthy. Considering how many times they have major injuries, they would’ve been out of action for, cumulatively, years. They were good at making it seem that everything was happening over a short time.
        You are good at critiquing, Dianna, so please keep going!

      • Dianna Says:

        Thank you, King David! I will! (In fact I just wrote an embarrassing number of words about the Las Vegas Strangler.)

  8. Dianna Says:

    Typo! I meant “I couldn’t tell if the cast was actually over the jeans.”

  9. Ffwl Says:

    I have always loved this episode, and have really enjoyed watching it again. I have, however, always hated the tag. I think it is because it is such a mean-spirited thing for Starsky to do, and whatever his faults are he is not mean-spirited. Possibly it is a way of regaining control after being badly frightened, but is still feels wrong.

    In order to get rid of the slightly bad taste it leaves I have managed to come up with a scenario that for me at least fits what is shown on the screen and everyone’s character.

    Starsky is still getting some problems from the poison, but he wants to get back to work. I reckon he is getting nerve pain, nausea and is tiring easily, but his co-ordination is pretty much back to normal (because he would never risk putting Hutch in danger unnecessarily by being under par when working). The tag is his scheme for tricking Dobey and Hutch into thinking he is better than he is. His skip along the corridor is him psyching himself up for his ‘performance’. He thinks he has succeeded but when they are on their own Hutch makes it clear that he knows what he is doing and checks he is fit for work. He is probably still being nice Hutch here, as he has had a bad scare. As they are leaving we see Captain Dobey catch Hutch’s eye with a slightly interrogative expression and Hutch gives one of David Soul’s little nods.

    There is, of course, also the possibility that they are fictional characters and this is just a piece of bad writing that should be ignored, but that is no fun at all

    • merltheearl Says:

      I agree, no fun at all! I think you’ve managed to vastly improve a particularly irksome tag.

      As an aside, the urge to rewrite, fill gaps and re-contextualize is both understandable and laudable. This entire project is my way of doing just that. The trick, I think, is to work with what is there rather than pulling elements out of the ether of wishful thinking, which is my main beef with a lot of the more, ah, shall we call it creative takes on this series found elsewhere.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Ffwl Says:

        Thank you. I like analysing (over-analysing?) works of fiction. I have been enjoying re-watching S&H because I now realise that in the better episodes there is an awful lot of sub-text that I can think about and try to make sense of.

  10. Sandra Says:

    One of the best episodes of the whole series. I also love the moment they hold hands in the squad room. That really blew me away when I first saw it, incredible.
    I only just recently saw that during that long look there’s a tear falling from Hutch’s eyes. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before (but it is just in a blink of an eye when you see it falling)
    I also love the look Hutch bestowes on his still unconcious/sleeping partner when the doctor tells him he’s gonna make it. David Soul is really a brilliant actor.
    I always wished such a relationship to be true in real life also and of course I’ve read a lot of things about the actors back then thinking they really seemed to love each other off screen, too. I can tell you though, it’s so much fun to watch them interact live and in person nowadays. It still brings the warm fuzzies to my stomach when I see that not only was their relationship a real one back then but that it is still there and has maybe even deepened.
    David said when asked to describe Paul with one word: There are no words to describe Paul, only feelings, deep feelings, he’s a very special person to me and always will be (and Paul says: ditto).
    Sigh! LOL

  11. Anna Says:

    I really love the fact that Hutch doesn’t seem at all shocked or confused at Starsky for killing Bellamy and (supposedly) scrapping their chance of getting the antidote. That look on Hutch’s face when he slowly puts Bellamy’s body down and slowly turns to look at Starsky, says it all. It’s also a testament either to the actors, the writing of the episode, or both, that it’s so clear, even though Starsky just dully says that “it seemed like a good idea at the time”, that Starsky and Hutch both knew Starsky had just knowingly doomed himself in order to save Hutch from Bellamy.

