Today is the birthday of the late Robert Urich (1946-2002). About Vega$, Spenser for Hire or The Lazarus Man (or about any of a dozen of his other series) I have nothing to say; I never watched those shows. But I was ten years old when S.W.A.T. was on and I’m here to tell ya THAT was some high priority television.
S.W.A.T. (1975-1976) was a spin-off of The Rookies. I well remember the “special episodes” of that show that led to its inception. S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams were a totally new thing at this juncture. In the unlikely you event you don’t know, they’re paramilitary police units equipped and trained to deal in urban warfare. They were initially developed to deal with things like domestic terrorism, which at the time (the late 1960s and early 1970s) was coming primarily from the Left, believe it or not.
On the show the SWAT team was led by a dude named “Hondo” (Steve Forrest) and Urich was Jim Street, one of the half dozen or so officers who worked under him. And for a while there was a craze on: the kids all had SWAT toys, and the disco-oriented wah-wah heavy theme song to SWAT became a hit single. As kids, we of course PLAYED SWAT, which meant wearing “bullet proof vests” and carrying toy automatic assault rifles and going after snipers and bombers and so forth, and communicating via walkie-talkies, which seldom seemed to work right. Starsky and Hutch started at around the same time: law enforcement was becoming very chic.
As an adult, I find the whole concept of military style domestic policing alarming, and I hope you do too. That’s a very large can of worms which I won’t open on this occasion. But watch this credit sequence — it sure does look cool (uh, if you’re ten years old)
For more on show biz history consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc