THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Air Date: 1984
U.S. Rating: NR
Canadian Rating: NR
Total Set Length: 953 minutes
Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.33:1 full screen
Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $39.98
Release Date: NOW
Show Rating: /
Starring: Fred Dryer (Det. Sgt. Rick Hunter), Stapfanie Kramer (Det. Sgt. Dee Dee McCall), Michael Cavanaugh (Capt. Lester Cain)
Guest Stars: Dennis Franz, Brian Dennehy, Dennis Farina, Bo Svenson, Joanna Kerns, Ed O’Neill
Directed by: Ron Satlof
Writing: Frank Lupo
Diving further into Stephen Cannell Productions, Hunter: The Complete First Season is the latest of the releases offered by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Hunter is one of the many 300+ television shows Cannell has contributed to with Hunter falling in place nearly 20 years after he first started writing for television. Airing seven years before recent DVD releases such as The Commish, 21 Jump Street, and Silk Stalkings, Hunter found its place on the NBC network until 1991.
Rick Hunter plays by his own rules in the Police Department. After some internal restructuring of the force to eliminate the war zone-like tactics by L.A. police, Hunter continues to routinely bag pimps, pushers, creeps and killers without firing warning shots. His ruthless tactics made him a man of three personalities: judge, jury, and executioner. He’s always given the short end of the stick; his police car sucks – it’s always a beater with doors that don’t open, exploding exhaust pipes and looks like it came from a scrap yard. It almost seems like some people in the force are always trying to give him the lower hand so he can fail. Or are they? Some on the force are sceptical of Hunter’s personality because of his background. His father and uncles were notorious for their involvement in the underground and have been jailed for their crimes. The question is whether Hunter is working the force as a mole or is he sincere in his duty? The truth of the matter is Hunter is very sincere. He hates those who commit crimes and sometimes shows no mercy when dealing with them. But the character isn’t lifeless as he is sympathetic too. All he wants to do is his job and some people in the force try to prevent him from doing it.
Hunter (ex-professional football player Fred Dryer) is teamed up with new partner, the beautiful and assertive Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer). At first it seemed a ridiculous combination. Hunter’s wild pursuits are known for hospitalizing his partners. But McCall is a tough cupcake - known as the “brass cupcake”, she’s a rough undercover cop who has the beauty to be a luring hooker or acts as bait while Hunter hides as back-up. Together their on-screen chemistry makes for a successful L.A.P.D. homicide detective team.
Originally slammed by reviewers for being too violent and considered “air pollution”, Hunter’s first season found a less favourable timeslot for viewers on a Friday night. The show found new life as it was switched to a Saturday timeslot. The positive feedback from viewers gave the show seven more successful seasons. In 2003, a TV movie of Hunter was released and production for a few more episodes are still in the works.
The show’s format is pretty predictable like most crime dramas. The beginning of each episode sets the pace showing the killer committing the crime while the rest of the hour has Hunter and McCall investigating with explosive action! There’s always enough gun shots, car chases, and cars flying through the air (then blowing up) to satisfy the action viewer. Season One can be considered as having the most action as season two and beyond focused more on investigative work.
The performances are all good with McCall’s character seeming a little more down to earth than Hunter’s. Since Dryer’s character calls for a hard-nosed cop, he seems to be playing it up sometimes. Still, IT IS Hunter – he’s supposed to exaggerate himself and keep his reputation for being a little more ruthless than other cops.
This set includes the original hour and a half pilot, the season’s eighteen episodes, and a separate disc for special features. Each episode has its 45 second teaser in place before the beginning. Like the other Cannell Production DVDs, three slimcases packaged with two discs each are placed in a surrounding cardboard slipcase. There is no booklet included but the episode descriptions can be found on the reverse of each slimcase. Inside each case, through the clear plastic that holds the DVDs, you can read about the public response to Hunter in the USA as well as around the world.
