Series / Hunter

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Hunter is a drama series about two Los Angeles homicide detectives, sergeants Rick Hunter and Dee Dee McCall. It was created by Frank Lupo and produced by Stephen J. Cannell Productions, and ran on NBC for seven seasons starting in 1984.

Rick Hunter (played by ex-football player Fred Dryer) has a reputation for being a Cowboy Cop, which makes him less than popular among his superiors. While he does tend to bend the rules and disregard orders, he only does so to get evidence against the bad guys, and his intuition never fails in picking out who is a bad guy or who isn't. He would never stoop to manufacturing evidence or framing an innocent.

Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) is Hunter's partner. As tough as she is good-looking, she is sometimes called the "brass cupcake". She is just as pro-active as Hunter when fighting crime and doesn't hesitate to get into physical fights with the criminals, but she is less hot-headed and often acts as a calming influence on her partner. In the last season, McCall leaves the series after getting married to an old flame and is replaced by two other female detectives.


This show provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Professional Targets: In-universe. Rick Hunter finds himself being audited by a visiting IRS accountant (played by James Cromwell) who is quite annoyed by Hunter's habit of paying police informants out of his own pocket and falsely declaring it as business expenses. Captain Dolan is initially amused by this, but quickly becomes a target of the accountant himself. Hunter even calls the accountant "a bloodsucking vampire" and keeps to the streets to avoid the guy.
  • Action Girl: McCall. Despite being much smaller than Hunter, she is just as active in fights and or chasing down criminals on foot — often in high heels.
  • The Alleged Car: Any car driven by Hunter in the first season either is this, or becomes this during the episode. Sometimes it is literally falling to pieces. Because of his reputation for wrecking cars, the police department will always give him the worst vehicle available. On the occasions where he, through luck or trickery, can obtain a new car, he will invariably get in a car chase and wreck it. This is downplayed in later seasons, where several episodes can go by without even a scratched fender.
  • Always Murder: Subverted in "Allegra" and "Murder, He Wrote" where the "murders" turned out to be suicides.
  • Amoral Attorney: Played with, as some lawyers depicted do fit the mold of "amoral person who almost seems to want their client to commit more crimes", which is not atypical for a Cowboy Cop show. However, some (usually female) laywers do genuinely believe in the legal process and are willing to work with Hunter when they feel something obviously suspicious is going on.
  • Asian Babymama: Rick Hunter, who is a Vietnam vet, finds out that he has a teenage son from a one-time Vietnamese girlfriend.
  • Awesome McCoolname: You probably couldn't pick a better name for a Cowboy Cop than Rick Hunter.
  • Back for the Dead: The season 4 episode "The Jade Woman" had Hunter helping one of his old Vietnam buddies Randall Fane (played by Dirk Blocker) rescue his kidnapped Asian wife. A season later, in "Dead on Target pt. 1" Fane returns, only to kill himself since his wife left him due to him being obsessed with learning the truth about something that happened in Vietnam.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Rick Hunter shoots an underage crook and is asked by a reporter why he didn't shoot the weapon out of his hands. Hunter ridicules the idea, yet a later episode shows Hunter doing this to a man who challenged him to a duel.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Sgt. Bernie Terwilliger thinks Hunter is a disgrace for the department and never fails to point out any time he breaks a rule. Unfortunately, Terwilliger is not that good a detective himself, and usually fails where Hunter's "cowboy" methods succeed. In the second season, he gets transferred to Internal Affairs, a job which brings him into frequent confrontation with Hunter, before being Put on a Bus in the third season as his actor, James Whitmore, Jr., had begun working behind the scenes as a director.
    Hunter: Bernie Terwilliger couldn't catch the measles if you broke a bottle of the virus over his head!
  • Camera Sniper: Shown at the start of an episode where the Villain of the Week is a vigilante who has become obsessed with Rick Hunter and is stalking him and his partner, in a montage with the song "I'll Be Watching You".
  • Catch Phrase: Hunter's "Works for me".
  • Chase Scene: Most episodes have several, both by car and by foot.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: McCall comes across as this both professionally and personally regarding a female detective who has a good rapport with Hunter.
