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Series / Starsky & Hutch

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Starsky & Hutch is a 1970s television series that ran for 92 episodes (plus a pilot movie) between 1975 and 1979. It centered around two Southern California plainclothes police officers, streetwise Brooklyn native David Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser), and the quiet, intellectual Minnesotan Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul). Under the radio callsign "Zebra Three'', they patrolled the Bay City in Starsky's iconic red Ford Gran Torino with that awesome white vector stripe. Their main contact in the criminal underworld is Jive Turkey/Soul Brotha Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas), a police snitch who ran his own bar and tended to wear Pimp Duds.

Starsky & Hutch was one of the first prime-time dramas to portray black characters in a positive light, with both Captain Dobey and — despite his walking on the edge of the law — the honest and trustworthy Huggy seen to be positive black role models. In fact, Huggy Bear was so popular with fans that the producers considered spinning off a Huggy Bear series, but this ultimately fell through.


A Starsky & Hutch video game was released in 2003 by Mind's Eye. Made into a motion picture starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in 2004.

Starsky & Hutch provides examples of:

  • 555: Most phone numbers.
  • The '70s: Made and set in them.
  • Actor Allusion: In one episode, Starsky says Hutch sounds like "Dirty Harry, a cop in San Francisco". David Soul costarred in Magnum Force, the second Dirty Harry movie.
  • All Abusers Are Male: When the cops discover a case of child abuse, they assume it's the kid's hulking father who's responsible; turns out it's the mother who's to blame.
  • The Alleged Car: Hutch's vomit-colored, dented, rusting, crumbling Ford LTD, with a missing rearview mirror, window cranks that don't stay in, and a horn that randomly blasts at top volume whenever he opens the door. An overly prideful mechanic is so offended by the car's very existence that when Hutch tries to bring it in for repairs, he buries it in his trash heap just so he can yell at Hutch that "Garbage belongs WITH garbage!" When the LTD is totaled in an assassination attempt, Starsky buys him another one exactly as crappy as the first one, though not before writing "condemned c. 1847" on the rear window.
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  • Ambiguously Jewish: Starsky. In at least one episode he has a Star of David on his dashboard and a menorah in his apartment. Also, in "Starsky Vs. Hutch", Hutch quotes Shylock's speech from The Merchant of Venice - "If you prick us, do we not bleed" - Starsky responds with "That's my line," and Hutch apologises. (Paul Michael Glaser is Jewish in real life.)
  • Amnesia Episode: In the episode "Partners," Hutch develops amnesia after a car crash, allowing for a Clip Show as Starsky tries to jog his memory. In the end he admits he was faking it.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba:
    • In "Photo Finish," a landlady catches Starsky and Hutch snooping in an apartment she owns. Hutch says, "We're the police." The landlady replies, "And I'm Tatum O'Neal."
    • In "Ninety Pounds of Trouble," an underage girl tries to order a drink from Huggy Bear.
    Joey: Give me a strawberry margarita, please.
    Huggy: We're fresh out of strawberries. Why don't you try the malt shop?
    Joey: I'm eighteen!
    Huggy: And I'm Reggie Jackson.
    Joey: No you're not, you're Huggy!
  • And Starring: "Starring David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, with Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear, Bernie Hamilton."
  • Animal Assassin: In "Satan's Witches," Starsky opens a refrigerator and a rattlesnake falls out. Hutch picks it up with a blanket and throws it out the window.
  • As You Know: Done in a lot of episodes. Between two villains in "Silence":
    Kim: You just tell Bessinger to keep his mouth shut and lay low. No more robberies until the heat lets up.
    Father Ignatius: Kim, you're forgetting. My order is sending three more priests from back east next week to help out with the work here. If we're not gone like we plan to be, they'll know I'm not the real Ignatius.
  • Automobile Opening: The title sequence changed over the show's run, but it always opened with a shot of Starsky's trademark Torino tearing around a corner, tires squealing.
  • Avenging the Villain: George Prudholm holds Starsky responsible for the death of his son in jail after Starsky arrests him; he kills two cops and Starsky's lover in an effort to make him pay.
  • Bald of Evil: Danner, a powerful drug lord from "The Bait."
  • Bears Are Bad News: In "Bloodbath," Starsky gets kidnapped by a psycho cult. Things go about as well as expected, and at one point while trying to escape, he turns the corner and comes face to face with a very large bear that he is supposed to fight with a rock.
  • "Begone" Bribe: When Starsky finds out that Hutch's girlfriend is a prostitute, he tries to pay her a large amount of money to leave town so Hutch won't have to find this out. She declares her love for Hutch and refuses to go; he accepts this, though he warns that she needs to tell Hutch her secret, or he'll do it for her. It being that kind of show, she's dead before she has a chance to.
  • Beleaguered Childhood Friend: Subverted in "The Las Vegas Strangler"; Hutch's high school friend Jack Mitchell really isn't the serial killer the guys are chasing. Not that it helps, since he's dying of a brain tumor and doesn't make it out of the episode alive.
  • Big Bad: James Gunther, a criminal who controls so much of the government that he once turned down a chance at the presidency because it would be a step down. He's the villain of the three-parter "Targets Without a Badge," and the final episode "Sweet Revenge."
  • Binocular Shot
  • Bloodless Carnage: Unsurprisingly for a show made in the '70s, people tend not to bleed no matter how many times they're shot. When Starsky is shot three times in the back in "Sweet Revenge," he does bleed, but a lot less than would be realistic.
  • Bodyguard Crush: In "A Body Worth Guarding," Hutch gets into one of these with Anna Akhanatova, a visiting Russian ballerina who's received death threats.
  • Bomb Disposal: In "Murder at Sea," three time bombs are hidden throughout a cruise ship. By the time Starsky and Hutch find out, they have only seventeen minutes to find and dispose of them all.
