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Sledge Hammer - Season One



DVD Release Date: July 27, 2004 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
MSRP: $39.98
Number of discs: 4
Number of episodes: 22 (6, 6, 6, 4) plus the unaired pilot episode
Running Time: Approx. 534 minutes
Languages and subtitles: English-dolby digital stereo, no subtitles or closed captioning
Special Features: 4 episode audio commentaries by series creator Alan Spencer, "Go Ahead, Make Me Laugh" - new 32-minute documentary on the series with new interviews of cast and crew, Unaired Pilot episode, Electronic Press Kit, TV Spots, Original TV Bumper, Alan Spencer's Audio Messate To Critics, Still & Memorabilia Photo Gallery, HBO & ABC Pilot Script in PDF Format, 16-Page "Sledge Files" with Color Photos and Liner Notes

Review (out of 5 stars):

Video quality: 4.5/5
Audio quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Menu Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.75/5

Sledge Hammer was a slapstick comedy that aired on ABC for 2 seasons beginning in September 1986. The show starred David Rasche as Detective Inspector Sledge Hammer who's character was modeled after Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Anne-Marie Martin as Officer Dori Doreau, and Harrison Page as Captain Trunk. Sledge Hammer introduced the concept of combining irony and satire with politically sensitive material by spoofing '80s cop television shows and movies. The series was originally developed for HBO, but ABC then became interested in it and put it on their fall schedule. Despite lackluster ratings due to it originally airing opposite NBC's Miami Vice and CBS's Dallas, the show was a favorite among critics and quickly developed fans across the US and worldwide. It would air in no less than 9 different timeslots on ABC while airing opposite NBC's The Cosby Show in it's second season. Even after it was canceled, it remained popular and aired in syndication on A&E and in many other countries where it picked up new cult fans. There is still a devoted fanbase called "Hammerheads" and there is an extensive official website called Sledge Hammer Online.

There were 22 episodes produced during the first season (1986-1987). The pilot episode Under the Gun was directed by Martha Coolidge (Valley Girl, Real Genius) and featured John Vernon as the mayor. He had appeared in the original Dirty Harry movie as the mayor. David Leisure, who appeared in episode 9, would later become "Joe Isuzu" in those car commercials and star in the NBC sitcom "Empty Nest". The first season finale ended with a dramatic cliffhanger with Hammer trying to disarm a nuclear warhead and obliterating the entire city. The finale scored big in the ratings and suprisingly ABC decided to pick it up for a 2nd season.

The Season One DVD cover features a nice photo of Harrison Page, David Rasche, and Anne-Marie Martin with an American flag background. The Digipak box opens up like a book and the inside cover has a color photo of Sledge Hammer tipping his sunglasses with a listing of the episode titles on each disc. The back inside cover features The Gospel According to Sledge and a Sledge Hammer Vocabulary Builder. Each of the four discs features a drawing or photo of Sledge and the discs are in a clear plastic holder. The back of the dvd box gives a brief summary of the show and lists the bonus features. There is a nice 16 page booklet that comes in a small manilla folder labeled 'Confidential Report' From Internal Affairs that looks like the kind of paper that a reporter would write on and flip over. It gives a nice detailed history of the show's development and lists some interesting trivia as well as providing some nice photos.

All the menus are well layed out and easy to navigate. There are sections for 'Episodes,' 'Commentaries,'(for the 3 discs that have them) and a 'Play All' episodes feature. Mark Rathke's version of original composer Danny Elfman's (Batman, Spider-Man, Big Fish) Sledge Hammer theme can be heard on the main menu sections as various clips from the episodes are shown on the right hand side of the screen in a small bullet shaped hole. As you make a menu selection, you hear some gunfire. A nice, cool effect. Disc 1 features 6 episodes with 2 episodes having audio commentaries by the series creator Alan Spencer: Under The Gun (Pilot) and Witless. The commentaries are quite interesting and it's amazing all the details he can recall about the episodes. You can tell how fond he is of the show and cast. He does tend to talk quite fast and doesn't let up very much, so you are definitely getting your monies worth with these! Each disc has a different colored menu background theme - disc 1 is yellow, disc 2 is green, disc 3 is a greenish blue, and disc 4 is a reddish pink. The sub-menus feature color photos of Sledge Hammer.

