Starsky & Hutch: The Cars! The Clothes! The Bear! The Bromance!
They patrolled the streets of fictional Bay City for just four seasons, but studly buddy cops David Starsky and Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson still bromanced their way into television history.
The brainchild of TV visionary Aaron Spelling — who hoped to “hip” up the cop-show genre — Starsky & Hutch bowed in 1975 and parlayed the broad appeal of its stars Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, their easygoing on- and offscreen bond, proudly multicultural casting and, of course, that iconic, tomato red Ford Gran Torino into an ABC hit.
Collared by some critics as too gritty for its time thanks to graphic depictions of crime, drug abuse and racism, and demeaning portrayals of women, Starsky & Hutch still lured in a legion of lady fans who gleefully took sides about which cop made their hearts beat faster — the brainy, blond Hutch (Soul, who further bolstered his sex symbol status with the lovelorn 1976 pop-radio hit “Don’t Give Up on Us”) or Glaser’s streetwise, smart-mouthed Starsky, the antithesis of the Cambridge, Mass.-born, highly educated actor who held two master’s degrees. Even preteens too young to stay up to watch the detectives do their thing got in on the debate, courtesy of mags like Teen Beat and Tiger Beat, which positioned the soulful, 30-something actors alongside fresh-faced teen dreams on their covers.
Pairing Glaser’s freewheeling, Brooklyn-born ex-Army man against Soul’s thinky, leather-jacket-loving Midwestern divorcé, Spelling and veteran TV writer William Blinn (Brian’s Song, The Rookies) turned the buttoned-down cop drama on its ear, letting the fellas be silly sometimes (going undercover as Vegas dandies, hair stylists and hillbillies) and other times placing them in dire situations that reflected the current social landscape and the depth of the duo’s friendship (uncomfortably deep for some viewers). To further up the hip factor, the pair were frequently upstaged by their pal-slash-informant Huggy Bear, a groovy, ghetto-smart character who turned character actor Antonio Fargas into a bona fide TV star.
But sex appeal and edgy storylines weren’t enough to keep the cops riding high in Starsky’s signature “Striped Tomato” (a car Glaser openly loathed). Growing distaste for televised violence led the writers to tone down Starsky and Hutch’s police work and focus on their personal lives, which sat well with neither actor. Glaser sued to be freed from his contract at the end of Season 2, but stayed through the fourth and final season when Spelling allowed his leads to direct more episodes and give input on the scripts.
And the boys in baby blue bell-bottoms remained bonded to the end. The series finale sees Hutch exacting revenge on Starsky’s would-be assassin, then sneaking booze and stuffed veal into his buddy’s hospital room, where Starsky offers a far-out farewell, saluting himself, Hutch, Huggy and stalwart Captain Dobey.
“A toast to four very, very heavy dudes,” he announces. “God bless us all.”
“His smile, laughter and passion for life will be remembered by the many whose lives he has touched.”