Episode 45: Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty

A lawyer hires look-alikes Simmons and Hanson to go on a crime spree in order to discredit Starsky and Hutch’s testimony in an upcoming trial.

Sharon Freemont: Lauren Tewes, Chief Ryan: Val Avery, Nikki: Michele Carey, Judy Coppet: Shera Danese, Mr. Klemp: Henry Sutton, Mrs. Marlowe: Dorothy Meyer, Lennie Atkins: Sy Kramer, Hanson: Gary Epper, Simmons: Kipp Whitman, Fifi: Mary Jo Catlett, Kate: Jean Bell, Nurse: Suzanne Gormley, Eric Ronstan: Don Keefer. Written By: David P Harmon, Directed By: Bob Kelljan.


A third, privately owned Torino had to be rented as backup for this episode (the owner was also invited to watch as a guest of the studio) because of the need for an identical car.

In the station’s hallway, Starsky is talking to an aging ex-boxer he remembers from childhood, obviously giving him words of advice or encouragement. Hutch comments, in the dry tone reserved especially for his partner, “for a hard-nosed cop you’re not doing your image any good.”  Other than nicely tying in with Starsky’s nostalgic compassion, this is pretty well the theme of the episode: reality vs. image. This episode could be, on some level, a comment on the criticism that the show was nothing but imagination-murdering violence. The Boob Tube, and all that. From the disdain and scorn many critics expressed at the time you’d think they were watching another show.

Starsky asks Hutch, “Do you trust me or not? Hutch replies, “With my life, yes. With your choice of women, no.” It’s amusing to think Hutch would consider Starsky’s choice in women worse than his own. They’re both equally bad and sometimes equally good.

In the opening scene there are no stuffed animals on the filing cabinets, as there are in other episodes. They must all be hidden somewhere: later Hutch pulls a Mickey Mouse out of the filing cabinet.

Chief Ryan and Captain Dobey are both called “Chief of Detectives.”

Hutch tells Dobey Captain Ryan doesn’t like the way he and Starsky comb their hair, the way they dress and doesn’t think Starsky’s joke was funny. That’s a far cry from what Ryan is really thinking about them when he says, “This time you got sloppy. This time you got two witnesses.” He seems to be equating a personal distaste with the way they look with moral and ethical corruption, which is extreme. And even more interesting is the fact that Starsky and Hutch, who say they have “great respect” for Ryan, can’t see he not only disrespects them, but seems to genuinely despise them as well.

Hutch defends Starsky’s police academy speech. He could have been in the audience in support of his friend, or he might have been standing beside him at the dais waiting to go next.

Hutch gets his notebook to prove to Ryan when they last saw Newton. But hardly ever in the series do we see either Starsky or Hutch write down information anywhere.

How did Chief Ryan get as far as he has in the department when he shows a complete misread of Starsky and Hutch’s characters? When he says “this time we got two witnesses,” he has certainly thought they have gotten away with some pretty terrible behaviors in the past in addition to being flamboyant or unconventional. One wonders how his aggressively negative attitude about their basic character jive with the fact Starsky got a commendation and invitation to speak at the Academy. Ryan could be one of those grumpy “things have gone way down hill since I was a lad” types, and his view of the two detectives a general part of this view on life.

Chief Ryan distrusts Starsky and Hutch, but it is Starsky who comes to distrust Ryan, thinking right away he is out to frame them. While in this episode Starsky seems more distrustful of people than Hutch, in other episodes they switch roles.

Starsky and Hutch said they stayed fifteen minutes, from 2:55 to 3:10. Mrs. Marlowe said she saw them leave at 3:30. It makes the most sense that she saw the real Starsky and Hutch arrive and the fake ones leave. But this doesn’t jive with what the viewer sees Mrs. Marlowe see. Did she see two sets arriving and only one leaving? Or did she miss the real detectives arrive AND leave, and only see the fakes?

This is one of many times in which the Torino is a problem. Really, it’s a real hazard when it comes to detective work.

“There’s no use arguing with the TV,” Starsky says in frustration, upon leaving Mrs. Marlow, which could be a comment on the perils of stardom as well.