When you initially play the first disc, Alan Spencer gives a brief introduction and says the episodes have never looked or sounded better. Anchor Bay Entertainment removed the laugh track that was originally on the episodes as they aired on ABC. He says that laugh tracks are offensive and that the audience doesn't need to be told when to laugh at something. I tend to agree with him and the episodes work well without it. I've never found any 'live action' sitcoms that were done on film and have laugh tracks to be very effective. Laugh tracks should be left to sitcoms that are taped in front of a live studio audience. ABC originally put the laugh track on as it scored higher with the test audiences even though the original contract stated there was to be none and Mr. Spencer was totally against it.

The episodes have all been newly remastered and look great. Sledge Hammer was filmed and it has a cinematic look, so the colors still look sharp and vibrant. Since there are only 6 episodes on each disc (and only 4 on the last disc) there is no compression loss. Sometimes companies will cram 8-10 episodes on each disc and there is a noticeable difference, but there is no problem here. I noticed no audio problems, it's at a good level and clear. The series had been previously released on VHS several times, and these DVDs must be a dramatic improvement over what had been available in the past.

One major downside to the set is that none of the episodes were closed-captioned. You can read Alan Spencer's comments about it here. He hopes that it will be re-issued at some point with closed-captioning.

Numerous features can be found on these discs besides the 4 audio commentaries for Under the Gun (Pilot), Witless, All Shook Up, and The Spa Who Loved Me. Bonus features on the 4th disc include:

  • Slege Hammer: Go Ahead, Make Me Laugh! -- an all new 32-minute documentary featuring interviews with Creator/Producer Alan Spencer, and Actors David Rasche, Anne-Marie Martin (who is still absolutely gorgeous) and Harrison Page. They talk about how the show was developed and the cast was chosen and their overall memories of the series.

  • Pilot Episode/Unaired Version: (30 mins) this version was 10 minutes longer than the one that was broadcast by ABC. It included a different theme song and ending.

  • Electronic Press Kit (EPK): (6 minutes) this was produced before the series aired in 1986, it gives a general overview of the show with interviews of Alan Spencer who looks to be in his early 20's and David Rasche

  • TV Spots: 5 different commercials - #1-4 are 30 seconds in length, #5 is 20 seconds in length

  • Original TV Bumper: (6 seconds) shown during commercial breaks

  • Alan Spencer's Message To Critics: (2 minutes) Spencer recorded a 2 minute audiotape begging for viewership as it was up against stiff competition in Miami Vice and Dallas. The show was previewed on ABC on September 23rd at 8:30PM before it moved to it's regular Friday night slot on September 26th at 9:00PM.

  • Still & Memorabilia Gallery: Over 80 different publicity stills, memorabilia items, TV Guide ads, and story boards

  • ABC and HBO Pilot Scripts - these scripts are available in PDF format if you play the disc in your CD-Rom

  • Thank You: A text message by Alan Spencer thanking various people and all the "Hammerheads" around the world. The set is dedicated to the memory of Oliver Heailey, Marty Feldman and Andy Kaufman, three people he names as his "favorite teachers."

    This is a well produced set that I'm sure all Hammerheads will enjoy. Personally, I had never seen a complete episode of the series before and only bits and pieces over the years. It has a definite 80's feel to it with the cars, the hair, the fashion, the music by Arthur B. Rubinstein (WarGames, Blue Thunder) and 80's references (Pee-wee Herman, Dynasty). The show has some similarities to Get Smart (which Alan Spencer mentions was his favorite show growing up), Police Squad, and even a little bit to the current Arrested Development. It had a talented attractive cast, witty writing, slapstick comedy, and much more. It really seemed like an underrated gem that was overlooked due to it's very strong competition on the other networks, and it's great the series is now receiving it's proper due on DVD so it can be experienced by old and new fans alike.

    Anchor Bay is looking to release the 2nd season in the future to complete the series. This release was really driven by the demand of the fans of the show and Alan Spencer's efforts to make it a fantastic set that every Hammerhead will enjoy.

    -- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 07/13/04

    To order the DVD click below and help support

    Sledge For President

    Tower Records is offering a free "Sledge For President" bumper sticker with a purchase of the DVD set. You can also enter to win an autographed copy of the DVD set by David Rasche, Anne-Marie Martin, Harrison Page, and Creator Alan Spencer.

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