  • Bookcase Passage: The fascists in "A Body Worth Guarding" meet in a secret room hidden behind a sliding door with a bookcase in front of it.
  • The Boxing Episode: In "The Heavyweight," a boxer is ordered to throw a game, but he wins anyway because he can't bear to let his son down, getting himself in trouble with criminals.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: In "Playboy Island", Hollywood Voodoo causes Starsky to try to kill Hutch. Weirdly, once he's shocked back to normal it's ignored for the rest of the episode.
  • Bridal Carry: In "Shootout," Hutch carries Starsky to a back office like this after he's shot.
  • Broken Pedestal: In "Birds of a Feather," Hutch finds out that his mentor Luke Huntley has traded information to criminals in order to pay off his wife's gambling debts.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Possibly the Trope Codifier.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: In the final episode, Hutch is ambushed by two hitmen, one with a gun and one with a knife. He manages to take advantage of this by maneuvering the knifewielder between himself and the gunman, just in time to take the shot.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Makes a rare appearance in "The Psychic"; naturally Hutch is shot in the chest shortly thereafter.
  • Busman's Holiday: In "Satan's Witches," a quiet fishing trip in the woods is interrupted by virgin-sacrificing Satanists. No, really.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome:
    • In "The Game," Hutch talks to a snitch while disguised as a homeless man. The snitch says that he and Starsky are both dumb, "especially the blond one." Hutch says, "I thought the blond one was supposed to be the bright one."
    • In one episode, Hutch is undercover as a nerdy accountant. When a woman IDs him as a cop, he protests, "I am not a policeman. They have to be brave and manly and strong."
  • Call-Back: The first episode, "Savage Sunday," and the early fourth-season episode "Blindfold" both open with Starsky complaining about having to work on Sunday and citing dubious statistics to prove he should be given the day off.
  • Calling Card: "JoJo" features a rapist who sprays all his victims with orange paint.
  • Camping Episode: "Satan's Witches," in which the guys vacation in Dobey's lakeside cabin in the mountains. Hutch loves the natural setting, while Starsky spends most of the episode complaining about it.
  • Car Chase: Well, yeah.
  • Car Fu: Near the end of "Blindfold," Hutch drives alongside a villain who's trying to flee on foot, then hits him with the car door.
  • Carpet of Virility: Starsky.
  • Cat Scare: "Targets Without a Badge" has a bizarre example: Hutch insists on checking Starsky's Torino for explosives (understandably, since his own car was blown up in the previous episode). Nervously, they ease the hood up...and a cat jumps out of the engine at them.
  • Da Chief: Captain Dobey
  • Christmas Episode: "Little Girl Lost," in which Hutch takes in a recently orphaned girl because he doesn't want her to spend Christmas in Juvie while her father's accomplices search for her so they can get their hands on the diamonds he stole.
  • Clear My Name:
    • In "Hutchinson for Murder One," Hutch is accused of murdering his ex-wife with his gun in her home. It was actually her associate Wheeler who did it, and Hutch would have been convicted if it wasn't for Huggy Bear hiding in a coffin while recording Wheeler's confession. Starsky, obviously, believes none of it, and spirits Hutch off in the middle of his arrest in order to find the real murderer, blithely telling Dobey over the phone, "If this doesn't work, you can visit Hutch and I in San Quentin."
    • Also in "The Set-Up," where first Terry Nash is set up as the assassin of a mob leader, and then Starsky and Hutch are set up as his accomplices and a warrant for their arrest is issued when they start uncovering evidence that something fishy is going on. They spend half the episode on the run and, unusually, the episode ends right before their hearing, and although they likely have enough evidence to prove their innocence, it still ends on a never-resolved cliffhanger.
  • Climbing Climax: The climax of "Lady Blue" takes place partway up a radio tower.
  • Clip Show: "Partners"
  • Clothing Switch: In "Foxy Lady," a witness sneaks out of the police station by paying the janitor $100 to switch clothes with her.
  • Companion Cube: In "The Committee," Huggy Bear sells Starsky a ridiculously overpriced pet rock, which he swears is much better than the ones sold in stores. Starsky names the rock Ignatius and carries it around for the rest of the episode.
  • Contamination Situation: In "The Plague," Starsky and Hutch are put in quarantine for 72 hours because they interacted with a man who died from the disease. They kill time by playing cards.
  • Cool Car: The Gran Torino, though Hutch compares it to a striped tomato. Unlike most cool cars, there's nothing particularly special in its features or general performance, but the bright red paint job with that white vector stripe was special in and of itself.
  • Cop Show
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Two opposing examples. In "Bloodbath," Starsky is kidnapped by a murderous cult, who leave his name scrawled in blood on a mirror for his partner to find. In "The Plague," Hutch is in an isolation room with a fatal disease; before Starsky leaves to go look for a cure, he uses a borrowed lipstick to write his name on the observation window where Hutch can be reassured by it.
  • Counting Bullets: During the climax of "Death in a Different Place," Starsky yells at a man who's threatening to shoot a bystander, "No way! That's six!" After the man has surrendered, Hutch asks, "Six?" To his horror, Starsky shrugs and says, "Five, six."
  • Cowboy Cop: Both main characters. They almost seem to be private detectives rather than cogs in a larger machine. Also, their methods include bribery, blackmail, and Mafia-style intimidation.
    • Starsky fits the scheme more, while Hutch tends more to be more bookish.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Assistant director Eldon Burke can be seen polishing the Torino in "Silence." He later appears as a gambler in "The Action" and as a patrolman in "Photo Finish."
    • Makeup artist Layne "Shotgun" Britton appears in "Murder on Stage 17" as a crew member named Shotgun.
  • Creepy Mortician: The coroner who appears in the pilot apparently has a habit of perving on murder victims. "Neat little figure she had. Wonder what her face looked like?"
  • Cult: In "Bloodbath", Starsky is abducted by the followers of the memorably creepy Simon Marcus.
