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A Coffin for Starsky

The beauty of the hurt/comfort is that the guys are in nearly every scene together.  




If one doesn't like this episode, there's a lot to make fun of about it.  The idea of somebody having exactly 24 hours to live is pretty silly, with varying body chemistries and such, for starters.  But I think this episode stays so focused, that it's easy to overlook all that.

Another interesting aspect is that Starsky and Hutch, through most of it, seem almost casual about the idea that Starsky's facing the final hours of his life.  And yet, I think this works quite well for where they're at in their lives and in their partnership.  Back in the pilot, Starsky told the I.A. guys that he and Hutch "aren't afraid to get our cans blown sky high" -- or something like that -- but that they weren't going to sit around waiting for it to happen.  In short, they seemed resigned to the idea that they're likely to have short lives, and neither shies away from the fact that he might be the one left behind.

Had this episode taken place in later seasons, I think the tone of it would have been quite different.  As time went on, the guys got more desperate to cling to each other, while simultaneously pushing each other away.  This situation works out quite well for the fanfic, if one wants to suggest that, as the guys went through the various angsty situations of the series together, they grew increasingly uncertain about what to do with the growing intimacy between them.  This outlook is yet another reason I have such a difficult time buying the idea of them banging each other during the series.  

But on to the episode itself.  

It must have been convenient for the set decorators to keep Starsky's apartment intact, right after "Running".  His water bed looks nice and cozy.  And then there's the mirror over the ceiling.  And more extreme decoration, in my opinion, with that candy-striped thing (like you see outside a barber shop) in the background, behind Vic Bellamy.  

For this being the second-to-last episode of the season, where everyone is surely worn out, it's admirable  that PMG looks like he's got quite a bit of muscle on his biceps.  

It's so sweet that he immediately calls Hutch, rather than an ambulance.  Too bad they didn't have speed dial back then.  It's a wonder Hutch didn't think it was an obscene phone call, with all the heavy breathing before Starsky was able to speak.  

Love the moment of Hutch pulling the blanket up a little tighter over Starsky.  But how weird is it that the paramedics aren't attending to him at all?  

Starsky's looking awfully pretty at the hospital, for somebody who fell out of bed a short time ago.  In contrast, Dr. Franklin is such a wonderfully droll character.  

Starsky doesn't like "soapy scenes", but seems to have to deal with a lot of them during the course of the series.  

The whole conversation with Dr. Franklin is rather silly, even for an uneducated medical viewer, but it is a lovely visual with Hutch standing there with his hand resting firmly on Starsky's shoulder.  

I love the "yeah!" aggressive look Hutch gives Franklin, when Starsky asks if he can guarantee he'll come up with an answer to the antidote before they do, working the streets. 

It just seems so weird that Starsky is cheerfully negotiating with the doctor, how much time he's going to give him to save his life.  It's overly glib.  

But, at least, the banter is in full force, with them teasing each other about Hutch having not thought to bring Starsky's clothing to the hospital with him.  

And then the validation that it's "who do we trust time".  Yum!  

Boy, those suspect files that they look through in Dobey's office are sure thin.  

Nice look from Hutch when they're going to see Vic Bellamy, and he notices Starsky sweating.  

I love the moment, afterward, when Starsky trips and Hutch asks, "You want me to drive?", and Starsky quips, "And get us both killed?"  

Both guys were really good in this, as far as Starsky subtly feeling worse and worse, and Hutch gradually letting the whole situation get to him, as he comes face to face with the idea that he might actually lose Starsky.

It is pretty crass when Hutch suggests that Sweet Alice "deserves a fifty, at least".  Ah, the mystery of that relationship.  

I really could have done without the scene of the guys beating up the "guards" for Janos's studio.  It's like, "Gee, we can't have an episode without a fight scene."  


The collapse in the alley... of course, it's a beautiful moment for h/c fans.  I just love the way Starsky clings to Hutch's clothing, and has his arm wrapped around Hutch's leg.  The real gem of it is just the idea that Starsky feels so entitled to use Hutch's body for whatever support he needs.

Beyond that, Starsky mentions his "Aunt Rosie", who made bad chicken soup, but "great won ton".  He says that Rosie "sent" him her "special chicken soup".  That almost sounds like she mailed it.  In any case, it's hard to know if this is an aunt that is married to his Uncle Al, who is local, or if she's an aunt back in New York.  If she lived in the area, surely Starsky would have been served soup in person?  But then, we don't know if he's talking about recent years, or back in his youth.  

After they make all the commotion at Janos's studio, we get the wonderful hug in the alley.  But when Starsky says, "It hurts, Hutch.  God, it's hurts."  I don't know if he means physically, or the fact that he's facing his own mortality, or both.  I mean, my first thought is physical, but since Starsky's doesn't seem to be hurting as bad as when he collapsed, and he makes that statement right after the pessimist/optimist analogy....  it's hard to know exactly which he's referring to.  

So, where is Cheryl's lab, exactly?

They've jumped from having twelve hours left, to having seven hours left.  What were they doing for five hours?  

Anyway, it's really a lovely scene in Cheryl's lab.  So warm and tender, and yet still with all the banter.  

Starsky has seven hours left to live, and he's complaining about how much his arm has been poked?

After they find out their third and last suspect has been dead for four days, I just love the scene in squadroom, and the demeanor of both guys.  Starsky has one of the best lines in the whole series, when he says, "If this was a cowboy movie, I'd give you my boots."  It's the macho version of, "I love you."  And then they have the wonderful hand-holding moment, right there in the squadroom, while Starsky says, "You're my pal, Hutch."  Wow.  

Poor Hutch, when they go back after Bellamy.  He's got to act as quickly as possible to save Starsky's life, and yet he's shackled by having to keep helping Starsky.  And then he needs to get Vic Bellamy, but doesn't dare risk shooting him.

Of course, it ends up being quite necessary for Starsky to be there, since he saves Hutch's life on the roof.  That's quite a profound moment for a 70s TV cop show.  

It's such an intense, loving scene back at the hospital, then Dobey ruins it by saying, "Well, that's it, huh?"  and "He's only got two hours."  How did he ever become Captain when he gives up so easily?  In third season "Foxy Lady", after the bad guys make Starsky take off the wire, Dobey is tailing and just shrugs, "Well, he's on his own now."  Sheesh!

DS is all on his own with a great scene in frantically searching through Bellamy's apartment, because the actress that plays Bellamy's wife is doing a horrible job of sounding the least bit convincing.  

Between "Running" and this episode, the guys don't have any problem with the idea of throwing women around.  

The professor is very good.  He comes across so well as a crazed, dangerous psycho.  

The time is appropriate for Hutch to resort to begging.  I discussed in my review of "Bloodbath" how badly I thought Hutch's begging came across in that episode, because he still had twenty-four hours to find Starsky.  In this situation, time has run out.  

Starsky's back to looking all pretty in the hospital, after being on the verge of death.  

The tag is rather ironic, in that the gossip magazines of the time reported that, as soon as shooting for the first season was over, PMG disappeared for a few weeks.  I believe it was said that even his agent didn't know where he was.  When he came back, he said he'd been vacationing... I think in Hawaii.  He just needed to get away and get out from underneath all the responsibility of doing a television series.