  • Corrupt Hick: While Hunter and McCall are escorting a prisoner through a small Midwestern town, a local girl is raped and beaten and the incident is blamed on the prisoner. In fact, the culprit is the Sheriff, who has been abusing his power and his position as the stepson of the richest man in town.
  • Cowboy Cop: Hunter has this reputation among his colleagues, and some journalists. While he does tend to play loose with the rules, he does not show the disregard for life and property that tends to be a sign of a true cowboy cop.
  • Cousin Oliver: Hunter's final partner in the series, Chris Novak (Lauren Lane), is a single mom with a young daughter, Allison (Courtney Barilla).
  • Da Chief:
    • Hunter's captains in the first season, Captain Lester Cain and Captain Dolan have a very adversarial relationship with him. Cain especially views him as a dangerous loose cannon and a Cowboy Cop, and frequently threatens to take his badge away. While Dolan is also often frustrated with Hunter and would rather him not be on the streets, he's also a lot more reasonable than Cain was and will work with Hunter.
    • His captains in later seasons, Captain Wyler in season 2 and Captain Charlie Devane in season 3 on, tend to have a more sympathetic attitude to Hunter. Despite frequent irritation over Hunter's insubordination and liberal attitude to the regulations, they tolerate this (up to a limit) because of his good results. They will do their best to keep Hunter in line — with varied success.
  • Deadline News: A non-lethal version happens when Hunter and McCall chase a criminal into a news studio during a live broadcast. Captain Devane is at home watching all this on television. He just shakes his head at the sight of his two detectives looking embarrassed at the camera.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The episode "Fire Man" features a pyromaniac former Vietnam War soldier who, in order to hide his arsonous activities from the cops, poses as one of his deceased buddies because they looked so similar.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: The episode "Rape & Revenge" has DeeDee McCall being raped by a South American diplomat who claims immunity when Hunter tries to arrest him — and shoots Hunter just to twist the knife further. In the following episode, Hunter tracks him down in his native country and kills him.
  • Dirty Cop: Show up as villains from time to time, in such episodes as "The Snow Queen pts. 1 & 2",note  "The Big Fall" and "Think Blue".
  • Dirty Harriet: McCall often goes undercover as a streetwalker or callgirl, especially during the first season.
  • Disney Villain Death: The bad guy in the pilot episode accidentally jumps off a building when he charges Rick Hunter during a final Rooftop Confrontation.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In "City of Passion, pt. 3" McCall entraps a rapist, nicknamed "Bigfoot" to her home for the purpose of killing him, but can't bring herself to do it. The next day, the guy is going to be let out when his wife, whom he frequently abused arrived at the police station, and, realizing people were right about him being a sadistic rapist, takes an officer's gun and shoots him dead.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Used in at least 2 episodes:
    • In one, a border patrol officer is murdered, and much of the investigation focuses on his cop wife, who he abused, or her partner, who knew about the abuse and was in love with her, as the possible suspects. Turned out to be the owner of a garment warehouse who was using illegal immigrants for labor, who had been interviewed for maybe, two minutes and didn't appear again until the end.
    • A woman who owned a museum is murdered and four Indian tribal masks in her possession are stolen. The investigation reveals they were stolen by a Native American guy who was her lover, and he also has a wife who aware of the affair. It was actually an archaeologist friend of the victim, who only appeared for a few minutes at the beginning of the episode, prior to the The Reveal.
  • Don't Answer That: It's Rick Hunter who does this despite being a Cowboy Cop, in an episode involving a Vigilante Man who killed a gangster who raped his wife. The man is just about to confess when Hunter says "Stop!", and then advises him of his right to contact a lawyer — who just happens to be a skilled Amoral Attorney who's frustrated Hunter in the past. Of course, a police officer advising a suspect to contact a particular lawyer would be illegal, as said lawyer points out.
  • Downer Ending: "Rich Girl", with its Alas, Poor Villain ending.
  • Dress Hits Floor: There is an episode where a rich woman is robbed by some criminal finds him and bargains for return of some jewelry piece. When the robber suggests she is "wired", she drops her clothes to the floor to prove she is not. This leads to Karmic Death of said robber, at the hands of the woman's jealous husband who wrongly assumes she's having an affair she is, but not with the burglar.