  • Cultural Posturing: Anna from "A Body Worth Guarding" is always complaining about American culture. As Hutch puts it, "I don't want to do any flag-waving, but every time she says 'America' it sounds like something that makes her nauseous."
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • When Starsky sees his tires have been slashed, he says, "I'll kill those..." The scene ends before he can finish the sentence.
    • In "Foxy Lady," a character says of the titular thieving witness, "I think that little b- lady is as slick as a greased eel."
  • Dangerous Key Fumble: One of the murder victims in "The Vampire" dies because she struggles to open her car door, then drops the keys.
  • Dartboard of Hate: In "A Body Worth Guarding," terrorists use a cardboard cutout of a Soviet ballerina for target practice.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Huggy Bear gets these in the cringeworthy "Huggy Bear and the Turkey" (a failed Poorly Disguised Pilot) and the considerably better "Huggy Can't Go Home".
  • Dead Animal Warning: Hutch finds a rat in his icebox in "Vendetta."
  • Dead Man Honking: In the first few minutes of the pilot, two teenagers are shot to death while kissing in the front seat of a car. The scene ends with the horn blaring.
  • Dead Partner: When he was a young man, Dobey's partner Elmo Jackson was found dead on a meat hook. The killer wasn't caught until years later.
  • Dig Your Own Grave: The villains of "The Action" try to force Starsky and Hutch to do this. Instead, they knock the criminals out with their shovels.
  • Dirty Cop: Crops up so often that it sometimes seems like the titular characters spend just as much time fighting off their fellow cops as they do civilian criminals. In fact, it sometimes takes quite a while for a crook to realize they're not being coy when they insist they can't be bought, which doesn't cast a very good light on the BCPD.
  • Dirty Harriet: Starsky's ex-girlfriend turns out to have been undercover as a stripper in "Lady Blue".
  • Disco: "Discomania" features a serial killer who lurks in a discotheque called Fever, kidnaps women, and forces them to dance with him in his mansion before he kills them. Easily half the episode's runtime is taken up by endless scenes of people dancing.
  • Ditzy Genius: Huggy Bear's cousin Leotis can multiply five-digit numbers in his head in less than a second, but doesn't realize a "heater" is a gun and not a water heater.
  • Does Not Like Men: One episode shows a divorced mother who abuses her son due to her hatred for all men.
  • Dunking the Bomb: Starsky and Hutch dispose of the bombs in "Murder at Sea" by throwing them overboard.
  • Easy Amnesia: Subverted in "Partners". Hutch apparently has amnesia after a car accident (and a Clip Show ensues as Starsky tries to remind him who he is), but he was faking it as revenge for Starsky's reckless driving.
  • Easy Impersonation: "Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty," in which two similar-looking guys drive around in a Torino replica beating people up. While the impostors bear a fair general resemblance, it's nowhere near good enough to justify a woman who knows the real cops on sight get a good look at both pairs, five minutes apart, and be unable to tell the difference.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: It was the seventies.
  • Everyone Drives A Ford: Ford provided all the cars for the show.
  • The Fagin: Train from "Black and Blue" lives in an abandoned house with a gang of teenagers whom he orders to break into people's houses and steal appliances.
  • Fake Defector: Starsky does this in "The Committee," complete with a staged fistfight with Hutch, so he can infiltrate a group of vigilante cops.
  • Fake Memories: In the episode "The Set-Up," the villains are a group of rogue FBI agents who overwrite people's memories to turn them into revenge-driven assassins.
  • Fangirl: the original largely teenage and almost exclusively female fanbase, who have grown up into an Estrogen Brigade for David Soul, a man still working the nostalgia circuit as a singer.
  • Fashion Dissonance
  • Fatal Attractor: Hutch sometimes seems to be one of these.
  • Fell Asleep Crying: In "Little Girl Lost," Hutch takes in a recently-orphaned twelve-year-old girl so she won't have to spend Christmas in Juvie. For most of the day she acts tough and angry and doesn't show any weakness, but that night she cries herself to sleep while Hutch listens from the next room, unable to help her.
  • Feud Episode: In the appropriately-named "Starsky vs. Hutch," Hutch sleeps with Starsky's girlfriend, causing Starsky to be furious and upset for most of the rest of the episode. By the tag, they seem to have made up offscreen.
  • Find the Cure!: The episode "A Coffin for Starsky". The two-parter "The Plague" also qualifies, especially the second part.
  • Fixing the Game: In "The Omaha Tiger," Huggy Bear runs mouse races. He gives the winner of each race a piece of cheese, and the extra weight causes it to come in last during the next.
    Huggy Bear: And that's how I fix- how I set the odds.
  • Flatline: After being critically injured in the series finale, Starsky has one of these. Resuscitation attempts fail and the doctor is about to call it... until Hutch races in and Starsky's heart starts beating again.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: In "The Game," Hutch gets botulism from a can of soup. By the time Starsky realizes what has happened, Hutch has gone into hiding for the weekend as part of an elaborate hide-and-seek game. Starsky frantically searches for him and finally finds him just as he is starting to fall seriously ill.
  • Founding Day: After a bribe attempt in "Bust Amboy," which aired in the fall of 1976, Starsky remarks, "You know, I think this is gonna be our first bicentennial bribery offer."
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Starsky: Sanguine/Choleric
    • Hutch: Melancholic/Phlegmatic
    • Dobey: Choleric/Melancholic
    • Huggy: Phlegmatic/Sanguine
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: Almost every episode ends on one.
  • A Friend in Need: Both protagonists are willing to go out of their own ways to help each other when one of them is shot, poisoned, or even framed for murder.
  • Fruit Cart: Combined with cardboard boxes in Bust Amboy. A hearse the guys are chasing smashes into a fruit stand; a moment later, the Torino drives through the boxes scattered on the ground.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Hutch uses one to knock out some of the Satanists in "Satan's Witches."
