Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Manchild on the Streets

There's nothing quite like an unexpected use of the N word to get the attention of a politically correct audience.

When I saw this episode for the first time in some ten years, I was stunned after the alley shooting when the rookie cop so flagrantly uses the N word -- and immediately stunned again when Starsky responds with a slap.  I was amazed that the local station was willing to air the complete audio.  It's a good thing they do, because it really is a poignantly dramatic moment.

There's a lot to like in this episode.  Of course, the basketball game in the beginning is to die for.  Hutch grabbing Starsky about the waist in such a natural way (and without Starsky even bothering to cry "foul!", lol).  Though it is a little weird when, as Jackson finds the pills on the ground, they're shaking hands with each other in the background.

And then the hospital scenes.  Both the intense back-and-forth with Dobey as everyone tries to air their point of view, and Dobey is admirable in how he holds firm and doesn't let personal feelings get involved; and then, of course, that poignant moment when Starsky reaches up to touch Hutch on the back of his head -- no words being needed.

It would be nice if they would have given some background on Jackson's family, in terms of how Starsky and Hutch knew them.  They seem to be Starsky's friends -- which makes one wonder how they became associated -- and yet Hutch seems quite comfortable there, too.

I never have figured out Sammie's relationship to the family, either.

Also, Starsky and Hutch wear the same clothes throughout the episode.  (Hutch -- once again -- in DS's ultra favorite green t-shirt, which he seems to wear about 75% of the time in the first three seasons.)  That seems an oversight, because otherwise it would mean Jackson's funeral was within 24 hours after he died.  I doubt arrangements could be made that quickly.

Unfortunately, this episode misses an opportunity to give some Starsky background.  Starsky says in a voice-over that, "When your daddy dies, it's awfully hard to see straight."  And he has a lot of compassion for Junior after Jackson is killed.  (PMG really does have some wonderfully poignant expressions throughout.)  It would have been a great opportunity for him to share some of his own feelings after his own father was killed.  Yet, like "The Set Up" -- when we're denied a scene of Hutch talking in the semi with Joe Durniak about Starsky's father -- the powers that be just didn't seem to want to go there.

With all the drama being in the middle, the ending comes off as rather wimpy and overly lightweight.  And yet, the fact that neither Junior nor Maurice are all that dangerous is rather comforting.  The tag is admirable for not trying to come up with prim-and-proper solutions.  The suggestion seems to be that the rookie cop will indeed end up back on the streets, and never have to own up to having murdered Jackson.

With how silly and hokey TV series can be, this episode comes off as an important social statement, without trying to shove it down the viewer's throat.  The actors are all really wonderful, and again, while I'm dubious at times about Dobey coming across as a genuine authority figure, Bernie Hamilton probably has his finest performance in this ep.

DS has always said that he initially wanted the part of Starsky, because Hutch was too "white bread" and uninteresting.  From statements I've read and watched him make over the decades, he's always seemed to turn a blind eye to attention given to his good looks.  In the S&H series, it's quite telling that both of the series' black culture episodes -- the other being "Huggy Can't Go Home"  -- were directed by him.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2015 01:51 am (UTC)
From what I gathered from the episode, Sammie was not related, but renting a room from 'Mama' ... and essentially became like part of the family.

Jun. 15th, 2015 01:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Sammie
I think that's as good an assumption as any!
Jun. 26th, 2017 07:39 am (UTC)
one of the few police officers who seem genuinely comfortable around people of color
i, too, liked this episode, but perhaps for different reasons than described. the use of the n-word by the racist cop and the young black man who was really responsible for jackson's death because of the robbery he committed in the stolen car did not add anything of worth to the episode. it was clear that officer raymond t. andrews was racist when he shot an unarmed man who had his hands up and who is clearly not resisting arrest. even more telling about the episode is that when the friend jackson was trying to protect echoes the female witness' statement that jackson was unarmed, officer andrews' partner tells the man to shut up. in an instant, he made a decision that he was going to stick by his sleazy partner's racist execution of an innocent man no matter what.

the episode is difficult to watch, but i appreciate starsky and hutch's loyalty to their friend. captain dobey's craven capitulation and protection of the racist cops do not serve his character's authority well. a black man in authority who wantonly turns a blind eye to racism does not deepen his character's complexity. a thousand times in the past, dobey took starksy and hutch's word on a crime case, but suddenly in this episode he buries his head in the sand. and then on top of that, dobey dismisses an eyewitness testimony just to add manufactured conflict to the episode.

sometimes starsky and hutch's attitudes toward people of color are confusing. on the premier episodes of season three they seemed to have no problem donning black face which even by 1978 standards would have seemed unhip. then there's the episode that seemed poised to launch huggy into his own series and all of a sudden the words colored and honky were being thrown around wholesale. suddenly huggy and a possible white partner were having cultural problems when previous episodes proved that huggy could get along with anyone of any persuasion. for some reason the producers thought that if huggy got a spinoff that his blackness needed to be highlighted with contrived conflicts based on the two partners being of different races. however, i do think part of the inconsistency is the culture of television that rarely sees people of color as three dimensional. the character of maurice in the manchild episode was written so paper thin, it did not make sense that he could so easily persuade someone as smart as jackson junior to become a criminal with him.

still, even with the flaws,starksy and hutch is my favorite cop show except for maybe charlie's angels which had no interaction with any people of color not even in a professional capacity. i was thinking about ordering the five seasons of miami vice, but when i compare that show's partners to starsky and hutch, crockett and tubbs fall short for me. they seem to be posturing all the time and i really cannot tell if they really care about each other. no matter what qualms i may have with starsky and hutch's interaction and depiction of people of color, i never doubt that the two partners love each other immensely and in the quarter of a century that the show has been off the air, no other cop duo have matched their chemistry or devotion.
Jun. 27th, 2017 05:23 pm (UTC)
Re: one of the few police officers who seem genuinely comfortable around people of color
Thanks for your thoughts.

I admit that I think I've watched "Huggy Bear and Turkey" a grand total of two times in forty years, and I didn't bother trying to put any thought into it!

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )