DVD slight return: Hart edition
The least interesting television shows ever made can occasionally produce episodes of classic proportions.
Case in point is an episode of Six Million Dollar Man, not a show that has aged well, where William Shatner guest stars as an astronaut who has returned to Earth having been infected by a space virus. He can now communicate with dolphins and wants to take dolphins into outer space, and save sea mammals from the evil humans.
The current DVD release of Hart to Hart: The Complete Fourth Season (2/10, Shout! Factory), features 24 episodes of the show from the late-‘82 to early-’83 run of the series. In the show that aired January 4, 1983, a crazed outdoorsman in the style of The Most Dangerous Game hunts the Harts like animals.
Hart to Hart starred Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers as a power couple, wealthy beyond care who spend their idle time solving crimes. By the end of each show Wagner has gotten into scrapes with the baddies along with Powers and their hair is always perfect. They are a Nick and Nora for the Me Decade, the show premiering in 1979.
Perhaps not ironically both Wagner and Powers had previously headlined cult 1960s shows, It Takes a Thief and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. respectively. On a sadder note both had lost their partners in tragic accidents in 1981. Natalie Wood, who was married to Bob Wagner (twice), drowned. William Holden, who was involved with Powers, was found dead in his home having bled out after a drunken fall. Holden was an animal activist, and after his demise Powers established a preserve in his name.
Cut to the episode titled “Hunted Harts.” The frivolous Harts, bored and dressed to the hilt, donate money to an animal sanctuary. Here’s where the zeitgeist of the era kicks in. David McCallum (Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and Tippi Hendren (The Birds) co-star as the owners of the animal haven. Ian Bannen plays the hunter.
PETA had only formed in 1980, while Hendren had for the previous decade devoted time and energy to maintaining a big cat sanctuary, and making films about lions and tigers. In “Hunted Harts” Hendren is literally sitting in a cage petting a Siberian Tiger. It’s hard to find production information about this particular episode but it’s a good bet it was partially shot at Hendren’s big cat rescue compound Shambala Preserve. You have to admire even the lamest of television shows for addressing issues of animal protection in such a manner. Also the episodes have been rendered in their original aspect ratio of 4:3, not the widescreen format seen in so many releases of classic television series.
- Michael Bergeron