  • Fur and Loathing: Hutch's thieving ex-wife shows up in a white fur coat.
  • The Gambler: Hutch's mentor Luke Huntley's wife Doris started gambling out of loneliness and boredom while her husband was at work. Over the years, she gambled away their life savings, then put herself $12,000 in debt.
  • Generic Cop Badges
  • Girl of the Week: They are both quite the ladykiller. Not literally, of course, although enough at times they verge on Cartwright Cursed.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Hutch has to do this after being shot up with heroin in "The Fix".
  • Going to the Store: In "Gillian," Starsky is trying to hide the fact that Hutch's titular girlfriend is a prostitute. When he goes to meet her, he tells Hutch, "Tailor shop. I gotta fix up some tan flares."
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: The boys play this with great enthusiasm at the beginning of "The Shootout".
    • Played with and then lampshaded in the pilot, when Hutch tells Fat Rolly that he and Starsky don't do this formula, with both being "bad" cops. Cue Starsky looking at them in disbelief.
  • Gotta Get Your Head Together: Joe Collins from "The Psychic" does this when he uses his powers.
  • The Grinch: Hutch spends the Christmas Episode complaining about the "phony wave of euphoric sentimentalism orchestrated by the clanging of cash registers."
  • Guys Are Slobs: Hutch sometimes leaves quite a mess in his LTD.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Vampire," in which a serial killer strangles women, then punctures their necks and steals some of their blood. Starsky reads books on vampires and buys garlic necklaces for himself and Hutch, who thinks the whole idea of vampires is ridiculous.
  • Hand Cannon: Hutch's weapon of choice is a .357 Magnum.
  • A Handful for an Eye: While fighting with a cultist in "Bloodbath," Starsky grabs a handful of sand off the ground and throws it in his face.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Mrs. Carston from "The Trap" is "one of those liberated mothers" who refuses to discipline her daughter in any way even when she shoplifts from a jewelry store.
    Mrs. Carston: Oh, it's that old klepto phase again. I mean, she'll get over it
    Hutch: Excuse me, ma'am, but don't you think that's a rather casual approach to take?
    Mrs. Carston: Oh, pooh. I don't believe in that old school of discipline. Stifles their creativity.… Listen, boys, I'll have a good talk with her about this. But I'm certainly not gonna punish her over something as trivial as a cigarette lighter. I mean, she has a very sensitive psyche.
  • Happier Home Movie: In "The Set-Up," a brainwashed assassin with Fake Memories watches videos of himself and his "wife," not knowing they were faked.
  • Hash House Lingo: In "The Specialist," Starsky and Hutch both order medium rare steak with plain baked potatoes. The waitress says, "Okay, that's two T's bleeding slightly on a raft. Two Irish plums and hold the fat."
  • Headbutt of Love: In "Shootout", while Starsky is bleeding out from a gunshot wound and Hutch is about to go pull a risky manoeuvre to get them out of their hostage situation, Hutch silently presses his forehead to Starsky's just before he leaves.
  • Heal It with Booze: In "Deckwatch," a Serial Killer is shot in the leg by his latest victim. Afterwards, he hides out under a bridge, pouring whiskey over the wound.
  • Heat Wave: "Death in a Different Place" takes place during one. After the heat causes the Torino to break down in the same spot for the third day in a row, the guys use Hutch's car for the rest of the episode.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners
    • Playfully and frequently dances the line, as the duo is famously known to be very...affectionate towards each other. The duo were called "Prime-time Homos" frequently during the show's run.
    • There's a reason why the actors are always asked if Starsky and Hutch were supposed to be a romantic duo. Those were never answered, and they would frequently drop conflicting hints towards each side.
      • It's no accident that the show has had a huge amount of slash fiction written about it, rivaling the Kirk/Spock fics of the 70's to present.
      • It didn't help matters that during outtakes Paul and/or Dave would kiss each other if one (or both of them) forgot lines.
  • Hidden Wire: Starsky tries wearing one in "Foxy Lady," but the criminals he's meeting guess he's wearing one and make him remove it.
  • Holding Hands: In "A Coffin For Starsky", when Starsky is facing the fact that he might die from his poisoning, he tells Hutch "If this were a cowboy movie, I'd give you my boots," and then holds hands with him across their shared desk. In the middle of the precinct. Also, technically, in "The Plague Part 2", when Starsky visits Hutch in his isolation room and holds his hand through chest pains.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Starsky's attempts at singing usually sound like this, although he manages to sing on key in "The Avenger."
  • Hollywood Satanism: The Satanists from "Satan's Witches" wear hooded robes, paint pentagrams with extremely fake-looking blood, kidnap a sheriff's daughter to be "forever wed to Satan," and march in circles chanting "Hail Satan! Dominus Satanis!"
  • Hollywood Voodoo: "Starsky and Hutch on Playboy Island", complete with voodoo dolls of the guys.
  • Homosocial Heterosexuality: In "Starsky vs. Hutch," Hutch sleeps with Starsky's girlfriend, Kira, and the two of them later come to blows over it. Kira yells at them to stop fighting over her, but they aren't; they're fighting over Hutch's betrayal.
  • Honey Trap:
    • "Tap Dancing Her Way Right Back Into Your Hearts" involves a dance studio whose employees are seducing and then blackmailing wealthy married clients. Hutch reverses the trap, going undercover as a client and sleeping with one of the blackmailers to get them to incriminate themselves.
    • In "I Love You, Rosey Malone," Starsky romances the daughter of a mobster in a bid to get information. However, he falls in love with her just as hard as she falls for him, and he winds up disgusted with himself.
    • In "Ballad For A Blue Lady", Hutch is sent undercover to honey trap the sister of a man wrapped up with the mob into testifying. Hutch becomes genuinely sympathetic to her and begins to like her, she finds out it was a setup, refuses to testify, and her brother gets killed.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The title character of "Gillian"; minor character Sweet Alice also seems to be one of these.