  • Driven by Envy: In season 1 there's an episode where a guy on a bike goes around killing cops in Quick Draw-style shootouts. There is a Wild West arcade game in his favorite bar where he's routinely the best, and he goes after people who beat his high score. Rick Hunter deliberately scores higher on the machine precisely because he knows it will draw out the cop killer.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Car chases often end with one car catching fire and/or exploding.
  • External Combustion: In the third-season episod "Overnight Sensation", this happens to a journalist who is investigating Hunter, convinced that Hunter is a dirty Cowboy Cop dealing out vigilante justice. The real culprit uses this to frame Hunter for the murder.
  • Fair Cop: McCall. Her good looks not only make her a suitable Dirty Harriet, but also attract romantic attention from both desirable and undesirable quarters.
  • Fanservice: Very mild by today's standard (this show is, after all, a decade older than NYPD Blue): there is no nudity and even sex scenes tend to be of the fully clothed variety, but there are still some instances.
    • McCall's good looks are always prominently featured, and though she dresses professionaly at work she frequently wears tight tops and short skirts.
    • There are some scenes with McCall in sleepwear or taking a bath.
    • Many scenes involve streetwalkers or showgirls in more or less stripperiffic clothing. The trope is usually averted, however, when McCall goes undercover as a streetwalker: with the exception of a few early epsiodes she tends to cover up a lot more than her supposed "colleagues" (which makes sense for the plot, as she's there to collect information, not to seduce anyone).
    • Two of the most daring examples from the first season are shown in the opening credits: DeeDee fighting in a backless top and tight pants, and her aiming her gun out of a foam bath, with bubbles acting as convenient Scenery Censors.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: There's an episode where a Pyromaniac villain uses a flamethrower to commit arson as well as burning the occasional Innocent Bystander. Naturally the song played during the teaser is "Burning Down the House".
  • Follow That Car: Detective DeeDee McCall does this in an episode, with the grizzled cab driver replying "I've been waiting twenty years for someone to say that!"
  • Freudian Excuse: While most of the villains on the show are motivated by either Greed or For the Evulz, there are a few culprits that have sad backstories or mental problems that caused their actions, such as one of the killers in "Fatal Obsession" and "Kill Zone."
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Detective DeeDee McCall has several stuffed animals in her bedroom, as noted by her new partner Rick Hunter. She counters that despite being an Action Girl, she's still a woman inside.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Before interrogating someone, DeeDee McCall (a short Fair Cop) insists that she be allowed to play "bad cop" despite Hunter's (tall, middle-aged) claims that he's usually the "bad cop" in these situations for a reason. The perp immediately sees through the act and tells them to get lost, so she upgrades to breaking in his door and threatening him with a baseball bat.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Hunter does this to the Dirty Cop in "the Big Fall" to make him confess to the killing.
  • I Made Copies: A blackmail victim pays a man for photographs of a homosexual affair, then asks if the blackmailer made copies. The blackmailer just smirks and says that if his friends call with another demand, he'll know they made copies. Unsurprisingly the victim decides to take the chance of shooting him on the spot, in the belief the blackmailer is working alone.
  • The Informant: Arnold "Sporty" James. In a subversion of this trope, however, Hunter and McCall see him as a valued friend.
  • Master of Unlocking: DeeDee McCall is adept at picking locks. She and Hunter often gain entry to the homes of suspects or missing persons this way, which is especially convenient when they can't call a locksmith because they don't have a search warrant.
  • Name of Cain: Captain Cain, Rick Hunter's exasperated superior early in season 1. While not an overt antagonist as he's just doing his job trying to rein in Hunter's maverick tendencies, he's a pretty venal example of the "obstructive chief" since he's far more concerned with maintaining the appearance of an orderly department than protecting his officers.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: The show usually plays this straight. In one episode, though, there is a Bait and Switch. A woman dies during a gang rape, with the culprits let off on a technicality. When they are shot one by one, the victim's sister is the obvious suspect. Then it looks like a Corrupt Corporate Executive has a motive, and she's being framed as a patsy. Nope, it was the sister all along.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Also overlaps with Trailers Always Spoil, as the "tonight, on Hunter" segments that aired before every episode (expect for the last season) would either spoil things that happened in the show, or decieve you to think something was happening that didn't.
