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Sledge Hammer aired from September 1986 until September 1988 on ABC.
Satire , they say in theatrical circles ,is what closes on Saturday night.Nevertheless, this wild burlesque on top cop shows (particularly the Dirty Harry type)managed to hang on the ABC schedule for an extended period.
Sledge ( David Rasche) was the ultimate tough cop - a totally self-confident, square-jawed man who showed no mercy for the wimps and scumbags who inhabited his fair city. This included small-time offenders like jaywalkers and litterers who deserved to be shot just like all the rest of the hardened criminals! In one episode, he forced a miscreant - at gunpoint - to punch himself silly!
Sledge's appearance was very distinctive. He wore reflecting sunglasses, mismatched ties and striped shirts. But his one true love was his pearl-handled .44 Magnum, named "Gun." Each episode opened with the camera caressing this gleaming weapon while ominous music thundered in the background. Sledge even talked to it, To others he would say,"Trust me...I know what I'm doing."
Sledge always seemed to be suspended from the force but was always reinstated and got his man. Actually, it was his beautiful partner, Officer Dori Doreau ( Anne-Marie Martin), a woman, who almost always solved the cases. Capt. Trunk ( Harrison Page)was their headache-ridden, always yelling superior. Other characters included officers Mayjoe and Daley ( Leslie Morris, Patti Tippo) as well as a creepy coroner named Norman Blates ( Kurt Paul)
In the final episode of the 1986-1987 season, Sledge was apparently blown to smithereens while attempting to dismantle a nuclear device; the show's producers had not expected the series to be renewed. The second season's debut episode opened by replaying the scenes leading up to the explosion at the end of season one , complete with the nuclear holocaust and to be continued...tag. The credits then rolled, welcoming viewers to Sledge Hammer: The Early Years. It was that kind of unexpected comedy that made Sledge Hammer a favorite of young parodists in training, who still crack a smile in memory of Sledge and his beloved gun today.
Guest starring as villians were Ray Walston, Bernie Kopell, John Vernon, Bill Dana, Robin Leach, Bill Bixby ( who also directed a half dozen episodes), rock star Adam Ant and Davey Jones of The Monkees.
What was this series about? Creator/Producer Alan Spencer said that much as Get Smart poked fun at the spy movies of its day, this show did the same thing for the current batch of rebel cop movies and TV shows. "Ultimately," he said, "what the show is about... is a half hour!"
13 high caliber facts about 'Sledge Hammer!'
In 1971, a ten year old purchased a ticket to see Fiddler on the Roof but snuck in to watch Dirty Harry. He thought it was hilarious. Growing up on episodes of Get Smart!, the boy envisioned his own silly version of a rogue cop with a big gun.
Years later, the young Alan Spencer would finally see his concept come to fruition with his TV series Sledge Hammer! The satirical comedy poked fun at the macho action heroes of the 1980s — and all the tropes that went along with them. There was a screaming police captain, a young partner, a catch phrase ("Trust me! I know what I'm doing!") and a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson. Inspector Sledge Hammer drove around in a giant green Dodge slapped with the bumper sticker "I ♥ VIOLENCE."
Similar to the Airplane! and Police Squad! parodies, and the godfather of zany modern shows like Angie Tribeca, Sledge Hammer! was unlike anything else on television when it premiered in 1986. It quickly developed a cult following and critical praise, but its smart, sarcastic tone — not to mention some brutal time slots — made it a tough sell. The series managed to eke out two seasons.
1. The character was created by a 16 year old.
As mentioned above, Alan Spencer was a precocious Hollywood talent. At only 16, he wrote his first script for Sledge Hammer! Depite his young age, he was able to get his teleplay in front of some Hollywood people. The reaction? According to Spencer, they were "appalled." The script sat around for eight years.
2. Creator Alan Spencer sold a story to the sitcom 'One Day at a Time' while in high school.
Spencer sold a story to One Day at a Time while in high school, becoming the youngest member of the Writer's Guild of America. He also wrote an episode of The Facts of Life ("What Price Glory?") in 1983 and went to work on series such as Mork & Mindy.
3. Spencer was friends with Andy Kaufman.
The brilliant comedian and Taxi star once invited Spencer over and subjected him to watching a 96-hour marathon of The People's Court. Kaufman's knack for blurring the line between sincerity and surrealism rubbed off on the young disciple.
4. HBO considered airing the series.
After Clint Eastwood revived Dirty Harry for the hit 1983 sequel Sudden Impact, there was renewed interest in creating a spoof of the character. HBO looked into developing a series that would blend Get Smart! and Dirty Harry. And what do you know — some kid had written just that years ago! The Sledge Hammer! script went over the heads of most execs at HBO, who wanted to shoehorn a popular stand-up comic into the role. Willing to take a risk, the last-place network ABC swept in to snag the series.
