Review

Plot: Mystery/suspense series based on Robert Parker’s “Spenser” novels. Spenser, a private investigator living in Boston, gets involved in a new murder mystery each episode.

Warner Archives DVD Review: Prolific author Robert B. Parker gave the world a plethora of fantastic pulp novels that spawned several notably great characters, namely Jesse Stone and Spenser. While the Jesse Stone books inspired a series of fantastic made-for-television films starring Tom Selleck, Spenser inspired three different television series, but the most renown of those was Spenser: For Hire, which ran from 1985-1988, and starred the late Robert Urich as the ex-boxer, turned private investigator Spenser, he of just one name. The character Spenser is so great that just one series wasn’t enough to contain him, and Joe Mantegna played him in a series of three made-for-cable movies many years later, but it was Urich who really personified the character over the course of three seasons and a series of spin-off sequel movies that aired on television over the course of the next decade after the show was cancelled.

In the third season of Spenser: For Hire, Spencer and his partner Hawk (played by Avery Brooks) are back in action, solving private cases and getting into hell and high water on a weekly basis. The big change this season involves the return of Spencer’s special lady friend Susan Silverman (Barbara Stock), who when we last saw her at the end of season 1 had received an abortion (of hers and Spencer’s unborn child), and so her introduction in season 3’s premier episode “Homecoming” is a bit of a shock, but a welcome one, nonetheless. As the season continues, Spencer (who now drives a 1966 Mustang GT) still have the alliances of the Boston PD and Lt. Martin Quirk (Richard Jaeckel) and Sgt. Belson (Ron McLarty) as they encounter all sorts of bad beans, from local thugs to ivy league baddies. The standout episode this season is “Hawk’s Eyes,” where Hawk temporarily loses his eyesight and must use his other senses to survive an ordeal. Notable guest stars this season (which was the show’s final one) are Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Andie MacDowell, and others.

Murder-of-the-week shows can get a little tedious after awhile, but what makes Spencer: For Hire so vibrant is the filmic quality of the program, with intense stories and vivid characterizations, particularly by Urich as the poetry quoting and always keeping his cool Spenser. It’s wonderful that Warner Archives has brought Spenser back on DVD (seasons 1 and 2 are also currently available) because in this oversaturated and cynical market where everyone is downloading and streaming only what they’re told to watch, it’s incredibly refreshing to backtrack a bit and go back some years to find something of quality that isn’t being sold at your local Best Buy or Walmart. Warner Archives has made the effort to put Spenser: For Hire back out there in the marketplace, but it’s not being sold at brick and mortar stores. You’ll have to go to Amazon or visit WarnerArchive.com to buy it.

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About the Author

david j. moore
david j. moore is the author of World Gone Wild: A Survivor's Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies and the upcoming book The Good, the Tough and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars, coming April, 2016 from Schiffer Publishing.