    • Perhaps one of the most blatant of the examples is from "Change Partners and Dance", where Hunter is seen telling McCall "this partnership is over." He does say that in the episode, and McCall initially believes him, but it is a ruse; Captain Devane has temporarily partnered Hunter with another cop who is under investigation for doing assassination work for the mob.
  • Off on a Technicality: A group of kids spontaneously confess to killing a girl at a party, before the cops even had a chance to read them their rights, so the confession supposedly becomes inadmissible. This sparks a vigilante-kills-the-killers plot. In Real Life, the technicality wouldn't have applied in the case of a spontaneous confession, and even if it did, the police could investigate to find other evidence that would support the case.
  • One Thing Led to Another: An ex-girlfriend describes to Dee Dee McCall how she once got involved with Hunter by saying, "This lead to this, that lead to that..."
  • Overt Rendezvous: Played for Laughs in an episode where a small-time crook steals a package of drugs from a crime boss, and says he'll sell it back to him. To avoid his inevitable death, the exchange takes place in the foyer of a police station.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Hunter and McCall are extremely close, spend a lot of time together outside of work, and though they sometimes date other people, even then they seem to prioritize each other above their current boy/girlfriends. Despite this their relationship stays non-sexual, apart from a single occasion (which is referenced in the episode "Unfinished Business").
  • Playing Drunk: When DeeDee McCall investigates the trailer of a suspected cop killer parked next to a bar, he comes back earlier than expected so she acts like a drunken patron who just stumbled into the wrong place.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: While Hunter does get called on his actions from time to time, it's quite amazing he suffers no punishment for traveling to a foreign nation and killing one of its high-ranking diplomats. Yes, the guy was a Jerk Ass rapist/murderer who hid behind his Diplomatic Impunity, but still.
  • Pyromaniac: A season 1 episode features a villain who uses a flame thrower to set various buildings on fire, with a backstory of burning civilians in the Vietnam War.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Bolin from the pilot episode, who is hired by Captain Cain to make psychological assessments of all his officers, in particular Hunter himself so Cain has grounds to fire him for being "unstable". It later turns out that Dr. Bolin is a Serial Killer who is being treated by another therapist for sociopathy. In fact, he specifically picks out women because they resemble his therapist.
  • Quick Draw: The brother of a man who Hunter has killed turns up for revenge. He's a fan of Westerns so he kidnaps Hunter and says he will duel him for his life. Hunter shoots the gun out of his hand, then repeatedly shoots the pistol as the man keeps grabbing for it. This is despite Hunter having ridiculed the idea of Blasting It out of Their Hands in a previous episode.
  • Racing the Train: An episode has Rick Hunter jump onto a train traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco in order to tail a suspect, with his partner DeeDee McCall having to chase after him by car to provide backup.
  • Rape and Revenge: When McCall is raped by a foreign diplomat, who uses his Diplomatic Impunity to flee the country, Hunter tracks him down in his homeland and ends up killing him.
  • The Rashomon: When they visit a therapist to hash out their differences, they both give very different accounts of an incident that happened several years earlier—McCall recalls Hunter as being completely indifferent when she returned from a trip, virtually ignoring her while chatting happily with his replacement partner, while he remembers her being rather rude to him and the woman in question.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "On Air", Hunter gives one to the woman he was protecting, a romantic advice dispensing radio host who was being stalked by a crazed fan, after he found that she blew his cover to get more publicity for herself. Coupled with Is This Thing On? when she tries to do the same thing to him and ends up deriding her listeners. Not until she finishes does she realize that he's flipped the "On Air" switch.
  • Recycled Premise: The show sure liked doing episodes that were basically "Hunter's old partner/friend/girlfriend gets in trouble/is killed and he takes the case."
  • Re Tool: During the second season, when Roy Huggins became the executive producer. Among other things, Huggins toned down the violence, softened up Hunter and McCall's fractious relationships with their superiors, dropped a backstory concerning Hunter's family ties to the mob, played up the chemistry between the two leads, and moved the setting out of the backstreets and into the more desirable areas of Los Angeles. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, these changes helped the show fare better ratings-wise and with critics. Cannell himself also praised Huggins's work on the show.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: A not very smart crook steals cocaine from a courier, and then tries to sell it to the courier's employer, who finds it very interesting that he's being sold the exact amount of coke that's just been stolen from him...