It’s strange seeing Dorothy Meyer as a threatening character before her memorably radiant performance as the lovely Mrs. Walters in the later episode “Manchild in the Streets”.

Reluctant witness and homebody Lennie Atkins is played by veteran character actor Sy Kramer, who may in future bump someone off my “Memorable Cameos” list. He’s so frightened by the idea that he’s just allowed two murderous brutes into his apartment he seizes into a fear so palpable you can almost smell it. Eyes watering, face paling, his entire body winces into a corner. When he apologizes, his voice trembles so badly it’s as if he’s vibrating. It’s a brilliant performance. One note about the scene: there is absolutely no call for Starsky to pause and lean into the poor man, giving him a steely, intimidating look, if he and Hutch are trying to prove they are benevolent would never harm a witness. If Lennie Atkins hadn’t peed his pants before, he would then.

Both the fake Starsky and the real Starsky like to work on models. The real Starsky: ships, in “Fatal Charm”. The fake Starsky: cars.

Nikki is played by Michelle Carey, who really is more pleasant as the madame here than she will be later as the creepy car saleswoman in “Class in Crime”. She asks Hutch (wistfully) if he wants her future address; he replies “no.” Starsky seems put out that she doesn’t ask him the same question.

Would Nikki really get the real Starsky and Hutch mixed up with the fake ones? First of all, she is used to seeing men in the dark, so her identification skills must be high. And the fake Starsky puts out a cigarette just as he knocks on the door, which Nikki would smell that and know the real Starsky, just a couple of minutes ago, didn’t smell like that. At this point we must acknowledge how large a role fear and disorientation plays when people remember things. And also the inescapable reality that people only see what they expect to see, which is why eye-witness testimony is notoriously unreliable.

Hutch, rather than Starsky, seems to be a magnet for unwanted women letting themselves into his place and wanting to cook him dinner. Does Hutch later underestimate Diana in “Fatal Charm”, due to his experiences with poor Fifi in her “I Need All the Friends I Can Get” sweatshirt?

There are two vacuum cleaners portrayed, and Hutch trips over both of them. (Here, and in “Blindfold”)

The ten thousand dollars Hutch discovers in the envelope is a little problematic. Later it’s discovered to have come from a bank heist, which means either Simmons or Hanson were involved. But how could Sharon Freemont convince either guy to sacrifice so much money for a little evidence-of-guilt window dressing? They knew they would never see it again. Unless the money is Freemont’s, and she’s willing to throw it away. Which brings up another couple of issues: where would she have gotten it, and why would Simmons (as “Starsky”) be trusted to dump it on Hutch’s table and not abscond with it? That’s a ton of cash. It’s possible he didn’t know how much was there, and it’s also possible Sharon Freemont was paying them more. But more than ten thousand each? Just what was this “junior partnership” at the law firm worth to her, anyway?

The double for Hutch is Hanson; that’s the second time the Hutch/Hanson names are used. The other is “Murder Ward”. Gary Epper, who plays Hanson, also is the stunt double for David Soul.

I like how Starsky blames Ryan “for this whole mess”, and throws open the door to Hutch as an invitation to walk through it, and also to accept this idea. Hutch does.

Why does Sharon remind Starsky about their dinner date when she so clearly hates him? It’s unnecessary to the scam she’s got going, and involvement with him could spell disaster for her nefarious plans. Does she get a sadistic kick out of it, or what? Maybe Hutch is right when he says he trusts his partner with his life, but not his choice of women.

It’s a cloudy wet day when the guys investigate the strip club. The daylight is starkly cold, almost blue, and very different from the typically diffused, golden glow one associates with the series, and it’s a striking contemporary look.

Fake Starsky takes a real chance tormenting sober citizen Mr. Klemp in broad daylight. Why bother? Hitting the unfortunate girls was bad enough. Kemp might be shrewdly perceptive, and bring the whole enterprise crashing down. Is this a case of a career criminal (“three time loser”, according to Sharon) revealing his stupidly overconfident side?

Judy Coppet, the massage parlor madam, is so unusually good-looking she merits research. Turns out she’s played by Shera Danese who went on to a certain amount of fame playing different roles in “Columbo”, eventually marrying the show’s star, Peter Falk. Good one, Shera!