    And the fact that Hutch just wearily accepts it. He doesn’t flip out or try to kid himself and insult his own intelligence by asking what Starsky was thinking, or get angry that Starsky did that when they were so close to getting the cure, or tell him he was stupid to do it, because Hutch clearly knows exactly what Starsky was thinking. And he knows that if their positions were switched, he’d do the exact same thing for Starksy. So he just walks back calmly, thanks him, asks a flat rhetorical question without wanting an answer, and leans his head against that door for like one second of utter miserable defeat and quiet acceptance while Starsky similarly doesn’t bother to go through the useless front of fumbling for an excuse or hedging or looking abashed or trying to explain himself. They both know. There are some scenes where they pull off something that’s close to telepathy so convincingly you could swear they were some telepathic alien species, and that scene’s one of the best examples of it.

    • King David Says:

      Fantasfic review of that crucial scene, Anna. You said what i would have liked to be able to put into words half as well.
      Don’t you want a soulmate just like that?

  12. rycardus Says:

    Firstly, may I add my voice to the many others thanking you, Merle, for your insightful reading of one of my favourite series? I was a big fan of the show when it first aired and I’ve watched it many times since. My passion for it was rekindled anew a few weeks ago when my daughter treated me to theatre tickets: Paul Michael Glaser as Tevye in the touring production of Fiddler on the Roof. His outstanding performance reminded me of how much I’d loved Starsky and Hutch and I’ve been re-watching the episodes with a mixture of pleasure and frustration.

    Given the restrictions of network television in the 1970s, the show is one of the best of its kind. It’s easy to pick on its flaws and there’s no doubt flaws exist, but when you compare it with other detective series of the period it holds up pretty well.

    “A Coffin for Starsky” is one of my favourite episodes. I’m not sure how much I can add to your excellent analysis or the insightful comments of others, but I’ll give it a shot.

    First off, I love the way the passing of time is marked throughout the episode. The clock is, both metaphorically and literally ticking for Starsky. We get to see clocks, we’re told by characters what time it is, and we see it in Glaser’s portrayal of a man losing ground to the poison that is killing him. When you remember that TV shows are not shot in sequence, it makes his character’s physical deterioration all the more remarkable. He goes from a quick wipe of his brow to a total collapse and makes all the steps in between seem credible.

    Kudos, too, to David Soul for portraying a man determined to support his friend in any way necessary no matter what the cost to himself. Think of it: your best friend in life is dying. Wouldn’t you want to talk to them about it? Say all those things you’ve been holding onto for years? Offer absolution and ask forgiveness? Say you loved them? Hutch does none of these things. The doctor’s salutary reminder at the beginning that Starsky “Hates soapy scenes” is enough of a rule book for Hutch to follow. And yet when Starsky finally admits “It hurts…” Hutch is right there with a comforting embrace. There’s no need for conversation between these two men because they both know everything that matters about one another. Language is superfluous.

    There are a number of times throughout the series when we see Hutch being filled with pride for his friend. This episode is full of those moments (you see it in “Pariah” too, when Starsky visits the mother of the boy he killed.) Pride for Starsky’s courage and resilience fills Hutch’s eyes. It’s in his body language, in his willingness to walk with a dying man into any number of potentially deadly situations despite the risk. If anyone ever wonders why these men love each other, it’s all here, writ large.

    I, too, love the “No pants, no dignity” scene. It is, as you say, effing hilarious. Of course, Hutch could have silenced Starsky at once with a simple, “I wasn’t expecting you to be released,” but that acknowledges the elephant-sized spectre in the room and our guys aren’t about to do that. So Hutch offers the only token he can, “I’ve got your watch…”

    I love how Hutch snipes at the people he feels are obstructing his efforts to save Starsky: The doctor, Charlie, Cheryl, Dobey. Each time, it’s Starsky who calms him down. You have to wonder if at some point Hutch thinks, “Who’ll bring me back from the edge if I lose Starsk?”

    The question you raise about why Starsky was attacked first and why Bellamy didn’t go at once to Hutch offers two possible explanations in my mind:

    #1: The professor is a far cleverer man than Prudholm. He blames both Starsky and Hutch for the death of his son, but Hutch has slightly more culpability. Therefore, Hutch must suffer most. What better torture than to have him watch his best friend die right before his eyes? It’s possible that the professor would have had Hutch poisoned immediately after Starsky’s death. That way, Hutch knows what’s coming and he doesn’t have Starsky to face it with him. Of course, the professor would need to act quickly in case Starsky’s autopsy (hateful phrase!) should offer clues to a treatment protocol that could save Hutch’s life.