5. David Rasche was a member of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago.
Spencer claims he had Rasche in mind for the role from the get-go, despite never seeing him work. The intellectual actor only played dumb. He was a veteran of the Chicago theater scene, having studied at the famed improvational hub Second City, as well as having starred in a David Mamet play. The University of Chicago graduate also taught English at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota for a bit.
6. Peter Gabriel released his hit "Sledgehammer" just as production on the pilot was wrapping.
How's this for promotional kismit? Peter Gabriel's pop smash, fueled by its brilliant video, became a smash hit in the summer of '86. Naturally, the network used the song to promote its new series.
7. It replaced 'Life with Lucy' in the lineup.
In the fall of '86, Lucille Ball attempted a sitcom comeback with Life with Lucy, a critically despised series which saw the 75-year-old comedian performing physical comedy. Only eight episodes aired. Sledge Hammer! slipped into the vacated slot.
8. The original opening showed Sledge firing his gun straight at the camera.
ABC feared the shot would give viewers heart attacks. (Though it seemed to work out okay for James Bond.) Thus, the final opening credits show Hammer firing off to the side at an angle.
9. Danny Elfman composed the theme music.
The former Oingo Boingo frontman is best known for his fantastic work on The Simpsons theme and on Tim Burton films. His distinctive whimsy and choral vocals can be heard in the driving sythnesizer piece.
10. Sledge Hammer blows up the city with a nuclear bomb in the first season finale.
The producers did not expect the series to be picked up for a second season. Which is why the last episode of season one sees Sledge Hammer setting off a nuclear warhead in a hot tub that obliterates the entire city. The final shot depicts a post-apocalyptic wasteland. No worries — things were basically back to normal in season two.
11. The show mocked the colorization trend — which caused viewer complaints.
Before the final segment of the episode "Wild About Hammer," a disclaimer appears on the screen. "The following tag was shot in black and white, then artificially recolored. We promise you will not be able to see the difference," it read. Of course, the following shots shifted from color to color in a psychedelic swirl. Viewers phoned the network to complain that something was wrong with the broadcast.
12. Marvel published a 'Sledge Hammer!' comic book.
Marvel Comics printed two issues of a Sledge Hammer! comic. In the second issue, Hammer goes up again "Spider-Man." (It's not really Spider-Man.)
13. The show was called 'Mr. Gun' in France.
Like many other shows, Sledge Hammer! had some amusing alternate titles overseas. In France, the show was known as Mr. Gun. Germans ate up the series they called Der Hammer. In Japan, it was called Ore ga Hamā da! (I Am Hammer!), while Denmark went with For Fuld Hammer! (Full Hammer!).
A Review from The New York Times
2 NEW SERIES, 'MATLOCK' AND 'SLEDGE HAMMER'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 23, 1986
THE ''law and order'' formula continues to be milked, sometimes in wondrous ways. NBC's ''Matlock,'' having its premiere at 8 o'clock this evening, stars Andy Griffth as an Atlanta lawyer who plays detective on his own cases. That's pretty standard stuff. Meanwhile, on ABC at 8:30, a ''preview'' of ''Sledge Hammer!'' (which begins its regular run this Friday at 9:30) offers a trigger-happy police detective whose cartoon-like antics include firing warning shots at jaywalkers. Square-jawed Sledge is supposed to be a sendup of Rambo, Dirty Harry and other current icons. Actually, the parody is curiously affectionate.
On NBC, Benjamin Matlock (Mr. Griffith) is a silver-haired member of the legal establishment whose country-boy manner has a way of disarming the unwary. He works with his daughter (Linda Purl), also a lawyer, and a young private detective (Kene Holliday). The show was created by Dean Hargrove, who shares executive-producer billing with Fred Silverman, the former chief of NBC-TV. Matlock is a courtly gentleman, giving to calling people ''son'' or ''ma'am.'' He can be crusty in a cuddly sort of way. Letting his daughter drive the car, he proclaims: ''Keep your eyes on the road, stay within the speed limit, and no rock 'n' roll on the radio.''
Tonight Matlock, passing up his usual $100,000-plus fee, decides to defend a young fellow who seems to have been caught red-handed, literally, in the stabbing of his girlfriend. The viewers know, however, that the young woman has been killed by a distinguished judge who was having an affair with her. Going methodically about his business, Matlock soon knows who the real killer is and lets the judge, who is now presiding over the trial, know that he knows. As a cat-and-mouse exercise, the episode - written by Robert Hamilton and directed by Chistopher Hibler -works moderately well in the hands of two seasoned pros. Mr. Griffith effortlessly makes the most of the country sophisticate, and Dick Van Dyke is splendidly devious as the judge. ''Matlock'' makes easy viewing, so easy that you are liable to forget it's there.