When Ryan suspends them after their apparent roust on a strip club, the camera abruptly shifts to extreme close up. Pores-as-big-as-craters close up. Of course the guys handle this well, but Ryan looks terrible, as any mortal would.

“The guys call him skinny,” Starsky says of Oscar Newton, “but the ladies don’t”, which is a nice dirty joke somehow snuck by the TV censors.

This is the first and perhaps only time a suit-and-tie-wearing bureaucrat with a hate-on for Starsky and Hutch (Chief Ryan) is revealed to be someone capable of making reasonable deductions, including changing his mind – and softening his bad attitude – to allow for a grudging respect for the two detectives.

It really is surreal to see two Torinos chasing each other through the dismal streets of LA. How did the fake Torino get the same license plates as the real one? And why bother with this complicated detail when even the most perspicacious witness might not get an accurate plate number?

It’s great how the guys go after their own doubles. And apparently Fake Hutch takes his role seriously enough to have the same gun as Real Hutch, which involves a lot of homework. Both Hutch and Starsky have genuinely hilarious reactions upon apprehending their doppelgangers. Hutch is, as usual, regally certain of his double’s inferiority to the glorious “original”. Starsky is, as usual, openly amazed at the resemblance, like a kid at a magic show.

For the mastermind of this caper, Sharon Freemont, disappears into irrelevance in the wake of the chase and capture of the lookalike stooges. The series is very often guilty of this kind of narrative shortcut – starting from the pilot episode, when the other Evil Lawyer Mastermind D.A. Mark Henderson vanishes without a trace following a tidy little takedown. Freemont’s motives and strategies are never fully realized, which is a shame, because she’s one of the most psychopathic criminals of all, someone willing to destroy two police officers to get a plum position at her job. And all with a sunny grin and pixie haircut.

Tag: What does Hutch mean when he tells a tipsy and singing Starsky, “She must have been an owl”? Is it because Starsky’s singing is so bad it sounds like one? Or is it so very late at night? “When I was a kid,” Starsky insists, meaning Fats Domino (who Hutch, unusually, seems to denigrate) “that Fat Man was king.” Nicely bringing the episode around to its initial scene, in which Starsky defends the honor of a childhood hero. Both men have cleaning ladies. Bachelors or not, is this unusual for detectives?

Starsky’s apartment is broken into, his stuff is tossed around and some of it is missing. Starsky is understandably upset but Hutch is laughingly dismissive (until the comedic note is struck: his own tennis racket is missing, and suddenly he wants to launch a full-scale investigation). This whole scene seems to be to be rather offhand. During the run of the series both have suffered at the hand of brutal criminals with long memories. Both have been broken into and threatened, Starsky nearly killed (“Coffin”). How come neither detective thinks this may be one of those times? If I were them, I’d back out slowly, gun drawn.

Clothing notes: during the hospital scene the guys really go to town in clashing, obnoxious clothes, Starsky wearing the cut-offs he wears in every other episode requiring shorts. They both look better than they have a right to in their BCPD janitorial overalls, Starsky’s pant-legs insouciantly rolled up to reveal jeans. I like how Dobey wears an ascot on Saturday morning to play golf with Ryan. And Sharon really did a good job scouring those thrift stores; the fake Starsky is wearing the same shirt the real Starsky wears in a later episode, “The Specialist”.



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13 Responses to “Episode 45: Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty”