    While that’s a fairly reasonable scenario—feel free to disagree—I’m inclined to favour possibility #2. That is, both S&H were meant to be injected on the same night. Bellamy opted to go to Starsky first; given that Bellamy was one of the three most likely candidates to attack Our Hero, that’s hardly surprising. He was then supposed to go directly to Hutch’s place and attack him. Only Hutch had already left to rush to his partner’s aid. No one thought Starsky could possible call for help given his condition, and yet he did. (How many times in this series does a villain’s plan go awry because they underestimated either or both of our guys?) I think this scenario is the more likely because Hutch’s injection is already in the syringe and not in a vial. The poison has been drawn up and is ready to be administered but the professor and Bellamy missed their opportunity.

    As for the professor’s son’s swipe for Hutch’s gun, well, I don’t know that Jerry would have been in such a debilitated state. It depends on the drug. If he were high on PCP or angel dust, for instance, he could have been ferociously strong. Both drugs were very popular during the mid- to late-seventies. I’m inclined to take Hutch’s word for the event. I agree that he feels guilty; he never intended to kill Jerry and he would see the accident as a failure, even though it’s not his fault.

    Well, given that I didn’t think I’d have much to add I seem to have waffled on at some length. I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t make one final comment about the delicious sight of Mr Glaser long, tanned torso when he falls out of bed in the opening scene. Yes, I’m just that shallow.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Rycardus, thank you for your kind words and I’m glad you took the time to comment. You are lucky indeed to see Mr. Glaser on stage! And I appreciate your observations about this wonderful episode – I’m glad you have provided such a plausible suggestion as to why Hutch wasn’t also attacked that same night. It makes perfect sense and I will imagine this is what happened from now on. Great insight. And also I admit I may have paused the video at the moment Starsky falls out of bed to the floor.

      • rycardus Says:

        Thanks, Merl. I am happy to report Mr Glaser has been receiving outstanding notices through his theatre run. And he kept that amazing voice a deep dark secret. He was asked in a radio interview why he hadn’t sung more in the past and replied, “There were others around who were the singers…”

        I forgot to add in my dissertation that there’s an error in the chemical compound which has been injected into Starksky. The doctor describes it in CCs, which is a measurement of fluid, rather than mg, which measures weight. Chemicals would ordinarily be measured by the latter.

    • Louie Says:

      Welcome to the blog, rycardus! I sure hope you leave more comments as insightful and enjoyable as this one!

      • rycardus Says:

        Many thanks, Louie. It’s hard to find other people to talk to about a show that originally aired a few years ago. (I’m in denial about how long!) Merl’s blog is a very welcome outlet for those questions and thoughts that have been bothering me for a long time. At least you guys don’t think I’m weird (or at least no weirder than yourselves!)

        I’m in the middle of re-watching The Fix right now and I hope to post some comments about it, possibly tomorrow.

    • DRB Says:

      A great moment with Starsky marching out of the hospital. It took a while for me to think, “Wait! Where are they going?” And there’s about to be another explosion from Starsky: in addition to no pants, etc. he has no car! Hutch rode in the ambulance.

  13. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    The scene where Starsky sacrifices himself by shooting Bellamy to save Hutch, and the two friends’ little interaction afterwards, is simply one of the peak moments of the show. One of the very best scenes ever, perfectly scripted, directed, and acted, just as Merl so eloquently and perceptively describes it. I love the phrasing “almost romantic, although the word seems inadequate.” Isn’t that actually a pretty good description of their entire relationship? A friendship that is more than friendship, but rather than simply falling under a different and just as limited definition, it instead eschews and transcends alternative categorization?

