The Streets of San Francisco opening credits
More Streets of San Francisco clips @ YouTube
It's pHinnWeb's Couch Potato Time again! Nelonen, Finland's channel 4, has now shown almost the entire run of The Streets of San Francisco, an American cop show made from 1972 to 1977, based on the characters in Carolyn Weston's detective novel Poor, Poor Ophelia. Starring the old potato-nose Karl Malden as a no-nonsense, hard-driving but humane old-school cop called Mike Stone, and then-a-newcomer Michael Douglas as his youthful, more hip and educated partner and apprentice Steve Keller, this generation-joining combination was a sure-fire hit for TV ratings, and only flopped when Douglas, who wanted to concentrate on his career as a movie producer and film actor, was replaced in the last season by Richard Hatch (best known these days from Battlestar Galactica).
A lot of the series' charm lies in nostalgia, of course, from the rapid-fire-edit opening credits with its groovy blaxploitation wah-wah guitar-laden jazzy theme music and the pompous voiceovers (an emphatically masculine narrator announcing "A Quinn Martin Production!" and presenting the dramatis personæ and tonight's guest stars) you just don't hear any more these days; to the Zeitgeist and styles of the post-hippie Bay Area when even the "squares" had decided to let their hair down a bit: bushy haircuts, thick sideburns, flared trousers, wide ties and tight shirts, afros, belated hippie chicks, garish colours and naturally some unforgettable ocean liner-size pre-oil crisis Yankee cars. Not to mention the memorable San Fran scenery with its steep hills (ideal for car chase scenes, as we already learned from Steve McQueen's Bullitt in 1968) and Victorian architecture.
Part of the fun was spotting in the show many familiar faces of silver screen and TV, both past or future: Leslie "The Naked Gun" Nielsen, James Woods, Nick Nolte, Mark "Star Wars" Hamill, Sam Jaffe, Stefanie Powers, Martin Sheen, Tom "Happy Days" Bosley, Tom "Magnum P.I." Selleck, Larry "Dallas" Hagman, Paul Michael "Starsky & Hutch" Glaser, Joe Spano and James B. Sikking (both Hill Street Blues), Bill "Hulk" Bixby, Meg Foster... even pre-fame Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Though the years passed might have added some unintentional humor as to the show's looks, the tone of the series was far from camp. The detective pair Stone & Keller of Patrol Car 81 solved week after week crime cases involving the whole gamut of social scene: from the derelict areas of winos, youth gangs, prostitutes, runaway kids and drug dealers to the secluded world of the well-to-do, the rich, the celebrities and your usual bunch of greedy businessmen getting rid of their rivals by way of murder. Social agenda was high on the list when several storylines (many of them quite well-written in comparison to the more fluffy cop show fare) concentrated on the hapless murderers who ended up killing not by their innate evil but by some unfortunate circumstances caused by poverty and other social injustices.
Rather than being simply happy blowing the bad guy away in the climax, Stone and Keller always understood they had to deal with far more complicated causes and effects inevitably leading to tragedy; even though in most epilogues (adding to the series' charming old-fashioned style, each episode was divided into four "acts" and an epilogue) they left for home cracking ham-fisted jokes after having solved the case; Stone probably heading afterwards for a well-deserved snack of junk food and Keller to a football match with another foxy girlfriend of his. Vintage!