Starsky and Hutch

Starsky and Hutch

In the mid-70s, action movies were upping the ante as far as acceptable levels of violence, with films like Dirty Harry redefining the role of the fictional cop. Soon after, the normally timid medium of television decided that they needed to respond in kind if they wanted to attract the audiences that were flocking to see this new era of films. ABC decided that the calm days of Adam-12 and Dragnet were over. There were two new cops on the beat that didn’t take crap from anyone and weren’t shy about drawing their guns and firing off a couple dozen rounds. Their names were Starsky and Hutch.

Debuting in 1975, Starsky and Hutch starred Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, respectively, as New Yorker David Starsky and Minnesota native Ken Hutchinson, two recent transplants to the fictional Southern Californian “Bay City.” Ken was the calm and collected cop and his partner David was the more erratic, emotional one of the team. But while their personalities contrasted each other, their devotion to fighting crime and their loyalty to each other was strikingly similar. They drove around in the car that Hutch had sarcastically christened “the striped tomato” – a red Ford Torino, sporting a white vector stripe on each side, and officially known as “Zebra-Three.”

Working under the direction of Captain Harold Dobey, the pair fought all manners of thug, thief and criminal, from the petty to the psychotic. Their ear on the streets was the wisecracking uber-cool informer, Huggy Bear, who, despite his hoodlum image, was a kind and caring soul underneath – even if he rarely let that side show.

At the end of the second season, Paul Michael Glaser expressed an interest in leaving the series, and when that wasn’t granted, he sued to get out of his contract. Things were smoothed over with a significant pay raise, thanks to the show’s overwhelming popularity, but it wouldn’t be the last time he tried to depart. In the fourth season, a new character was introduced named Nick, brother of Starsky. This was done out of fear that Glaser was planning to leave and the plan was, if he leaves, Nick goes to the police academy and joins the force as Hutch’s new partner (Nick and Hutch?) The fears were unfounded as Glaser stayed on throughout the fourth and, sadly, final season, thanks to a recent drop in the ratings.

The world wouldn’t hear from Starsky and Hutch again until 2004, when Warner Brothers released their spoof/tribute to the series, the Starsky and Hutch motion picture. Starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the respective title roles, the film poked playful fun at the iconic series and was a major box office hit.

Looking back, there is no denying that Starsky and Hutch was violent and gritty in contrast to the police shows that preceded it, but that was only part of the picture. The series also benefited from solid writing and compelling main characters – whose on-screen chemistry was inescapable and oddly appealing. All of this combined to make the series a cut above the rest, and it remains a beloved reminder of the days when cop shows didn’t sacrifice action for drama and weren’t afraid to let the bullets fly.

If you stayed up late each week to see what kind of mayhem would surround Starsky and Hutch, we’d love to hear your recollections of watching this classic cop show in our comments section.

11 Responses to “Starsky and Hutch”

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  1. Laura says:

    Just a couple of corrections: they worked under Captain Harold Dobey, nit afford, and the series lasted only four seasons. The producers had hoped they could use Nick Starsky fir a fifth, but David Soul wouldn’t do it without Paul.

  2. T.M. says:

    I adore this show to this day. It wasn’t really about bullets flying. It was about the trust, love and friendship that was relied on when those bullets did fly. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul have a chemistry one doesn’t see anymore on the airwaves. And I will always be in love with the friendship they shared so openly on a 70′s detective show.

  3. Carol says:

    Thank you for acknowledging this wonderful show that really never received the credit it deserved. As a fan of the series in its original years (the show ran for four years from 1975-1979 and their worked under Captain Harold Dobey),
    I have lasting memories of the show. When I was watching it, as a teenager, many news articles about the show often failed to focus on what made this show a success (the unique friendship that existed between the two main characters and the actors that portrayed them), and instead focused on the “violence”. It was a police series and therefore, had to allow for violence and “gritty realism”, in order to allow the audience to understand the dangerous world in which these two cops lived and worked. But the young viewers that were captivated by these two characters were drawn into their relationship, how they interacted, how–despite their many differences–they blended into a team that worked together in sync and with such caring and understanding of each other. In many ways, they were 70′s tough-macho guys. They competed with each other, joked, fought, argued, disagreed, and got frustrated with each other, at times.Yet, in circumstances were one was hurt or injured (emotionally or physically) they were there for each other, openly giving. There were no barriers between them, they communicated compassionately, held each other, touched each other, giving to the other–in moments of vulnerability– concern, caring, giving, and loving so honestly, expressed in a way so few other portrayals on television ever dare to depict.

    Decades later, why is this show still so special and beloved by its fans? Not because Starsky drove a white-striped red car, or because they carried guns and sought to bring the bad guys to justice. But because, within a world that was dangerous, suspicious, cold, cruel and uncaring, they transcended the violence and hatred and understood–and never forgot–what was most important in their lives. Each other.

    Thank you to Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul– who understood that more than any of us did. They had the insight, the courage and the compassion to convey that to all of our hearts.

  4. Susan says:

    I adored the series, and most especially Hutch! I had an enormous crush on David Soul. The chemistry between David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser is, in my opinion, what made it work. They were two men who loved one another. The action was great, and the show was often humorous. They had a great supporting cast and many terrific guest actors. I still enjoy watching the reruns over thirty years later!

  5. Angie says:

    Paul Michael Glaser kept me glued to the telly back in the day. He had this strange combination of innocence and sexiness that was very appealing. He’s still very appealing.

    I loved the friendship, I loved the action, I loved the car. I think it was the bond between the two main characters that made this show special.

  6. Eddie says:

    this show and charlie’s angels were the last two network tv shows I watched regularly and faithfully, not counting saturday night live. I also loved a show called chase which it’s tough to find info on. I had loved adam 12 but happy days came along and my sisters had to watch that. I was relegated to the black and white for adam 12 at that point. by the late 70s my sisters had moved out and I got to watch starsky and hutch in color!

    we had a starsky and hutch torino with the exact paint job driving around town back then, and well into the 80s.

  7. Carla says:

    Just wanted to let everyone who loved ‘Starsky & Hutch’ like I did/do know about a very special event happening in the Los Angeles area in March of 2013. Tickets are on sale now. Here’s all the info: http://starskyandhutch.info/surcon/the-program/

  8. Nik says:

    zebra one???…. never heard that……. always zebra THREE

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