    It’s rather surprising to realize that this is actually the only time in the series (that I can remember anyway) one of them has out-and-out sacrificed his life for his partner’s, and in fact, the only time they’ve ever been put into a situation where they were faced with the choice. In a way, it both makes the moment more poignant and at the same time makes it less of a big deal. Since we all *know* both of them would give their life for their partner’s in a heartbeat, it doesn’t need to be demonstrated more than once.

  14. stybz Says:

    Did anyone notice that when Starsky and Hutch share that long, quiet, unscripted (thanks, Merl :)) stare at each other in the hospital room that Starsky is starting to cry. His face twitches and he gasps as one would when they’re crying. He does it just before the orderly puts his arm on Hutch’s shoulder.

    Still looking for the tear from Hutch that Sandra mentioned. 🙂 Will have to go back and look more carefully. 🙂

    • Anna Says:

      I did not, but I am not surprised. There are several scenes in the series where Starsky shows some kind of realistic-seeming flicker of emotion from his body language or tone right at the tail end of a camera shot, or when he’s in the background / when the camera is not focused on him, or when he’s not facing the camera, which suits his character. I remember especially the scene in “Murder Ward” when Hutch sneaks in to see him at night when he’s restrained and gagged, and he maintains his composure while arguing with Hutch about the case only for his face to crumple up for a second right at the scene’s close after Hutch leaves.

      I’ll have to look more closely next time I watch! Thanks!

      • stybz Says:

        You’re welcome. It’s either that or he’s shivering, which is likely. Or he’s just struggling to breathe, which is also likely.

        I have a few more comments about this episode. 🙂

        In regards to how Hutch might have deduced what happened to Starsky when he found him, is it possible that after he checked Starsky for the obvious wounds and shook him a few times to try to revive him (shouting his name as well), that he checked Starsky’s pupils and realized that he might have been drugged, given the possible evidence of a break in and the phone call?

        Also, when we see Starsky conscious in the hospital the clock shows that it’s well past 8am. So it’s likely it was 4 hours before the paralyzing agent wore off. That’s just a guess on my part as well. 🙂

        I’d like to know who told Hutch that Starsky was given a lethal injection and told he has 24 hours to live. The doctor doesn’t say it in the hallway. So if Starsky hates soapy scenes, when was Hutch told and by whom? When he goes back into the hospital room, he doesn’t ask how or why, he asks Starsky who gave him the shot.

        As for the narrowing of the possible suspects, I agree that it seemed implausible at first, but then again most cases seem to be built by a description, so maybe even back then during the days of key-punch computers, they had a database of features (e.g. white, male, deep voice), plus the fact that they had to narrow it down by who was out of prison. Maybe by some miracle, most of the perps were behind bars, which made it easier for them to narrow it down to someone Starsky said he knew.

  15. Patricia Ackor Says:

    Everybody has written such cogent, lyrical comments about this episode (I doubt if a single fan doesn’t list it among their Top 5) I find I have very little to add. I wasn’t there yet; I watched it on TV as everyone else did. But I would like to point out something that has always seemed to me very sinister and that no one else has mentioned: the run (and even hole) in the stocking over Bellamy’s face in the very beginning. For some reason, that imperfection made me shudder when I saw it, and also made me immediately realize this would not be a run-of-the-mill jeopardy episode (sorry, when was any of their jeopardy episodes run-of-the-mill; never, of course, I was thinking of all other series of the period). I have no idea whether the actor tore it as he put it on (pulling a stocking over your head isn’t all that easy) and the director thought it a great touch, or how it happened (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the script) but it set up a tension for me that never left during the entire hour, even during commercials.

  16. stybz Says:

    I just had to add this before I forget again. Did anyone notice Captain Dobey peering through the window of intensive care during the second to last hospital scene (that included the goodbye moment between Starsky and Hutch)? Of course he’s out in the hallway as he helps open the doors and is in the scene that follows, but I never noticed him peering through the window until after a few viewings.

    I thought it was a nice touch seeing Dobey watching everything unfold including that tender moment between Starsky and Hutch. Sometimes I have to remind myself how much they trust him and rely on him as more than just a superior.