  • Running Gag:
    • The CB Radio handset getting disconnected in Hunter's Alleged Car.
    • McCall being unable to open the side door of the Alleged Car and having to crawl out the window.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: When Stepfanie Kramer left the show in 1990 after six years as Sgt. Hunter's partner/sidekick Dee Dee McCall, her character was replaced by Officer Joanne Molenski, who quickly became Hunter's new beat partner. However, actress Darlanne Fluegel was unable to get along with series star Fred Dryer or others on the show's staff, and she soon resigned less than three months into the 1990-1991 season. It was decided the new girl — Molenski — would be murdered by a serial killer.
  • Shooting Gallery: An episode where Hunter and Dee Dee are investigating a mad sniper shooting women has them going to an army range, where they naturally encounter both the standard Red Herring suspect, who shoots all targets innocent or guilty with great enthusiasm, and his older sergeant who's the real killer. At the end Hunter chases the killer onto the range and activates the targets. The killer reacts to the first couple of targets, so when Hunter appears his reactions are lax enough that he gets shot.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The episode "The Black Dahlia" has Hunter and McCall investigate new leads in the famous unsolved 1947 murder known by that name.
  • Sweater Girl: McCall often wears tight sweaters that show off her figure, though in winter she often wears a jacket on top.
  • Theme Serial Killer: Another recurring threat, appearing in episodes such as the three part "City Under Siege", "Lullaby" and the two part "Fatal Obsession" (a.k.a. the one where Molenski gets killed).
  • They Do: Or rather, they did, once. "Unfinished Business" reveals that Hunter and Dee Dee have once slept together while working as partners.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Rick Hunter is often seen snacking on chili dogs or buying other people one. His partner McCall often protests Rick's cheap tastes.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: A drug dealer is murdered by a Professional Killer, and at the end of the episode Hunter finds the man's fellow dealers commemorating his memory around a burning trashcan. They explain that this was the corner where the deceased made his first drug buy.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Detective Bernie Terwilliger is played up to be so incompetent that during a shoot-out in a hotel hallway, he opens fire on his fellow officers until McCall restrains him.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hunter and McCall are obviously attracted to each other, and even admit that themselves, but manage to keep their relationship on a professional, Just Friends level, while dating other people. At least, they manage most of the time — one episode reveals that they actually did sleep with each other once.
  • Villain of the Week: With the exception of a few double episodes, Rick Hunter and DeeDee McCall will always investigate one case a week involving a criminal who will be either locked up or shot dead by the end of the episode.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Sometimes Hunter manages (by audacity, oversight or sheer luck) to requisition a new car from the department, rather than the Alleged Car he will usually be given. The people in charge of the car pool will invariably be very upset about serial wrecker Hunter getting his hands on a pristine vehicle, and there is a lot of angst over in which shape he'll return it. Of course, the car is totalled or at least severely damaged during the episode. This leads to another show of angst and anger when the car is returned.
  • White Sheep: Hunter comes from a Mob family but has chosen to join the police. He sometimes uses his connections to get information from his relatives, who also try to use him to get inside police information (which he doesn't allow). This only happens in the first season, and Hunter's mob background is never mentioned in later seasons.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In the episode "Sniper", an army Sergeant goes on a shooting spree with a Sniper Rifle to kill random women in public parks who remind him of his ex-wife. When a young boy runs into him in the process of chasing after a football while he's scoping out his next target, he tells the kid to take a hike. This backfires when the boy alerts a police officer and the sniper has to flee the scene.
  • You're Not My Type: A Bounty Hunter shows an interest in Hunter's partner Dee Dee McCall. Hunter tells him curtly, "She's not your type." The bounty hunter smirks and says they're all his type.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me:
    • A pimp says this to DeeDee McCall in the premiere episode. It's no surprise he turns out to be wrong.
    • In the second episode McCall's old partner, who has become a hitman after getting fired from the force, says this to her when she tries to arrest him. He's right in this instance, and almost kills McCall before Hunter intervenes.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Played with in an episode where the Commissioner's wife is killed in a car bomb and at first it appears that the hunky tennis instructor tried to kill him after carrying on an affair with his wife. In fact, it turns out the guy was having an affair with the commissioner, and she tried to divorce him after finding out.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/Hunter