Thursday, July 23, 2020

Watch it Free: SPENSER FOR HIRE (1985-88)

I watched this show (most likely all of it) when it ran for three season between 1985 and 1988. Memory tells me it was fairly high-quality TV private eye fare, up there with The Rockford Files and Magnum, P.I.. You know what I mean. Good, but not exceptional. Nowhere near as good as the books, still a bit above average. 

Well, I just watched an episode, for the first time since 1988 - on IMDbTV - and found my memory had served me well. It was exactly that, and nothing more. Still, to Parker fans, especially uberfans like me, it has its attractions. (Want to watch it on IMDbTV? I'll tell you how down below.)

I'm basing this on a single episode, mind you, the first official episode of Season 1, called "No Room at the Inn," but I expect it will be no more or less special than the 63 episodes to follow. I'll be watching some of them, and if I'm wrong you'll hear about it. 

The casting is OK. Robert Urich (as Spenser) could be a little bigger, Susan Silverman could be little more Jewish, Quirk could be taller and Belson could be seedier, but they're pretty much par for the course. The only gem in the cast is Avery Brooks as Hawk (You may know him as Capt. Benjamin Sikso from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). He's right on target, and deserving of his own show, which he got - briefly - in the 13 episode spin-off A Man Called Hawk in 1989. 

The story was acceptable, the setting was good (some filming was done in Boston and some in L.A.) and the character relationships were about right. The only real problem is Spenser's dialogue - and, as an extension of that - his narration. Unlike Ace Atkins, who's doing a fine job on the current novels, the writer had no feel for Parker's humor. It's standard TV stuff, with none of the Spenser sparkle. 

There was one nice Inside Baseball moment. Spenser goes into a building to question a desk clerk, and the guy is reading a paperback copy of Wilderness. That was Parker's first non-Spenser novel, I believe, and one that's dang near forgotten today.

The three TV movies made between 1999 and 2001 with Joe Mantegna fared better, no doubt because Parker was directly involved. Mantegna was also narrating the audiobooks produced at the time, and had a good feel for the character. 

Now, you're no doubt aware, there's a Netflix movie called Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg in the title role. Since I'm too cheap for Netflix, I don't expect to see it for a while, and have no idea what to expect. It's based on an Ace Atkins novel, though, so if there's enough of Ace's Parker voice in it, it could be good.

IMDbTV, I recently discovered, is a free streaming service piggy-backed on the IMDb website. IMDb has info on everything, of course, but they now have a growing number of films and TV shows you can watch right on their site. This is one of them. But it's a little tricky. Here's how:

After you've signed up for a free IMDbTV account, search for the show, and look for the big yellow tab that says "Watch Free on IMDbTV."

That should bring up a list of episodes. After a brief delay, links should appear beneath each available episode, reading, again, (in tiny type) "Watch Free on IMDbTV." You'll note there is no link beneath the pilot episode, "Promised Land," so that one is presumably not available. But there is one beneath the first regular episode, "No Room at the Inn," and beneath every other episode in Season 1. Click one of those links, and it should start the show.

Give it a try. Once past the initial user-unfriendliness, it works great.


Cap'n Bob said...

Gee, all that homework deserves a response. I hope someone give you one. C'mon people!

Evan Lewis said...

I had to call IMDb support to figure out how to watch stuff. Figured I'd spare someone else the frustration. YOU, f'rinstance.