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Retro T.V. Reviews: Spenser for Hire (1985) (Part 3: Review)


As I mentioned in Part 1, I have been wanting to watch and review this TV show for a very long time. I also looked at a few reviews from back in the 1980's and wow were critics harsh.

How do I like or dislike it? Let's get into it.


In general, the TV series that was written differently from other TV shows of the genre at the time. It seemed to have a bigger budget and the show seemed more serious than other shows like Jake and the Fatman or Hunter. The best way that I can compare this show is a more serious version of Mike Hammer.

I do not know where to start exactly, but I guess I will start with the elements that I liked about the show. First, we need to talk about the 2 main characters, Spenser and Hawk.

I will say that Robert Ulrich has a lot of charisma. He is able to make every scene that much better. In a way, he reminds me in terms of charisma to Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver. He makes the character believable and you want to cheer for him every time that he is in trouble. I appreciated the narration that he would do in between scenes. This reminded me of Mike Hammer or MacGyver and that was one aspect I loved from those TV shows.

Hawk on the other hand was the cool one. He would step in and always know what to do. He is a complex character but I am not sure that is how it was always supposed to be. At the beginning, it seemed like he was more of a throw in but his character grew as the show progressed. As I mentioned before there is a reincarnation of the series on Netflix with the movie Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg. I have one actor that comes in mind when I hear Hawk (after Brooks), Samuel L. Jackson. He played a similar character in the Shaft movies and I think if he was slightly younger he would have been a great fit for this role.

I will have to say that at least at the beginning, seemed like Brooks was trying too hard to be cool. I do not know what it was but it took me about a season to really get used to Hawk. In the end though, he was an integral part of the cast and he was just as much of a main character as Spenser.

I never understood why they did a Hawk spinoff series. If the series had poor ratings, why did the studios think that Hawk would have been a good spinoff. I think the potential was there, but it ended up having only 13 episodes due to poor ratings again. I am not sure that it was not well thought out.

Barbara Stock as Susan Silverman seems to be a mixed bag. She was a very big part of the first season and it really felt at least on an emotional level she was Spenser's rock and confidant. Then as I mentioned in part 2, she left in season 2. When she came back for season 3, it was just not the same. The chemistry was still there but she seemed less involved and more of a throw in. Yes there were a few episodes that revolved around her, but other than that she was not as present in season 3.

As for the cop friends, Lt. Quirk and Frank Benson, were just there for convenience or at least that is how it felt. Quirk had a long relationship with Spenser but never really felt that way. On the other hand, Benson seemed to be the comedy relief for the show. He seemed to not like Spender much and he was always eating a donut like a stereotypical cop. As the series progressed and one Quirk left the show, Benson seemed to team up with Spenser more. Even though, seems like the new Lt. did not approve of Spenser using police resources. I have to say that Benson grew on me as the show progressed. The character developed into a competent police officer that loves his work. I think my view really changed with him, in the episode in season 3 where he falls in love. However, that was fake as all she wanted was to get information from him.

One thing that people complained back in the day was that the writing was poor. Having watched this many years after its release, I have to say that it is not as bad as other shows out there. Like every show there are moments but I find that the show was very well made. I like the fact that they did not shy away from location filming. I also appreciated the fact that the show was filmed in the winter. Many other shows want to go to warmer climates and not this one.

I liked the show for Hawk and Spenser, as for the other characters, I could not really care less. To me, even though they appeared on a regular basis, they were just fillers. Although, I did appreciate the guest appearances. Seeing a very young Samuel L. Jackson as a drug dealer / pimp is awesome. Seeing Seth Green as a small kid or Ving Rhames or Eriq La Salle, was so great. That is what I love about these mold shows, you see how some of these actors started out. They have come from far to gfet to where they are today.

I think the show is worth the watch. It is only 3 season but it does have a budget and it shows. I found it less cheesy than other shows like Jake and the Fat Man. I believe these shows are on Prime Video. If not you can get this series for pretty cheap on Amazon. Let us know what you think at the coordinates below.

Spenser for Hire Video Review

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