  17. Blunderbuss Says:

    This is one of those episodes that is so intense and emotionally overwhelming for me throughout that I can’t rewatch it often. I feel inadequate about discussing it in nitty-gritty detail because I have to let several months go by before I could feel up to watching it again. However, merl, your analysis of this episode’s flavor and ideas is spot-on. It is absolutely, utterly unlike anything I have ever seen on TV. No other story, whether it’s a movie, a TV episode, or a written story, that I have ever seen or read bears any resemblance to that *thing* about this episode that pervades every scene and every interaction between the two. I’m not talking about the plot, or the intensity of feeling. There’s something else, something related to what you say here:

    “And yet the squad room seems blurry, inert. There are no ringing phones or slamming doors. The other detectives, when we glimpse them, are abstract background shapes. Even Dobey is merely blaring noise that passes for language; he may as well just go “blah blah blah” for all the sense he makes. There is only the two of them, isolated inside their own world, intent on each other and their quest. Nothing else matters. This is when the series reveals its true nature: it is, in fact, abstraction rather than realism. For all its gritty detail, this has nothing whatsoever to do with real life. This may be exculpatory of me to say so, and perhaps is due solely to the privileges of hindsight, but to apply the measuring stick of realism to “Starsky and Hutch” is beside the point. Sure, there are continuity errors and lapses in logic, and anyone can point a finger and say undercover cops don’t do this or that, or list procedural errors and oversights. I have done the same on occasion. But when we notice that all extraneous details have been blacked – other officers working the case, or whether someone as sick as Starsky would even be allowed on the premises – shows us how reductionist this series is prepared to go in order to keep its emotional integrity.”

    I can quite honestly say I have never, ever seen this done *anywhere* the way it is done in this episode. If there was only one episode in the series I could pick to demonstrate the glaring uniqueness of Starsky & Hutch, I would pick this episode. It is not the single best episode or my single favorite episode, but is the episode that is most utterly foreign to any other TV show ever. I could not imagine this episode in any other TV show. The plot, yes, sure I could. But not the *episode*, as a complete, tangible, distinctly executed thing.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you. You’ve said perfectly what this episode is – and what the series is as a whole (when they get it right). I’m quite awestruck by this comment. I have to confess that it took me weeks to work up the courage to see this episode when I first began to write about it, and to this day I feel as if I could never write an episode summary that does it justice. You may have just written it for me.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am extraordinarily touched by this comment.

    • Anna Says:

      I’d like to echo Merl and say I was extraordinarily touched by this comment too. There is definitely a “something” to this episode that I don’t think any other relationship between characters in any other TV show could have pulled off. I’m not surprised to learn it was the first episode written specifically for these actors.

      Merl, I am also extraordinarily touched by your whole review of it. You highlight and draw our attention to the ideas and moments that make us recognize and appreciate it all the more. This review is a tribute not only to this episode, but to the universal ideas and themes regarding emotional intimacy between two people that it portrays so poignantly.

  18. Tanya Says:

    I am wholly not up to the task of commenting on this one-of-a-kind episode, almost frightening in the intensity of its depiction of the partnership. Perhaps I can find the words at a later time, but to merl, I wanted to tell you just how absolutely *right* your comments are that “This is when the series reveals its true nature: it is, in fact, abstraction rather than realism. For all its gritty detail, this has nothing whatsoever to do with real life.”

    It reminds me of something I once heard about the importance of storytelling: “Stories are not about reality. Stories are about truth.”

  19. Becki Says:

    After all of this wonderful commentary, I’m a bit ashamed to even mention this. And maybe this has been discussed in a post I have yet to read. If so, I apologize for sullying this thoughtful thread with this observation.

    I rewatched that opening four times to make sure I wasn’t being fooled by a camera angle. I wasn’t. Starsky has a mirror over his bed. Over. His. Bed! That is all.

  20. June Says:

    Hello all. Re the alley scene when Starsky hits the deck. Even from the first time I saw this in 1976 I had the impression that David was embarrassed by Paul’s twitching and maybe overacting. See how he looks behind them? I once read that Season 1 was all done in the studio but that looks like a real street behind them. David once said that he was an introvert and Paul an extrovert, so maybe…………..