  1. Kit Sullivan Says:

    As a 15 year old car-crazy boy when this show first aired, I have to say this is one of my favorite episodes…mostly for all the cool car-related shenanigans.
    However even as a kid, I couldn’t help but notice the too-obvious evidence of the quick-and-dirty, “hurry up and get it done” nature of filming a weekly hour-long action TV show.
    By this point in the series, the production had two 1976 Torinos used to portray Starsky’s car. Owing to the elevated demand of car-heavy scenes for this particular episode, a third Torino was rented from a fan to be used as a backup, if needed.
    Some notes about the cars:
    The cars used on the TV show were ordered from Ford in the bright red color, and the white stripe, mag wheels and tires were added by the production team.
    Near the end of Ford’s last year of production of the Torino for 1976, a special run of about 1000 Torinos were produced and sold to the public, all sporting the by-then famous red w/ white stripe paint job. However, the Ford produced cars had the stripe painted considerably differently than the actual TV show cars, most noticible around the rear of the stripe: The TV cars had a smooth, rounded shape to the the back of the stripe whereas the Ford-produced cars had a sharp, angular shape to this section.
    The car rented as a backup for this episode is apparently one of those Ford-produced cars and it is used in one, and only one drive-by scene in the entire episode. The Scene shows the Torino driving by from screen-right to left in the rain. Notice the shape of the stripe. Also notice that the car sits much lower on it’s suspension than the normal TV cars do, and if you look real fast, you will see that it is sporting an incorrect style of mag wheel: The TV show cars all used generic slotted-dish “kidney bean” polished aluminum mag wheels, whereas the stand-in car for this 2-second scene is wearing “Keystone Klassic” chromed steel wheels, and raided white-letter tires. The TV cars never showed white letter tires, probably to prevent unauthorized advertising of a particular brand of tire.
    Might seem like a meaningless trivial matter to some, but…The car is a star, and desrves the attention our two heroes get too!

    More about the cars in this episode:
    Apparently, the production company did not have two complete sets of aluminum mag wheels to outfit two cars at the same time, for one of the Torinos used clearly has a gray-painted steel wheel on the driver-side front. Looks like it might be the factory spare tire.
    That would not be a problem in and of itself, but unfortunately the car with the gray wheel keeps changing from the “real” Torino that is driven by our heroes to the “fake” Torino driven by the bad guys.
    During the chase scene, it is clearly obvious when traffic is being held off by police to facilitate the filming. Boy, how thrilling it would have been to watch them film this TV show back in the day!

  2. King David Says:

    I’m going to go back and watch the cars in this one; my gaze isn’t usually away from the eye candy. I certainly prefer the rounded curve of the white ‘swoosh’, and the big mag wheels. The Torino does look better with red wing mirrors, and who, I wonder, thought we wouldn’t notice if ever they removed the rearview mirror?
    Yes, the car is another character in the cast. They knew this when Hutch drove it in ‘Bloodbath’, as it kept the absent Starsky in the forefront of our minds in the way Hutch’s Godawful Ford would never do.
    I thought it brilliant, back in 1976, that Starsky had a red stripe in his Adidas superlights to match the Torino.

    • King David Says:

      And another thing: how come Starsky has four white stripes on his Adidas shoes when he has his feet on Dobey’s desk?

  3. Dianna Says:

    Wow, interesting stuff about the cars! Thanks, Merl and Kit Sullivan!

    Does anyone know why Lenny Atkins rearranges so much stuff in his apartment before he opens the door do Starsky and Hutch?

    When we first see Simmons and Hanson in their hotel room, the music playing is the same music we heard in the theater at the end of Gillian.

    I didn’t think Starsky was put out when Nikki offered Hutch her address; I just thought he was wistful himself.

    Starsky tells Sharon on the phone that he will have to make it quick, but then he spends an awful lot of time romancing her. Hutch’s comment about Starsky’s taste in women may be directed specifically at Sharon. Her haircut, by the way, is a Dorothy Hammill cut, not a Pixie cut.

    Hutch leaves his key on the doorframe?? Really?? And I have a hard time picturing boxers under his slim-fitting pants. Maybe jockey shorts were a little bit to risque to show on 70s TV.

    Is Fifi (played by Mary Jo Catlett) supposed to be the same Fifi (played by Louise Hoven) who was passing around appetizers at a party in Deadly Imposter? If she is, then the disdain with which she is treated at that party is a bit more understandable. When I looked up Mary Jo Catlett, I was surprised to find that she was the actress who portrayed Terrible Tessie in The Omaha Tiger.

    How is 36 hours a round number? Why not say a day and a half, which sounds much rounder?

    Why does Dobey discuss so much sensitive personnel stuff out in the squad room? For that matter, why do Starsky and Hutch talk so openly about their plan to get past Ryan’s men in the hospital? The uniformed cop behind them gives them a rather sharp look when they say it.

