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Series / T.J. Hooker

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"But Hooker's a Good Cop!"
MST3K catchphrase used during policeman argument scenes.

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 serve up 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:

  • Almighty Janitor: Hooker himself. He took a voluntary demotion to uniformed officer so he can patrol the streets and help younger officers along. Even his fellow Sgts often come to Hooker for advice.
  • Amnesia Danger: Stacy in "Nightmare".
  • 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 "The Decoy", Hooker goes to Circus Burger as many times as possible, hoping to get enough stamps to win a prize for his daughter. Romano complains about it incessantly and insists that if they win any prize other than the bike, he gets it. The prize they win turns out to be five dozen burgers.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Taken absolutely literally, with a bus full of nuns no less, in "The Streets." The villain of the week hijacks the bus to escape with his hostage and Hooker has to jump on.
  • Cartwright Curse: Jim Corrigan often has an ex-lover who ends up somehow connected with the bad guys and is either arrested or killed.
  • Chase Scene: And plenty of them.
  • Chewing the Scenery: It's a show starring William Shatner, of COURSE it has it! Bonus points for how Hooker angrily declares perps to be "SCUM!" and "MAGGOTS!"
  • Christmas Episode: "Slay Ride".
  • 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 "Los Angeles County Police Department" (This is presumably due to the fact that the real LAPD wouldn't allow them to use their name and insignias or because it allowed more story-telling flexibility—the writers were not tied to real LAPD policies and procedures).
  • Cruel Mercy: In "The Connection", Hooker and Romano chase down a PCP cooker who has been responsible for the near-death of a teenage girl and one of the probationary officers. When the guy crashes into the water, Hooker rescues him because he thinks seeing him pay for his actions would be more satisfying than seeing him drown.
  • Da Chief: Captain Sheridan, who acts both as Reasonable Authority Figure and Obstructive Bureaucrat depending on the episode.
  • 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.
    • In "Hollywood Starr," Detective Dani Starr (Sharon Stone) puts on her "flashiest streetwalking outfit" for a stakeout on Hollywood Boulevard.
  • Disco Dan: A lot of the humor is the culture clash between middle aged Hooker and his younger partner Romano. Hooker has old fashioned tastes in music even for a man his age.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Hooker is surprised when his long-retired detective father keeps getting involved in a case of some store robberies, including getting secret information on them. In a showdown, the senior Hooker takes a shotgun blast before Hooker kills the perp. Hooker had discovered his father was dying of cancer and wanted to solve one last big case and go out in a blaze of glory rather than wilt away in a hospital bed. Hooker tearfully holds his father who, as he wished, gets a lavish cop funeral and remembered as a hero.
  • '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.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In "God Bless the Child", one of the villains says he didn't want to hurt Jenny, but it was the only way to shut her up. He tells Hooker that he doesn't understand why she wouldn't play along with his drug-selling; she could have had anything she wanted.
  • Extra-Long Episode: "Blood Sport".
  • Fair Cop: Though Hooker and Corrigan might be a subversion, Stacy and Romano are both ridiculously good looking. Sharon Stone guest-starred as Detective Dani Starr in a Poorly-Disguised Pilot.
  • Fanservice: Virtually every female character. This is an Aaron Spelling production after all.
  • Getting High on Their Own Supply: When they bust the leader of a drug ring, Hooker and Romano shoot holes in a PCP container, getting the cooker sprayed with it as he tries to elude them. The guy drives toward and off the pier, much to Romano's disbelief. Hooker says that he's finding out what his customers go through.
  • Give Me a Reason: In "God Bless the Child", two drug-dealers take Hooker's teenage daughter hostage and threaten to shoot her. When he and Romano finally get the upper hand on them, Hooker snarls at the one he collared to resist arrest. The guy takes a long look at Hooker's face and wisely declines.
  • Heel–Face 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 Showtime and 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.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Gary Lockwood, who appears as DEA Agent Twill in "The Snow Game" and Sgt. Carey Dunston in "To Kill a Cop", previously worked with Shatner in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • 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?
  • Last-Name Basis: Hooker, to EVERYBODY, up to and including his ex-wife. Only one person ever called him T.J., a psychiatrist played by Henry Darrow in "A Cry For Help".
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Implied. Hooker is very protective of Stacy Sheridan. In "The Decoy", he tells her that the day she was born, her father was incommunicado on a mission, so he was the first person to hold her. Because of that (and her inexperience), he doesn't want her acting as bait for the Surfside Killer.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Vince Romano. Early episodes had quite a few scenes of Romano bare-chested. 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. Stacy herself chafed at the special treatment, and wanted to be treated like any other cop.
  • 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.
  • Old Friend: Almost every other episode has a cop Hooker has served with during his career and known for years. Half the time, Hooker has to clear their names or help them out of a jam and the other half, they've fallen on hard times or are full-on criminals themselves.
  • 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.
  • Pictorial Letter Substitution: The logo for the first and second seasons replaces the second 'o' in the title with a cross-hairs target.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Season 4's "Hollywood Starr" with Sharon Stone as a vice cop called Dani Starr.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: LCPD issues Smith & Wesson revolvers to the officers, though Sgt. Hooker carries a Colt Trooper on duty and he owns a .357 Magnum Dan Wesson revolver as an off duty firearm. In fact, Hooker bragged to a particularly evil perp about how he carried a .357 Magnum loaded with hollow point bullets, stating "they leave a six-inch hold going in...AND THE HOLLAND TUNNEL COMING OUT!"
  • 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
  • The Vietnam Vet: Interestingly, Romano served in Vietnam despite his youthful looks (He said he enlisted as a 16-year-old using a fake birth certificate). Adrian Zmed was actually born in 1954 meaning he could have still served in Vietnam, the last US soldiers leaving in 1975. According to the episode "The Assassin", Hooker also served in Vietnam as a paratrooper Sergeant as well, as it was revealed that he saved the titular villain's life in Vietnam.
  • Ugly Guy Hot Girlfriend: Hooker seems to romance a lot of women seemingly out of his league, including Lisa Hartman, Cristina Raines, Kristen Meadows and Michelle Phillips, to name a few.
  • 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.
  • Undercover Model: Stacy goes undercover as a model in "Model For Murder".
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: A Shatner specialty.
  • Work Off the Debt: In "Second Chance", Hooker catches the boy responsible for vandalizing Gino's store. The boy explains that he was mad because the man accused him of stealing without cause. Ultimately, he offers to pay using his allowance, but Gino apologizes for his reaction and instead makes a deal for him to work there to pay off the debt. Both of them are quite happy with the arrangement.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: During "Second Chance", Romano is trying to adopt out his cat, Rodney, who he can't keep at the barracks. At the end, Romano has finally found a new home for the cat...only for the new owner not to take "Rodney" immediately because she's had kittens and can't travel.