    • merltheearl Says:

      Overacting? Really? I also have always noticed that backward glance, and interpret it as Hutch being aware they are cops in a vulnerable position in a bad part of town, and glance seems to be purely precautionary – the series was mostly shot on a closed set I can’t imagine there was a risk of nosy spectators.

    • stybz Says:

      I think the reason David/Hutch looks off is to show that his facial expression is one of concern. If he hadn’t, the audience would not have seen it, because it would have been hidden and in a shadow.

      There are many times when actors are told to “cheat” to the camera, which means, turn their head toward the camera so that the audience can see their facial expression, despite the fact that it may seem an odd or obvious thing to do.

      Also, in the script that I have there is a line of dialog that Hutch was supposed to say, “Oh, Stars…” Instead, either David or the director decided not to use words and just have his reaction, hence him looking off.

      I don’t think Paul was overacting.

      I don’t know where you read that season 1 was done in a studio with a backdrop. That makes no sense considering they had a backlot at the studio at their disposal (which they used often, especially in seasons 2-4), and decent weather for the most part. I could understand it if they were filming in the northeast in wintertime. 🙂

      As for introvert vs extrovert. I think they’re both introverts. Paul is more open about his feelings and likes to talk, but I think he exhibits a desire to escape into private moments just as much as any other introvert would. 🙂

  21. BC Says:

    I noticed the parallel between Starsky watching Bellamy’s distorted (with stocking) face giving him the shot and watching Dr. Franklin’s blurred face giving the last injection before taking him upstairs. I can just feel the hopelessness and helplessness both times! Love the compassion from these guys. Thank you again, Merl, and fellow fans, for all your insights that add to my love of S&H.

  22. Kerrie Says:

    Thank you Merle for creating this blog . I love reading your analysis and everybodys comments on the episodes. I decided to add a comment to this episode, because a) its one of my favourite episodes, and b) because of a letter in a TV magazine published here in Australia after it was aired. I can’t remember the name of the magazine, but it did have section where the viewers could comment on the shows of the day. One irrate viewer had expressed his displeasure at the hand holding scene and was quite offended by not only that scene but the whole episode. Please remember this happened in the 70s and a show like Starsky abd Hutch was new and some people felt threatened by the characters closeness. It wasnt manly to care that much.The next two weeks the magazine published a “selection of the thousands of letters” it had received in support of the love and affection that was shown by the characters. How do i remember this? I was one of the thousands who wrote in to say how much i loved Starsky and Hutch and how their friendship was part of the reason i loved watching the show, and yes my letter was published in the magazine.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Kerrie, thank you so much for this comment. I love your story! It goes to show how revolutionary this show is. Some day I would love to compile a selection of contemporary writing about the show by television critics of the day. All I remember from the time was a bunch of baloney about guns and squealing car chases and how it would all rot the brains of our children, and sometimes I wonder if the critics decrying the violence in the show were, in fact, covertly expressing how threatened they were about the emotional intensity of the relationship.

      • Kerrie Says:

        Hi Merl,
        So glad that you liked my comment! Thank you!
        Love the idea of the selection of contemporary writing by the critics of the day. Would make very interesting reading!!! Merry Christmas!!

      • DRB Says:

        I remember one critic who dismissed David Soul as mumbling and slouching through his scenes. As young as I was at the time, I remember thinking the critic was clueless or just plain stupid.

  23. Miche Says:

    At the risk of repeating myself, this is another eps that had great staying power. Next to the holding/crying scene in Gillian, hearing Starsky tell Hutch ‘You know, if this were a cowboy movie I’d give you my boots’, blew me away the first time I heard it. Then the way Hutch slowly looks up at Starsky is something else. When you pause the DVD player and look at his eyes, so much LOVE and warmth is written there. It comes from deep within. The hand-holding is so precious and organic. And Starsky gently saying ‘you’re my pal Hutch’. My, oh my…. pinch me if I am truly hearing and seeing this.

    These two men are brilliant actors, both in their unique way. The intensity and vulnerability of PMG is a sight to behold. The details with which DS delivers is rich and powerful.

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