  • How Many Fingers?: When Hutch has a concussion, Starsky holds up two fingers and says, "How many fingers do I got up?" Hutch answers, "One."
  • How Unscientific!: "The Psychic" involves, well, a psychic, and "Murder on Voodoo Island" involves Hollywood Voodoo.
  • Huddle Power: Starsky forms a huddle with two other detectives in "The Game" while discussing his plan to find Hutch.
  • Hurt Foot Hop:
    • Starsky does this in "Foxy Lady" after kicking a trash can.
    • In "Starsky vs. Hutch," a girl Starsky is dancing with hops up and down after he accidentally steps on her foot.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: In the tag of "Starsky's Brother," Nick Starsky plays pool right-handed, losing to Hutch and Huggy. He tricks Hutch into betting twenty dollars against him, then announces that he's actually left-handed.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: When a henchman in "Targets Without a Badge" reports that one of his coworkers thinks surveilling Starsky and Hutch is a poor use of their resources, his boss answers, "Soldier isn't paid to think."
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: In the pilot, two killers are after the heroes — but several people who should know, including an Affably Evil mob boss, assure them that these hit men can't be the ones trying to kill them, or they'd be dead by now. This turns out to be key. The hit men already killed their actual target, and are making it seem they're after Starsky and Hutch instead in order to conceal their client's motive for the real killing.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: In "The Committee," Starsky is trying to infiltrate a group of murderous vigilante cops. As his initiation ritual they tell him to kill a slimy defense lawyer; Starsky just grabs him and runs.
  • The Illegal: "Velvet Jungle" involves an immigration ring that brings people in from Mexico, puts them to work in the garment industry, then forces them to give up half their paychecks.
  • Impairment Shot:
    • When Hutch is under the influence of an incapacitating drug in "Murder Ward," a shot from his point of view is blurred around the edges.
    • In "The Plague," a Professional Killer who has fallen ill has blurry vision, preventing him from aiming properly.
    • In "Quadromania," Starsky's head is smashed into a taxi window. His vision is blurred for the rest of the scene.
    • Hutch has blurry vision when he has botulism in "The Game."
    • Starsky has triple vision, then sextuple vision, after drinking drugged tea in "The Avenger."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The villains mostly have terrible aim. When anyone starts shooting at Starsky and Hutch, they almost always miss, no matter how easy the shot is.
  • Insignia Ripoff Ritual: In the first part of "Targets Without a Badge," our burned-out heroes decide to quit the police force after the death of a witness they were protecting; this leads to a dramatic freeze-frame shot of them throwing their badges into the ocean.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Internal Affairs: Unsurprisingly played dead straight, with the Internal Affairs officers being presented as unreasonable and unlikable bastards for wanting one of our heroes arrested after his ex-wife is shot dead with his gun and stolen property is found in his car. More unusually, in another episode the head of Internal Affairs is actually leading a ring of vigilante cops (although he had been viewed as a good guy whom the heroes respected before his vigilante actions were revealed).
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In "Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty," the guys disguise themselves as janitors while they search the office of a man they suspect of framing them for police brutality.
  • Jive Turkey: Huggy Bear
  • Key Under the Doormat: For reasons best known to himself, Hutch insists on keeping one on top of the door.
  • Knowledge Broker: Starsky and Hutch were always going to Huggy Bear for the "word on the street."
  • Language Barrier: In "Death Notice," an elderly immigrant overhears two people plotting to murder a stripper. Unfortunately, his extremely poor English makes his attempts at warning the girls sound like death threats, and when he tries to explain himself to the police, he says that he wrote the messages because of "the voices," making him sound like a murderous schizophrenic.
  • Last-Name Basis: Or abbreviations thereof ("Hutch", "Starsk").
  • Locked in a Freezer: In "The Omaha Tiger," Starsky and Hutch are locked into an airtight chamber. While Hutch pulls out a pencil and paper to work out how much time they have before they suffocate, Starsky loads everything he can find onto a cart to use it as a battering ram. He smashes through the door just as Hutch finishes calculating that they would have had about 185 hours.
  • Loony Fan: Jerry Tabor from "A Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road" used to run a radio station, where he played the same country record over and over again in the hopes that the singer would notice him and help him become a famous singer himself. Eventually someone got mad about it and stabbed him in the throat, causing him to lose his voice and his job. He gets revenge by calling her and demanding money, then killing random people when she doesn't pay up.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Abby in "Vendetta".
  • Love Triangle: A brief but painful example in "Starsky vs. Hutch", which is eventually resolved when the guys tell the woman in question that if she wants either of them, she'll have to take both.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Matwick from "Murder Ward" has invented a drug that inhibits a patient's behavior more and more as the patient becomes violent. Four of the patients he tested it on died of respiratory failure.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: People who try to testify against the corrupt Judge McClellan in "Targets Without a Badge" tend to die in freak accidents. One witness slipped on a banana peel and fell on a kitchen knife. Another had a color TV fall on him from a third-story window.
  • Malaproper: Starsky does this occasionally, for example, pronouncing "hippopotamus" as "hoppopitamus." Hutch usually makes fun of him for it.
  • Manly Tears: Both guys tend to do this on occasion, especially if one is worried for the other's safety. Most notably in "Gillian" when Hutch cries in Starsky's arms when he finds Gillian dead and in "Bloodbath" when they both cry in each other's arms after Hutch rescues Starsky from a murderous cult.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: Hutch isn't strictly a vegetarian, but his preferences for soybean and health shakes frequently clash with Starsky's for burritos and junk food.
    Hutch: You know something, Starsk? When they do your autopsy they're gonna find a petrified beef burrito.
    Starsky: *grinning* With onions.
  • Mind-Control Conspiracy: Commander Jim from "Lady Blue" believes brain rays from Alpha Centauri are torturing him and mind-controlling him into murdering people.
