It was the early 80s and America was in the grips of Reagan-ism; just saying no to common sense and not worrying about how domestic policy was going to have consequences. Still, the zeitgeist made some highly entertaining TV. One such example was the Stephen J. Cannell TV series, Hunter.
Cannell (Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, The Commish) created this show to baldly capitalize on Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry franchise. He cast a charismatic NFL player, Fred Dryer, in the lead role of a cop prone to taking justice in his own hands, especially when the too-liberal L.A. justice system let the guilty slip through bureaucratic cracks. He was aided and abetted for most of the show’s seven-season run by a female junior officer, played by Stephanie Kramer, who was actually a great foil to Dryer.
Interestingly, Cannell only supervised the first season of the series. When the series ran into the ratings gutter-primarily due to going up against Dallas-he punted the project to his longtime Rockford colleague, Roy Huggins. Huggins was the right man for the job. Not only did the show get markedly better, but so did the ratings. It would only start to fall when both Kramer and Huggins left, and Dryer became supervising producer.
What’s eminently notable about Cannell’s m.o. is he does an excellent job of casting. His shows are prone to being bombastic, but he always found actors who can finesse this. Then when Huggins became in charge, the scripts developed the slyness that made Rockford so great. Previous to Huggins, Dryer played his rogue cop heavy-handedly. After Huggins, a better sense of humor started to creep in, particularly during the interplay between Dryer and Kramer. So while Hunter never quite made the status of appointment TV, it had just enough going for it to entertain, even please. Not bad for a cop show of the day.
Believe it or not, this set is the first time the last three seasons of Hunter are available for home entertainment. It includes some episodes now considered canon amongst surviving fandom, including Kramer’s last episode for the regular season. It also includes a number of the specials and movies that were done after the series’ regular run, again truly hard to find items for Hunter aficionados.
So, is this set worth the $100 suggested retail? If you’re a fan of hardnosed 80s cop shows and Cannell’s patented style of blowing it all up and then letting the characters sort it out like an afterthought, the answer is Hunter truly was a good as you got for the day. With the end of Reagan-ism new shows such as Law & Order and Homicide would totally redefine the crime drama, setting crime dramas standards. I’ll make mine 90’s.