    When Starsky and Hutch sneak around in the police station, they are astonishingly inept. Is this because they are in a really weird state of mind, or is it bad writing? Or is there some thematic thing I’m missing?

    After Nikki gets beat up, and especially after the confrontation at the massage parlor, I really thought the guys would set up a fake call and then hide out till their doubles showed up, or even just hide out after a real call. I was a bit disappointed when they didn’t solve the case at all, and Chief Ryan did it for them.

    What motivated Eric Ronstan to admit what was going on? Why didn’t Ryan immediately phone Starsky and Hutch to let them know they were cleared when he got Ronstan’s statement? Why didn’t he arrest Sharon at that time?

    Hutch’s owl comment is because Starsky sang “Hoo ooo ooo ooo.”

    For me, this was not a particularly satisfying episode.

  4. Sharon Marie Says:

    The commendation they refer to, I believe, was for both of them, not just Starsky. A few episodes back, Dobey recommended them for the Medal of Valor in “The Committee”. Perhaps this is a rare show of continuity.

    Dianna – I don’t think Lenny was rearranging stuff. More like tidying up. He looks like someone who is a daily ball of anxiety – always worried about what is thought about him. He straightened up the messy pile of newspapers, then looked around to make sure his apartment looked neat. At least that was my take.

    How does Lenny lock his door from the inside? There is no key hole. No deadbolt. Not even a security chain!

    Nikki, the apparent madam, wears an obvious cross on her necklace. A religious prostitute! Or is it part of her costume?

    I love Starsky’s shout out to Watergate – Nixon, Haldeman and Erhlichman. Quite ‘current events’ for the time.

    Fifi clearly has it bad for Hutch and when he takes his jacket off just the sight of his gun puts her over the top! (She also wears the same running shoes as Starsky). Is she ‘out jogging’ with that huge purse?!

    “Guys call him skinny, but the ladies don’t!”

  5. stybz Says:

    I agree that there are things in this episode that they should have done, but didn’t. Like staging a call and waiting for the fake versions of themselves to arrive. Unless maybe they thought they were being followed and not being listened-in to on the radio. But they still could have sneaked away and waited.

    I think Chief Ryan’s attitude toward Starsky and Hutch stems from one or two things. First, it could relate to the times Dobey said to them “No private parties”, so maybe they bend the laws too far for Ryan to accept. Either that or he had the two men up on a pedestal until Starsky’s speech at the academy and he feels so burned by it he became blinded by his disgust over it, affecting his judgement of the two men. This could be why he has the change of heart later and decides to do some digging. Perhaps Dobey insisted they were good cops and he recalls the medal of valor and the other cases they worked on, causing him to reevaluate them.

    I thought Mrs. Marlowe saw the fake ones arrive and not the real ones. Perhaps she got the arrival wrong but the departure right?

    Now, the whole Fifi situation in Fatal Imposter makes more sense. Fifi is the cleaning woman. This is why Hutch asks her why she’s there on an off day. And this is why she’s serving the food and offering to clean up after the party in Deadly Imposter. Granted it’s obvious in both situations that she’s infatuated with him. 🙂

    I thought it was interesting when Sharon says the fake team had to go to a second-hand clothing shop. At first I thought it odd that Hutch would shop there, but then I thought that maybe Hutch doesn’t update his wardrobe very often and tends to fall back on old favorites that aren’t in the stores anymore. Same with Starsky, although in his case I’m more inclined to think he would shop anywhere he can find comfortable clothing at a discount. 🙂

    The reason Sharon reminds Starsky of the dinner date is to continue the ruse. She’s got to keep the charade going until the very end. Why would she show hatred of Starsky when he himself doesn’t know she’s involved in any way? After all she just helped them and they think she’s on their side.

    This episode plays on the often fallable memory of witnesses. Fake Starsky bumping into the witness plays into that. He’s wearing the same hair style and clothing. The only thing different are the facial features. It’s difficult to scrutinize someone’s face in such a short period of time unless you know you’re going to be asked to identify someone. It’s also harder to get to the details when you’re agitated or nervous. I’m often concerned I won’t remember what someone looks like after only speaking with them briefly once. I don’t think I would be good at picking someone out in a line-up. 🙂

    This is the first episode that I’ve seen where extreme close-ups are used.

