Sunday, August 23, 2015

Spenser For Hire: The Complete Second Season - A Warner Archive TV Series Review

SPENSER FOR HIRE returns to DVD thanks to the Warner Archive, which has released SPENSER FOR HIRE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON.

Robert Urich stars in the title role of this series, inspired by the novels of Robert B. Parker. Spenser is a literate private eye with side interests in boxing and cooking. The show shot many of its exteriors on location in Boston, which gives it an authentic feel.

Things have changed for Spenser since Season One, which I reviewed last fall. In Season Two, which aired from 1986 to 1987, the Boston Fire Department has reclaimed the empty firehouse in which they'd allowed Spenser to make his home, so he's remodeling a run-down apartment in Charlestown, just down the road from the Bunker Hill monument.

First things first: while most of the apartment is having its wiring and plumbing redone, gourmet cook Spenser has already installed a fabulous stove! The plumber rhapsodizing over Spenser's blueberry muffins is a typically cute food-related moment; I definitely appreciate the "foodie" aspect of the show, which distinguishes it from your run-of-the-mill P.I. series.

Spenser's longtime girlfriend Susan (Barbara Stock) is no longer on the scene; although I enjoyed him being in a committed relationship, it must be said that Stock's Susan was bland and it wasn't apparent what had drawn the couple together in the first place. Although Susan is gone without much explanation, she will eventually return to the series.

Carolyn McCormick joins the show in Season 2 as D.A. Rita Fiore, whose clothes and hairstyle definitely scream "1980s!" Rita is initially obnoxious, but her character becomes more pleasant after her introductory episode.

Other aspects of the show haven't changed at all -- Spenser's friendship with the mysterious, savvy Hawk (Avery Brooks) and his conflicted relationship with police Lt. Martin Quirk (Richard Jaeckel).

Best of all, there's still plentiful use of a variety of Boston locations; the show doesn't cheat with stock shots, but instead we actually see Spenser jogging in the Public Garden or walking down his street in Charlestown. The second episode of the season has beautiful location filming in Gloucester.

The show's strengths and weaknesses are very much the same as Season 1. In some ways the storytelling style is plodding and a bit dated, including swelling background scoring at the points where commercial breaks originally fell.

On the plus side, Spenser and Hawk ("SPEN-suh!") are unique characters, with Spenser's reflective voiceovers and the atmospheric locations distinguishing the series from other detective shows, along with Spenser's aforementioned interest in cooking.

It also continues to be interesting noting just how much daily life has changed since the 1980s; for instance, a plot point early in the season revolves around an answering machine cassette tape. The '80s really don't seem that long ago, yet there are constant reminders of how technology has marched on.

Marg Helgenberger guests in the first episode of Season 2. Other Season 2 guest actors include Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Dee, Janice Rule, John Spencer, Lauren Holly, Patricia Richardson, David Hyde Pierce, William H. Macy, Kate Burton, and star Robert Urich's wife, Heather Menzies.

The print quality is outstanding; the shows look brand-new. Like the Season 1 set, the episodes include the original network "Tonight on SPENSER FOR HIRE" promos.

SPENSER FOR HIRE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON contains 22 episodes on 5 discs. Although the website doesn't mention it, the set I received contained pressed silver-backed discs rather than the purple-backed burned discs. This is a frequent practice for the Warner Archive when they initially release a set which is expected to be in high consumer demand. Typically the pressed discs are only available from the WBShop.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jennifer said...

This is such a great show and so underrated. Thanks for your review of Season 2. :D

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spenser was kind of a role model for me in college, especially in his commitment to a code of ethics which defined who he was and what he did.

I own the first season, and was really looking forward to the second.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jennifer and Mohan, thanks so much for your comments, it's great to hear from fellow SPENSER fans. I hope you'll both enjoy the Season 2 set!

Best wishes,

10:01 AM  

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