Over on ABC, the capers of Sledge Hammer (David Rasche) were created, written and produced by Alan Spencer. Sledge wears reflector sunglasses and carries a .44 magnum that he fondly calls Gun. Sledge has a habit of talking to and occasionally kissing Gun. His favorite charity is Toy Guns for Tots. Much to the annoyance of his neighbors, Sledge uses his apartment walls for target practice. You get the idea quickly. That's part of the problem with fairly obvious humor.
There are some promising developments. Sledge is assigned to work with the beautiful Dori Doreau (Anne-Marie Martin), who is supposed to restrain him on the job. Dubious Sledge warns her that ''I'm the guy and I call the shots,'' but is impressed when she physically humbles a couple of villains. Dori, it turns out, was first in her police class in hand-to-hand combat. ''I'd like to fight you sometime,'' says Sledge earnestly.
The plots on ''Sledge Hammer!'' are clearly disposable. Here is a tongue-wedged-in-cheek romp that is interested more in being daffy than comprehensible. Mr. Rasche, wearing a collection of some of the more outrageous ties to be found in prime time, makes an appropriately convincing blank-faced, empty-headed leading man. Like Max Headroom on HBO's Cinemax, Sledge may be the perfect hero for our time. Some viewers may understandably not know whether to laugh or weep.
An Article from the AP
Published on October 29, 2987
'Sledge' grabs ratings with disturbed viewers
NEW YORK (AP)-Like any television producer, Alan Spencer has deep theories about television programming and audience reach. And like his show "Sledge Hammer" his theories are deeply warped.
"Sledge got a surprise renewal this season from ABC, and was promptly placed opposite NBC's top-rated "The Cosby Show" on Thursday night. ABC said "Sledge Hammer!" has a loyal core audience.
"I think the core audience is the people who don't receive the other two networks very clearly," said Spencer, in a transcontinental telephone interview that wasn't too clear either.
"We just made the cover of Mad Magazine, Maybe that's our audience-predominently male, a lot of kids. I was at a party recently where there were a lot of bodyguards present, and they were all fans of it. I think its real violent Republicans. People who drink beer and drive trucks and like to play with power tools."
Spenser says the show got renewed because it did well on the "disturbed people meter." However on the real people meter that measures Nielsen demographic ratings, "Sledge does well with young males, an important target audience for many advertiser.
Spenser nevertheless said he was surprised ABC renewed the show-"The Las Vegas odds were nothing I would have bet on."
A formerly serious New York actor named David Rasche stars as Detective Sledge Hammer, a macho weirdo who baby-talks his gun. This season Spenser said, Sledge will have "more of a man-woman relationship rather than a man-gun one." The object of his desire will be his partner Dori Doreau, played by Anne-Marie Martin.
Despite Spenser's jokes about the allegedly paleolithic cultural level of "Sledge" viewers, they are the same people who get sophisticated inside jokes that have turned "Sledge" from a one-time takeoff on Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" into a weekly satirical romp. It's not surprising that Spenser is a fan of "Get Smart," the 1960s spy satire that starred Don Adams.
Spenser boasts that "Sledge" is the only satirical sitcom to last more than a season since "Get Smart" ended its five-year run in 1970.
Times have changed and "Sledge" accordingly is more jaded than "Get Smart," poking fun at politics, movies and such self-involved 1980s issues as "colorization."
An upcoming episode, a tip of the hat to director David Lynch, is "Blue Velcro." Bud Cort guest-stars and actor Bill Bixby directs.
The plot revolves around the death of a young film director, apparently from a vampire bite after firing the star of his horror picture. Sample dialogue: " You know anybody who'd want to drain the young director of all his blood?" "Any William Morris agent."
To watch clips from Sledge Hammer go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sledge+hammer+tv+show
For more on Sledge Hammer go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sledge_Hammer!
For a website dedicated to Sledge Hammer go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130425035210/http://www.phrank.com/sh/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406165543/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/sledgehammer.html
For an interview with creator Alan Spencer go to https://tv.avclub.com/sledge-hammer-creator-alan-spencer-on-humanizing-a-gun-1798243408
For an interview with David Rasche go to https://tv.avclub.com/sledge-hammer-star-david-rasche-on-the-fun-of-puncturi-1798243477
For some Sledge Hammer-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/sledge-hammer
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGYKU7mbv74
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Keywords: Sledge Hammer David Rasche