This police action series was produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, and ran on ABC from 1982 to 1986 and its last first run year as a CBS Late Night series. It started out as a Midseason Replacement, but proved popular enough after its first five episode run to be picked up for further seasons. It starred William Shatner as Sgt. T.J. Hooker, a former detective who had volunteered to teach at the police academy and go back out on the beat because of his absolute conviction in doing the right thing. Hooker is an extremely moral cop, whose reaction to something would often be passionately over the top (come on, it's William Shatner we're talking about here), to the point of almost becoming An Aesop.
Starring alongside Shatner was Adrian Zmed as his rookie partner, Vince Romano, and Heather Locklear as Stacy Sheridan, one of her earliest screen roles. James Darren joined in season 2 as a fellow police Sgt. Jim Corrigan, and the series had something of an Unexpected Format Change. Despite this, the series never lost its unique flavor, as Shatner always managed to deliver copious amounts of Ham and Cheese.
The series had a reputation for being unerringly Anvilicious. The plot of an episode usually revolved around a Villain of the Week who is doing something like dealing drugs or robbing old people. Sgt. Hooker would then deliver a sermon about this being the scourge of humanity, with his speech most likely involving the words "it's in our schools, it's getting mixed up with our kids". He would then launch a one-man crusade to "clean up" the streets.
While the series was set in an un-named city, and focused on the adventures of a completely fictional California police department, it looked and felt almost exactly like The City of Angels. In fact, the series had so many copious shots of streets which are clearly recognizable as Los Angeles suburbs, that the viewers would frequently be left wondering why the producers of the show couldn't just come out and admit it.
This series contains examples of:
- Bridge Bunnies: Stacy Sheridan. In the first season she is isolated to being on the desk back at the academy, and giving instructions to Hooker over the radio.
- Bound and Gagged: Stacy, several times.
- Buddy Cop Show: Eventually expanded to two sets of cop buddies.
- Burger Fool: In one episode, Hooker went to a fictional burger outlet as many times as possible, hoping to get enough stamps to win a prize for his daughter.
- Bus Full of Innocents: Taken absolutely literally, with a bus full of nuns no less, in "The Streets."
- Chase Scene: And plenty of them.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The character of Officer Vicky Taylor appeared on the front desk for the first half dozen or so episodes, before being quickly replaced by Stacy Sheridan.
- City with No Name: Many of Aaron Spelling's cop shows The Rookies, Starsky & Hutch are set in police agencies that resemble the Los Angeles Police Department, but are in unnamed cities. The police officers on T.J. Hooker wear shoulder patches of the "L.C.P.D.", which is said to stand for "Left Coast Police Department."
- Dark and Troubled Past: Both Sgt. Hooker and Sgt. Corrigan are introduced as characters who are still mourning the death of a former police partner. One episode even sees Hooker suffer a Flashback Nightmare of the day his former partner was killed.
- Dirty Harriet: One episode seen Officer Stacy Sheridan going undercover as a prostitute, with her partner Officer Corrigan acting the part of her pimp.
- '80s Hair: Of course.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Every single episode ends with one of these.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: The inevitable result of every Chase Scene is that at least one of the vehicles will spontaneously explode.
- Fair Cop: Though Hooker and Corrigan might be a subversion, Stacy and Romano are both ridiculously good looking.
- Fanservice: Virtually every female character. This is an Aaron Spelling production after all.
- HeelFace Turn: A typical ingredient in most of the episodes is that at least one of the villain characters is not really nasty but just "fell in with the wrong crowd". Hooker will convince them to help him infiltrate the gang, and the villain in question will be seen to be on the right path back to salvation by the end of the episode.
- Heroic Resolve: Sergeant Hooker is by no means a very fit cop. However, it is amazing how many times he manages to find the sudden energy required to jump on to the roof of a speeding bus on which some nuns are being held hostage, or to barge down a locked door and do a dramatic barrel roll into a room when lives are at stake.
- Parodied in a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Shatner (that week's host) jumped on the hood of a car and managed to hold on as the driver drove through a number of distant locations and time zones.
- Also parodied in Showtime.
- I Love The Eighties: Featured in I Love the Eighties Strikes Back! - 1982, along with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- Killer Cop: In "Blue Murder," Hooker and pals go after a pair of motorcycle cops who, under the supervision of a superior officer, execute criminals the law can't touch... Does This Remind You of Anything? Seriously, does it?
- Mr. Fanservice: Vince Romano. One episode has him going undercover as a male stripper, and compare his enthusiastic moves to Stacy's half-hearted dancingnote when she goes undercover not wearing much. Speaking of which...
- Ms. Fanservice: Stacy Sheridan (again). The producers of the series were always finding excuses to have her change out of her uniform and into "civilian clothing" of tight-fitting jeans/shorts/T-shirts.
- Nepotism: Stacy is frequently doted on and given preferential treatment by the boss, Captain Sheridan, who just happens to be her father.
- Obviously Evil: The crooks that Hooker chases have no shades of grey: they're evil in such blatantly obvious ways that they're almost like cartoon villains.
- Only Known By Their Nick Name: While Hooker has clearly got a first name, other characters always refer to him simply as "Hooker". The fourth episode of the first season tells us that his given name is in fact Thomas, but this is never mentioned ever again. Even his ex-wife only ever calls him by the name Hooker when she talks to him (of all people you'd expect her to call him Thomas, wouldn't you?).
- At the very beginning of the pilot, Shatner tells a group of recruits "TJ Hooker is the name, but do not lose any sleep wondering what the TJ stands for — as far as you're concerned my first name is SERGEANT!"
- Outside Ride: The trademark stunt of the show was Shatner clinging to the hood of a moving car, as seen in the opening credits. Parodied when Shatner hosted SNL and did a skit where Hooker spent weeks hanging on to the hood of a speeding car.
- Shout-Out: It's commonly considered that the initials "T.J." in Shatner's character name are a shout-out to the first two initials of his most famous character, James T. Kirk.
- More obviously, the episode guest starring Leonard Nimoy (better known as Star Trek's Mister Spock) features Hooker saying he has known Nimoy's character for "seventeen years". Since it had been 17 years since the first broadcast of Star Trek at the time of the episode, this is almost certainly a Shout-Out.
- Society Marches On: The pilot begins with Hooker ranting about the streets are a war zone; today, crime has dropped significantly from the 1980s and far more than is popularly supposed.
- Strictly Formula
- Uncancelled/Channel Hop: After Season Four ABC cancelled the series. CBS picked up the series and aired a fifth season of new episodes in a latenight 11:30 slot.
- Unexpected Genre Change: In its first season, the show was about Hooker and Romano taking to the streets and fighting crime. In the second and subsequent seasons, the main cast expanded to four (with Stacy and Sgt. Corrigan making up "team 2"), with the two separate teams sometimes investigating two completely different crimes, and other times investigating the same one but from different angles. Not quite a complete "genre change", but it certainly gave the series' format a larger scope that it had before.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: A Shatner specialty.