  • Miranda Rights: In one episode, Hutch is Mirandizing a man whom he and Starsky caught in the process of raping a bruised and struggling woman, but as soon as he says "You have the right to remain silent," the man, instead of keeping his trap shut, interrupts by yelling, "Aw, c'mon, I was just trying to have a little fun! She came with me for kicks!" Hutch stubbornly keeps Mirandizing with "If you waive your right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you," but it's not much help to the rapist anymore.
  • Mommy Issues: Seems to be the motivation of the killer in "The Las Vegas Strangler".
  • MRS Degree: One of the murder victims in the pilot is a nineteen-year-old girl who was studying pre-law in the hopes of snagging a lawyer.
  • Murder by Mistake: The pilot is set up as this, with a hit on Starsky mistakenly taking out an innocent couple with an identical car; it develops that they actually were the intended victims, with Starsky set up as a fake target to misdirect attention from the real motive.
  • Music Video Syndrome: "Huggy Can't Go Home" has a scene where Huggy wanders through the poor, crime-ridden neighborhood where he grew up while "Huggy Can't Go Back," a song written for the episode, plays in the background.
  • Name and Name
  • Nerdy Nasalness: Hutch speaks with a nasally voice while undercover as a dweeby fashion buyer in "The Groupie."
  • Never Suicide: Two mental patients who supposedly hanged themselves in "Murder Ward" were actually killed by an experimental drug.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Tap Dancing Her Way Right Back Into Your Hearts" focuses on a dance studio run by "Ginger Evans", a retired movie star who is fairly obviously a stand-in for Ginger Rogers. (At one point in the episode, Hutch mentions "Frank Astaire"; it's unclear whether he's playing dumb or whether it's a continuation of the joke.)
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The show's fictional setting of "Bay City" is a fairly obvious stand-in for Los Angeles, where the show was filmed.
  • Non-Answer: In "Deckwatch," Hutch's ex-girlfriend Laura tells a man who is holding her and her grandmother hostage that Hutch is her brother. When the man asks what his eye color is, Laura answers, "Blue. With a greenish tint. Brown, sometimes. They get darker."
  • No One Should Survive That: The final episode has Starsky being shot in the chest at least three times by hitmen with automatic weapons; he's taken to the hospital, where he's revealed to be weak but have miraculously survived (he does code out at one point during the recovery process, but revives when Hutch comes running in).
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Starsky's teenage Stalker with a Crush runs into the police station near the end of "Ninety Pounds of Trouble" to tell him that Hutch's cover has been blown. He doesn't believe her, since she's always making up fake crimes as an excuse to talk to him, and it takes her a minute to persuade him to check if she's telling the truth.
  • Odd Couple: Not so odd as all that, but their tastes in cars, food, and vacation spots do fall at opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • Off on a Technicality: In "Bust Amboy," Starsky and Hutch arrest the drug lord Amboy and seize thousands of dollars in drug money, only to find that their warrant was invalid because they crossed a county line in the preceding Car Chase.
  • Oh, Cisco!: Most of the tags fall into this category, occasionally lapsing into End-of-Episode Silliness — sometimes to jarring effect in the darker episodes.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Huggy Bear's last name is revealed to be Brown in "Huggy Bear and the Turkey," but his real first name is never mentioned in any episode.
  • Orphaned Setup: In "Shootout," two Professional Killers take the patrons of an Italian restaurant hostage so they can kill a gangland boss when he arrives later that night. One of the killers tells one of the patrons, a third-rate comedian, to tell a joke. He starts with "There's this bunch of gangsters, you see? They're hanging-" but his assistant interrupts with "Are you trying to get us killed?"
  • Outside Ride: The climax of "A Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road" has both guys clinging to the outside of the Torino, which the villain is trying to use as his getaway vehicle.
  • Parental Abandonment: Starsky's father was murdered when he was a kid. His mother is still alive, but various comments seem to imply that he was sent to California without her while still fairly young.
  • Parking Garage: The bad guys in the final story arc make three separate attempts at killing our heroes in various parking garages.
  • Performance Anxiety: Hutch can pull off the most embarrassing undercover roles without a hitch or a stammer, but put him in front of an audience in his own identity and he freezes up.
  • Pet's Homage Name: One of Huggy Bear's racing mice is named Cheesebiscuit.
  • Pie in the Face: Hutch's ex-girlfriend aims one at Hutch at the end of "Deckwatch", but he ducks and poor Starsky gets hit instead.
  • Pimp Duds: Huggy Bear (although he wasn't a pimp).
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: A porn film Gillian starred in uses this plot, with her "paying" a TV repairman.
  • The Plague: In, uh, "The Plague". Hutch is one of the victims, and Starsky tears the city apart looking for a potential cure.
  • Plea Bargain: In "JoJo," the titular rapist gets off scot free in exchange for information about the drug lord he works for.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: In "Nightmare," a rapist who is out on bail goes to a Loan Shark to whom he owes money. The shark beats him up, mostly so he can pin it on Starsky and Hutch to get them off the rapist's back, but partly because he's angry at him for not paying him back.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Huggy Bear and the Turkey," in which Huggy and his white, Southern friend J. D. "Turkey" Turquet go into business as private detectives.
  • Pop the Tires: In "The Hostages," Starsky rescues a man who's being forced to collect money for robbers by shooting the tires of the armored car he's driving.
  • Porn Stache: Hutch wore one for the entire fourth and final season.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: In-universe example. Starsky's mechanic calls him and Hutch "Starskinson."
  • Precocious Crush: Joey Carston, an adolescent girl, develops a crush on Starsky when he busts her for shoplifting, leading her to stow away in the back of the Torino. She returns a season later and tries to hit on Starsky while he's undercover, blowing his cover and almost getting him killed.
  • Pregnant Hostage: In "The Hostages," a woman is kidnapped and held hostage shortly after finding she's pregnant. To make matters worse, she's already lost one baby, so she needs to be extra careful this time around.
