In the 1980s, Everybody Solved Crimes But Me

In the Angry Czeck’s award-ignored post, Four Times? Really?, I made a brief but penetrating allusion to Street Hawk, a show that left a vivid imprint upon my memory. To my surprise, I discovered that very few of my peers remembered Street Hawk, the 1980’s rip-off of Knight Rider.

When I was but a young and only Mildly Aggravated Czeck, there were only four television stations at my disposal (NBC, ABC, CBS, and later FOX). Cable television was still slightly exotic and geographically unattainable to my parent’s home. If the Family Angry wanted more channels, then Angry Dad would have to install one of those enormous satellite dishes in our backyard, and that wasn’t about to happen.

As a result, I absorbed more network programming than any human being on earth has endured. I’ve seen nearly every episode of 227. Who’s the Boss. Amen. Golden Girls. Remington Steele. Wings. Empty Nest. Gimme a Break. Designing Women. Yes! By Loki’s lyre, yes! Even Designing Women.

And these were only the Nelson champions! Stored on the DVR hard-drive of my mighty brain are countless canceled pilots and short-lived series that escape the memories of most mortals. I rattle the titles off to amuse friends and to shame enemies. (I think of it as a gift, not a curse.) How can you immortalize Cheers and Night Court, yet forget gems like Double Trouble and She’s the Sheriff?

You can’t. I won’t let you.

Brace yourself. Here it comes. Don’t fight.

Matt Houston
If you hated the smugly imperialistic, mustachioed arrogance of Magnum P.I., then you’d have had even more ideological qualms with Matt Houston. The big difference between the two shows was that while Magnum was regulated to borrowing his Ferarri from a chubby Englishman, Houston could purchase his own fancy wheels! That’s because he was a dreadfully bored oil-baron who enjoyed bolo ties, cowboy hats, and cracking cases. I don’t remember Matt Houston being much for philosophical internal monologues, but Lee Horsley might have even out-tanned and out-mustached Tom Selleck.

Automan
There was a time when network studios didn’t allow meager budgets to stop them from producing special effects heavy television shows. If you have a fog machine and a couple of flashlights, then you have an instant lazer fight, right? It was this frugal philosophy that bore Automan. Hey, hey! You know what looks futurey™? A Lamborgini outlined with neon strips! Or a helicopter outlined with neon strips! Or a motorcycle outlined with neon strips! The masterstroke? A butler who wears a neon strip body suit and wields a magic curser that looks like the ball in Pong. Great stuff!

Real People
Everybody remembers That’s Incredible, but hardly anybody remembers Real People. But don’t worry, because it was just like That’s Incredible, only it was called Real People. And instead of Fran Tarkington, we got Skip Stephenson. And rather than featuring fakirs that squeezed themselves inside bowling bags, Real People ran segments about inventers who installed toilets in their cars. Engaging! Intriguing!

A Show About Old People that Fight Crime in a RV
I don’t remember the name of the show, but it aired only once and it was about this retired, gray-haired couple that traveled across America in a recreational vehicle looking for crimes to solve. It was like Murder She Wrote meets, well, nothing, because no category is right for this kind of head-scratching TV. My favorite moment came at the end of the first and only episode. The golden oldie sleuths, having solved the crime, were getting ready to hop in their camper and roll away. A young man approaches them and says, “I guess you’re going home now. Oh. Wait. You’re already home.” Brilliant.

Stephen King’s Golden Years
The thing with Stephen King is, that when you read his stuff, it seems real cool and scary. But if he starts orally describing his work, you begin to realize just how corny his mind operates. For example, if he wrote a book about a sentient tree that ate human flesh, your head would create something really creepy and awesome. Meanwhile, King is thinking about that tree that threw apples in The Wizard of Oz. And with some bitch’in AC/DC rock-n-roll blaring in the background. Anyway, that’s what Golden Years is.

Hell Town
If you watched TV in the 1980s and early 90s, you come away with the notion that everyone is solving crimes but you. Like it’s a hobby. Take Hell Town for example. It’s about a Catholic priest, played by future murderer Robert Blake, who tools around in a restored Woody. (A priest who rides a Woody!) When he’s not hearing confession, he’s taking on gangs, drug dealers, crooked real estate swindlers…and the devil! Yes, the devil! Wait. Not the devil? That’s too bad, because my priest routinely took on the devil. He told me about it while I chopped wood shirtless in his backyard.

Blacke’s Magic
Unlike the magic of David Copperfield, this magic was real – the real magic of crackerjack storytelling! Blacke’s Magic starred Hal Linden as an ace magician who, for a change of pace, fought crime. Presto! Instant hit! But instead of employing handcuffs and pistols in his battle against injustice, Hal Linden used boxes with fake bottoms and hats stuffed with rabbits. This thing was magically nominated for an Emmy, so you know it was good.

Street Hawk
The immortally named Rex Smith plays the even more immortally named Jesse Mach in Street Hawk, which is about a cop who secretly uses a nifty motorcycle armed with tiny little rockets (and probably a laser) to fight crime. The best part about Street Hawk was that Jess Mach wasn’t even in control of Street Hawk. That duty rested on some off-site computer guy, who first determined if the streets were clear before punching the Super Speed button, which sent Jesse Mach hurtling towards crime at speeds exceeding 200 MPH. Bad ass, right? Well, the soundtrack was badass. I still hum it when I’m dropping a big deuce.

The Pat Sajak Show
I never saw The Pat Sajak Show, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t its grisly victim. It was like somebody in Hollywood was bitching double-time for a white Arsenio Hall, and somehow drew Pat Sajak out of the hat. As a result, the Nation suffered mightily. Remote controls were shoved into eye-sockets. Baby seals were clubbed with television tubes. You don’t recall this because it was erased from history thanks to a legal ruling from Judge Harry Stone.

Cover Up
This show was great. It was about a hard-ass Vietnam vet named Mac Harper who becomes a male model that solves crimes. Being a male model was only Mac’s cover (hence the title). See, Mac was pretty, but he was also hardboiled. When Mac wasn’t getting his chest oiled, he was infiltrating gangs and exposing crooked cops. Of course, the real trick was booking fashion shoots in close proximity to bad guys.

I’d deliver tons more of the fantastic shows that you foolishly taped over, but (1) I’m not sure you deserve it, and (2) it already took too much billable time tacking down all these great images.

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