    I thought it was funny seeing Starsky’s coveralls rolled up at the ankles. Were they too long or too short? 🙂

    Merl, you mention Henderson from the pilot disappearing. I wonder if he was dead. After all didn’t he get the near fatal shot and fall down the stairs, taking Starsky with him?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thanks again for your comments, and yes, Henderson does appear to die in the pilot, I suppose I meant his narrative importance disappeared off-screen when he did. I could have written that better.

    • Laurie Says:

      I just figured the “second hand stores” bit was to not just to find similar clothes to their wardrobes that might be a year or two out of style, but to also find leather jackets or whatever that looked “lived in” and not brand new. I didn’t get the sense it was implying their clothes were shabby.

  6. Kit Sullivan Says:

    To answer Mearl’s query about where exactly the bank-heist money came from: I always assumed it came from Sharon Freemont, indicating that she was previously involved with whoever robbed the “Mandalay Heights” bank that the money came from. It might have been a part of some “slush fund” available to her to fund her ongoing illegal activities. On a side note, the city of “Mandalay Heights” must be a close neighboring city to “Bay City”, as it is referenced in a few other episodes.
    I never took the thrift-shop reference to indicate the Starsky or Hutch bought thier own clothes at a thrift-shop…only that Sharon had to hit the thrift-shops to find some used duds that matched. And boy did she do a good job! Those clothes matched EXACTLY!
    I agree that the character and story points in this episode…like many of the episodes don’t always make perfect sense, but luckily we are frequently treated to great guest-stars who are given a chance to do some scenery-chewing. Val Avery as Lt Ryan is a great example of this. He commands the screen when he is on it. Avery was a very frequent guest-star on “Columbo”, and always turned in a great performance on that show. Along with Shera Danese, there are two actors on this episode with a “Columbo” connection.
    I have often wondered about the final shot of Starsky’s Torino skidding to a stop behind the “fake” Torino. If you look closely, the “fake” Torino appears to have the front driver fender severely dented, even though the car did not crash ib that area. I have surmised that since the scene required real-Starsky to jump on the roof and to drag fake-Starsky back and kinda’up on the roof…which clearly puts a HUGE dent into the roof sheetmetal, that the producers might not have wanted to use one of the “good” Torinos for this single shot, and maybe substituted an older crashed one kept on hand for parts, ir somethi.g along those lines. Who really knows?

  7. Becki Says:

    Mrs. Marlowe was only adamant about the time they left, because she missed the end of her soap because of them. No one seems to be disputing the time of arrival, only departure. So she probably only saw the imposters, like the audience did.

    I just adore the scene where they are discovered in Ryan’s office. Ryan doesn’t hesitate; he instantly knows Hutch is behind the door. And their exchange: “Hello” “Hello” “Didn’t expect me, didja?” “Uh-un”, all with that half-embarrassed Hutch grin, is absolutely priceless and effortless on both their parts. One of my very favorites!

    • emma60 Says:

      I’ve always loved that little scene as well! It’s a five second gem of comic timing. I’m also amused at the scene immediately afterwards, where Ryan is talking and swiveling his head between Starsky, Dobey and Hutch, and finally tells Hutch to “get over here where I can see you” (all the while Hutch is self-consciously dusting the table in front of him, heh). That line has a very police-like awareness, and also seemed – to me – unscripted. I wonder how much of that scene *was* scripted and how much came about in rehearsal. (Could also say that about some point in nearly every episode, actually.)

      I also really liked Chief Ryan by the end of the episode and wish he had been a recurring, or semi-recurring character.

      • DRB Says:

        The whole office search was hilariously done. The inept spying around corners in the hallway with the guys popping in and out, the clumsy handling of the brooms and cart including the way Starsky practically runs Hutch over getting to Ryan’s door, and all the fumbling with the light and the files, not to mention clambering over each other is not only good fun, but also serves to let us know how tense the detectives are. We have certainly not seen such nervousness in any previous search.

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