  • Previously on…: The second parts of "The Set-Up" and "The Plague" and the last two parts of "Targets Without a Badge" open this way.
  • Produce Pelting: When a heel walks into an arena in "The Golden Angel," the audience boos and throws lettuce at him.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "The Omaha Tiger," in which Starsky and Hutch investigate a series of suspicious deaths at a wrestling arena, and "The Golden Angel," in which a wrestler is shot in the arm while training, requiring Starsky to go undercover as a wrestler.
  • Psychic Powers: Joe Collins from "The Psychic." By the time the episode begins, his powers have caused him so many miserable experiences that he's stopped talking about them and mostly stopped using them. Starsky and Hutch have to talk him into using them to help save a kidnapped girl.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Played straight in "Death in a Different Place", for one.
  • Quirky Curls: Starsky's exuberant mop of dark '70s style curls, matching his irrepressibly cheerful, enthusiastic, sometimes-ditzy personality. In one episode he teases them out to be even quirkier than usual when he goes undercover as a patient at a mental hospital.
  • Ransom Drop: Hutch participates in one in "The Psychic," running from one public telephone to another. At one point he encounters two thieves in an alley and has to fight them to get past, attracting the notice of two other cops. The kidnappers see them parked outside the building Hutch is in and assume he's called them.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: After a college student is raped in "Strange Justice," she stares into space with tears pouring down her face, not responding to anything. Starsky later mentions that she's in the "psycho ward."
  • Real Time: Most of "The Shootout" and "Deckwatch".
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Three times: Lalo Schifrin's was replaced by Tom Scott's, which got replaced by Mark Snow's, which in turn got replaced by a rearranged version of Tom Scott's. Got that? (You can hear each one - plus the very different theme song used in France - here.)
  • Revealing Cover-Up: The pilot.
  • Revenge by Proxy: To get back at Starsky for indirectly causing the death of his son, George Prudholm kills random cops in "Pariah" and Starsky's girlfriend in "Starsky's Lady."
  • Reverse Arm-Fold: Starsky stands like this sometimes.
  • Right Behind Me: While talking about the snobby Russian ballet dancer they're bodyguarding, Hutch grumbles to Starsky, "She'll be asleep. At least I won't have to listen to her talk." Then they both turn around to see her standing behind them.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: In "Kill Huggy Bear," a small-time crook robs a candy store and then discovers it's a front for the mob. He immediately panics and tries to give the money back, using Huggy Bear as a go-between. Naturally things don't go as planned.
  • Rockstar Parking: There always seems to be a spot for the Torino directly in front of the police station.
  • Romantic Candlelit Dinner: technically YMMV on the 'romantic' part, but the tag scene of "Lady Blue" involves Hutch setting up a candlelit, sunset dinner for Starsky after a rough case - including cooking Starsky's favourite dinner, which he telephoned Starsky's mother to get the recipe for.
  • Running Gag: People constantly mix up which one of the duo is which. Even the commercials got into the act:
    Narrator: *over a shot of Hutch* Starsky!
    Narrator: *over a shot of Starsky* Hutch!
    Starsky: *exasperated* I'm Starsky, he's Hutch!
  • Running into the Window: Hutch walks into a sliding glass door in "A Body Worth Guarding" while checking out a hotel room.
  • Scam Religion: One character in "Terror on the Docks" capitalizes on the occultism craze of the mid-'70s by founding his own version of Hollywood Satanism, complete with statues of Egyptian gods, a goat mask that distorts his voice, and even a plastic skull that plays creepy organ music when Starsky picks it up.
    Ezra: Listen, I laugh all the way to the bank. Demonology and devil-worship, man. That's the newest fad. It's legal and tax-deductible. These nuts and kooks all want to be sorcerers and pay for the privilege.
  • The Scapegoat: In "A Body Worth Guarding," the Fascist Party of America plans to murder a Russian ballerina so they can pin it on the Jewish Organization for Action, who were protesting the treatment of the Russian Jews.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Phony Psychic Madame Yram chose her name because she doesn't think anyone would take a psychic named Mary Polanski seriously.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In the first scene of "Vendetta," a man is beaten with a baseball bat. His attacker swings the bat right at the camera.
  • Self-Offense: In "The Las Vegas Strangler," Starsky and Hutch are fighting Starsky's Girl of the Week's vengeful ex-husband in a swimming pool. At one point Hutch gets confused, pushes Starsky away from the man, hauls him out of the water, and almost punches him before he realizes his mistake.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of "Huggy Bear and the Turkey," the titular characters agree to help a man search for a missing gold piece worth $3000.
  • Shoot Your Mate: When Starsky's cover is blown in "Ninety Pounds of Trouble," Hutch is ordered to kill him. As Starsky's walking down a sidewalk, Hutch shoots him in the stomach with a blank, then walks away while Starsky plays dead.
  • Shower Scene: Hutch has one in his first five minutes on screen (followed soon thereafter by two separate scenes in which both stars wear only towels; let no one say this show didn't deliver on the fanservice).
  • Signature Team Transport: The Striped Tomato.
  • Single Mom Stripper: One of these is Starsky's love interest in the two-parter "The Las Vegas Strangler." Surprisingly enough, she makes it out of the episode alive.
  • Sleeping Dummy: In "Murder Ward," Starsky goes undercover as a mental patient. When he leaves his room to snoop around, he leaves two pillows under the blanket.
  • Slipping a Mickey: In "Discomania," a Serial Killer does this to a female cop who's trying to catch him.
  • Soap Within a Show: One of the villains of "Huggy Can't Go Home" is a fan of one.
    Announcer: The previous segment of The Disenchanted found Phil and Mary leaving for Montego Bay on what they hope to be a rescue mission for their splintered marriage. Shaun, meanwhile, remains in Lakefield, desperately attempting to persuade Rebecca to consider an abortion, little aware she is carrying the child of…
  • Soft Glass: The windows in Bay City are absurdly fragile. In "Lady Blue," Starsky breaks a window by gently tapping it with his gun, and in "Murder Ward," Hutch shatters a window with his elbow.
