The Agony and Ecstasy of “T.J. Hooker” in Widescreen HD

Imagine this promo shot wider.
You would see all of Adrian Zmed!

I’m not sure why I’ve become obsessed with tuning in to the frequent T.J. Hooker reruns popping up day and night on Universal HD. I don’t recall watching the series that much back in the Eighties, but for some reason the combination of over-the-top action, preachy sermonizing and Mark Snow’s super catchy theme music just sucks me in every time. You can add to the equation that I am a William Shatner fan and that I have recently enjoyed watching shows like Charlie’s Angels and Nash Bridges in widescreen for the first time. Maybe I am yearning a bit for my childhood and a time when our country seemed more innocent and less cynical. Ironically, however, many of my liberal sensibilities clash with Sgt. Hooker’s right-wing views of the world.

So why I am truly enjoying Hooker’s exploits in widescreen and HD? Here are ten reasons — the good, bad and the cheesy.


1. The car chases and action scenes are more fun to watch when they fill the screen.

2. In some shots it just means more Heather Locklear, glorious Eighties hair and all. Not to mention the often silly but fun Eighties fashion and music.

The original title card to T.J. Hooker.

3. You can read the note on the LCPD coffee machine that says: “If you can drink it, you can make it.” And the sign on the office door that reads: “Ye Old Bullpen”.

4. In the episode “Murder By Law,” officer Jim Corrigan waits outside a porno theater which displays a marquee title ending in “All Cum”. Those words never made it to air back in the day as they were originally out of frame, but they help give the scene a bit of modern grit.

5. The use of stunt doubles is more blatantly obvious.

6. It makes it seem like you’re watching a new TV show that just happens to have an awesome retro feel.

7. Amazingly, you’d think that there would be more boom mics in the shot since part of the frame was not meant to be shown. I have yet to notice one. Impressive.


8. It’s fun to see whose orange make-up is overdone and whose isn’t.

9. You wonder how you could have watched this or any show from that era with the tight framing of the 4:3 aspect ratio. Liberate those extra millimeters and bring more shows originally shot in 35mm back in widescreen!

10. The seediness of Hollywood Blvd. in the Eighties is that much more evident every time Hooker and his partner Vince Romano (aka “Junior”) drive through it.


And then there are more reasons unrelated to the format, although the reruns got me thinking about them:

This must be from Season 5
since there is no Vince Romano.

11. Watching guest appearances from future stars like David Caruso, Tori Spelling and Sharon Stone.

12. Figuring out which season an episode is from by both the variation in the opening theme music as well as who appears in the opening credits. (Heather Locklear, seasons 2-5; Adrian Zmed seasons 1-4.) Don’t ask me why I know this.

13. The faux feminism that makes Locklear’s officer Stacy Sheridan seem more empowered than she really is, and the reality of how tough women (and some men) get bumped down a notch by Hooker. That would not fly today, and it’s amusing (but only just) to watch in retrospect. We have thankfully made progress since.

14. Hooker always seems to have an intense day, but he still kicks ass, even when going it alone. We could debate his Dirty Harry-influenced philosophy, and the pros and cons to his lone wolf mentality, but we won’t.

15. Thinking about how (and perhaps mourning the fact that) the black-and-white portrayal of law and order has evolved (or devolved) from shows like T.J. Hooker and Hunter to the moral morass of Breaking Bad and The Shield. Times have changed. But crime hasn’t.


2 Responses

  1. Mary

    Ha – I love it! I’m moving in July and getting a new TV. I’ll have to get your top 10 list of TV I need to see in widescreen.

    Reply

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