“You know, I never realized how dangerous this city is.”
How else to say it? When actor John Ritter (Three’s Company) died unexpectedly at age 54 on September 11, 2003, we lost one of the best.
Equally adept at playing comic and serious roles, Ritter, despite being Hollywood royalty–his father was legendary cowboy singer and actor Tex Ritter–always managed to project a perfect everyman quality: handsome, but not too handsome; intelligent and articulate without being snooty and most of all, John Ritter was an extremely likeable guy.
The man brings his considerable gifts to the role of San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Hooperman, who–following the sudden death of his landlord–discovers that he’s inherited the apartment house he lives in–not exactly good news, considering the old building’s rickety state. Salvation arrives in the beautiful form of Susan Smith (Debrah Farentino, Eureka), an aspiring novelist who needs a place to live, but possesses the meager funds of an aspiring novelist. On the other hand, Ms. Smith owns a giant toolbox and can fix-up just about anything she sets her mind to and so a bargain is struck.
And there you have it: by day, Hooperman tends to his routine duties–talking down jumpers from building ledges, taking down loan sharks, mobsters, pimps and dealers; etc., before coming home to deal with Smith and the inevitable sexual tension their close proximity breeds.
Hooperman, the quirky sitcom/cop drama mutation from Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher (co-creators of L.A. Law) positively oozes with late ‘eighties kitsch, from the sax-heavy opening credits theme to the will-they-won’t-they intrigue between its leading characters. Wanna know how much time has passed since its debut in September of 1987? Consider these once controversial propositions: Captain C.Z. Stern–head of the squad room–is (now, dig this) a woman. She’s tough as nails and a dead-eye shooter, but Stern (Barbara Bosson, Hill Street Blues) still occasionally goes all to pieces as a result of her recent divorce; good thing that Hooperman’s a sensitive sort.
There’s also handsome, buff Officer Rick Silardi (Joseph Gian, Knots Landing) who’s openly homosexual, despite the lack of lisp, mincing gait, or any other stereotypical gay affectations. Poor Silardi’s regularly bedeviled by Officer Mo DeMott (Sydney Walsh, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), his drop dead gorgeous work partner, who believes that, with the right amount of elbow grease, she can set him straight, so to speak. DeMott’s heart may be in the right place–she’s looking for love, not just a notch on her belt–but her aggressive tactics make clear that she’s a half-decade away from even hearing about sexual harassment.
Though virtually consigned to oblivion following its two year run on ABC, Olive Films has resurrected Hooperman: Season One and presents all twenty two episodes in a bare-bones set that contains no extras, but does feature optional English subtitles, a handy option, as there’s some audio dropout in evidence. The picture looks fine for the most part, though some of those San Francisco night skies seem awfully purple.
Some of the comedic elements are painfully unfunny and the series mines some unintentional laughs from scenes where attempts to portray street-tough hooligans vs. network standards forbidding swears–leading burly biker-types to employ language like “garbage breath,” etc.
On balance, however, Hooperman provides sturdy entertainment for the most part and features its fair share of truly great moments. Ever dependable, Mr. Ritter seems right at home here, handling the cop business and romantic comedy with his characteristic ease.
It’s great to have him back, even if only in reruns.