  • Special Guest: Lynn Anderson, best known for her 1970 hit "Rose Garden," guest stars in "A Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road" as country singer Sue Ann Grainger.
  • Spectator Casualty: In "Blindfold," Starsky accidentally hits a young woman who runs into his line of fire during a shootout, temporarily blinding her.
  • Split Personality: The villain of "The Avenger" is a woman with DID whose male alter keeps murdering her one night stands.
  • Stealing from the Till: Huggy Bear is happy to let his employees get away with this, as long as they aren't too obvious about it.
  • Stocking Mask: The guy who poisons Starsky in "A Coffin for Starsky" is wearing one.
  • Stuffed Into A Trash Can: The abusive mother in "The Crying Child" leaves her eight-year-old son in a trash can in the shed after she beats him.
  • Suicide by Cop: It is implied that this is what George Prudholm ultimately wants; Starsky refuses to participate.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Not actually invoked, but contemplated; Paul Michael Glaser was increasingly unhappy doing the show, and the characters of Officer Linda Baylor and Nick Starsky (Starsky's younger brother) were created as potential replacements for him.
  • The Syndicate: James Gunther is the leader of a vast criminal organization with its fingers in almost every government agency whose members include federal judges.
  • Talent Double: During the scenes where Anna is dancing in "A Body Worth Guarding," she is clearly played by a different actress.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Terry, Gillian, we hardly knew ye.
  • This Is Reality: A character in "The Committee" grumbles, "You take those shows on TV. The good guys always win. But that ain't the way it happens. That ain't the way it happens at all."
  • Throwing the Distraction: During the climax of "The Committee," Starsky throws his pet rock away to distract one of the villains. Once everyone has been arrested, he runs back to look for it.
  • Tinfoil Hat: Commander Jim from "Lady Blue" takes this trope farther than most. Not only does he wear aluminum foil under all his clothes, he also decorates his entire apartment with it, even wrapping it around his desk lamps.
  • To Be Continued: The first halves of "The Las Vegas Strangler," "The Set-Up," and "The Plague" and the first two parts of "Targets Without a Badge" end this way.
  • Tomboyish Name: Molly "Pete" Edwards from "Little Girl Lost" and Joey Carston from "The Trap," both played by Kristy McNichol.
  • Tranquil Fury: Generally speaking, the calmer Starsky looks, the more worried you should be.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe example. In "Photo Finish," Starsky asks an art collector about a piece that looks like two tin cans fused together.
    Starsky: What is that?
    Monk: Garbage. What does it look like?
    Starsky: How much did that piece of garbage set you back?
    Monk: My dear wife paid twenty thousand.
    Starsky: Twenty thousand's quite a lot.
  • Tuneless Song of Madness: In "Lady Blue," a woman's mind is destroyed by a "narco-hallucinogenic highball" and she's reduced to singing "I know where my head is at, won't somebody find my body?" over and over again.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Both guys tend to do this a lot.
  • Unwilling Suspension: In "Bloodbath," cultists suspend Starsky by his wrists so they can sacrifice him.
  • Vapor Wear: Many female characters are clearly not wearing bras, as was fashionable in the 1970s.
  • Vehicular Kidnapping:
    • The cultists from "Bloodbath" kidnap Starsky using a black van with curtained windows.
    • In "The Psychic," three men kidnap a teenage girl in a blue van and hold her for ransom. They don't have any intention of giving her back even if they get the money, so they leave her Bound and Gagged in another van in a junkyard.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: In "Fatal Charm," Starsky gets his arm stuck up a vending machine that ate his dime. Hutch has to pull him loose.
  • [Verb] This!: In "Moonshine," Starsky tells a group of moonshiners, "You're under arrest." One of them fires into the air and says, "Arrest this!"
  • Very Special Episode: Various episodes featured issues like rape, drugs, racism, and homophobia, but "The Crying Child", which dealt with child abuse, was particularly Anvilicious.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: "The Las Vegas Strangler," in which the guys go to Vegas to investigate a serial killer who authorities think is Hutch's Beleaguered Childhood Friend.
  • When All You Have is a Hammer…: What's the point of having a Cool Car if you don't have a car chase every single episode?
  • While You Were in Diapers: Dirty Cop Iron Mike says, "I was busting scum in this division when you two were still playing patty-cake."
  • Whodunnit to Me?: In "A Coffin for Starsky," Starsky and Hutch have one day to find out who poisoned Starsky before he dies.
  • Wicked Cultured: The show is full of evil rich people who wear suits, work in paneled offices, read classic literature, eat caviar, and listen to classical music.
  • Witness Protection: In "Targets Without a Badge," Starsky meets a woman who seems oddly familiar; it turns out that she's a friend from childhood, supposedly dead in a car crash, who had actually gone into witness protection with her parents.
  • Woman Scorned / Yandere: Hutch's girlfriend in "Fatal Charm" turns out to be violently possessive, culminating in a murder attempt.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: When Hutch is wrongly charged with murdering his ex-wife, Starsky is ordered to bring him in. However, in the middle of arresting him, Starsky instead handcuffs the accompanying officer to a table and effectively kidnaps Hutch to track down the real killer, probably exposing himself to more serious obstruction charges than Hutch.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Dobey calls Starsky "Dave" when he's been poisoned and has less than 24 hours to live. Starsky and Hutch crack jokes about the lengths required to get a first name out of him.
  • You Killed My Father: Helen from "Murder at Sea" is willing to sneak aboard a cruise ship she knows is crawling with crime lords in order to avenge her father, a union leader who was murdered while she was in college.
  • Your Favorite: In "Lady Blue," which revolves around the murder of Starsky's ex-girlfriend, Hutch makes him his favorite meal as comfort food, having called his mother to get the recipe.