Episodes for season one includes:
[*] Pilot[*] Hard Contract[*] The Hot Grounder
[*] A Long Way From L.A.[*] Legacy[*] Flight on a Dead Pigeon[*] Pen Pals
[*] Dead or Alive[*] High Bleacher Man[*] The Shooter[*] The Garbage Man
[*] The Avenging Angel[*] The Snow Queen Part 1[*] The Snow Queen Part 2[*] The Beach Boy
[*] Guilty[*] The Last Kill[*] Fireman[*] Sniper
[*] BONUS MATERIALS
VIDEO QUALITY /
Presented in its original 4:3 aspect ration, the Pilot episode is the best looking compared to the rest. But this time there IS an improvement in image quality with all episodes compared to the previous Cannell releases from Anchor Bay. If you’ve read my review of The Commish, you may have noticed me mention how poorly the episodes stacked up in terms of picture quality compared to the Pilot. Episodes from The Commish, Silk Stalkings, and 21 Jump Street seem to have been taken from composite video sources rather than a component source from film. The end result was a picture with dot crawl, noise, and an overly digital appearance leaving the DVD looking harsh. Things have changed here – and thankfully for the better. Maybe someone was listening?
In comparison, Hunter is a remarkable improvement over all other releases. Hunter’s film is slightly soft in appearance with a muted colour palette typical of film used in the day. The release to this DVD is very good. There isn’t a hair of edge enhancement or compression artefacts and that made me very happy! There was no artificial sharpening giving this DVD set a very smooth look. I’m going to say (and I could be wrong) that the Pilot and the episodes were taken from different film sources. Looking at the two made me conclude the Pilot came from an internegative while the episodes came from some other release print, an interpositive maybe. I could be wrong on that so someone correct me if I am. Contrast levels between the two are different as shadow detail is not as good in the episodes. The episodes also don’t have as much resolution either, and a few have more film grain than the norm. All episodes have film dirt but with not enough to be distracting.
In the end, I saw a much better picture than I anticipated. The fact that the episodes seem to be coming from a component source from the film elements is exciting. It was much more pleasurable to watch the episodes without all of the noise associated with composite video and artificial enhancement.
Note: There are video encoding errors with with Episode 2 (Hard Contract) and Episode 15 (The Beach Boy). Episode 15 appears to have its frame sequence mixed up resulting in jerky motion making the episode almost unwatchable. Episode 2’s vertical lines are emphasized and shimmer and jump up and down on the screen. I'm not sure if this is an encoding error or a problematic source, but in the end it doesn't look right.
AUDIO QUALITY /
Credited as having Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, most of each episode is recorded in mono. What is in stereo is the new music that's been added to this first season in replacement of the pop songs used for the original broadcast. From the episodes I went through, it seems only one original song remains, although there could be others, and that song is from Huey Lewis and the News during the "The Snow Queen" episode. Apparently, songs from artists such as U2, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, The Police and Talking Heads were among the originals on the series (thank you to the reader on this forum who educated me on that). The replaced music is not acknoledged by a sticker on the wrapping.
All sound effects, dialogue, and theme music are recorded in mono with very limited fidelity. The sound is compressed and distorted on both dialogue and sound effects. There is very little background hiss to report of, and there is the random click and pop throughout most of the episodes.
The recording levels can be a little awkward at times; within sentences the dialogue can rise and lower by itself with no explained reason. My main channel subwoofers fell asleep for a long time too because the frequency range is very limited. Once an episode opens with a song, that’s about the only time there is any low frequency content.
As mentioned, aside from one sound effect (footsteps) that appeared to be recorded out of phase, possibly to give the sense of ‘space’, only the songs go beyond the centric mono. These full stereo songs sound like they’ve been taken right off of a CD for this DVD release. This is possible because in almost every instance, the song plays on screen and all other sound effects on screen are mute. There is very little cross between the mono soundtrack and the stereo music. Those of you who are familiar with the series and who’ve picked up this set, please let us know if the songs have been changed or are just re-recorded.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
The special features get a disc of their own. Disc six gets a whopping 32 minutes of special materials. Keeping these off of the other discs must have been done to keep compression of the episodes to a minimum, or to keep consistent with the “six disc” releases.
There are two all-new interviews: one with Stephen J. Cannell and the other with singer/actress Stepfanie Kramer. The interviews are along the same lines as all other Cannell releases. They are shot in 1.78:1 and are presented in their original aspect ratio within a 1.33:1 picture, assumingly to match that of the series. Both interviews discuss Hunter as well as their role within the series.
IN THE END…
By far the best looking DVD set of all the Cannell Productions released from Anchor Bay, Hunter: The Complete First Season has come to DVD with all of its original explosive action unique to this season. This rough and tough, rule bending duo of Hunter and McCall create a positive chemistry on screen that gave the show its successful run. I’m very satisfied with this DVD set. As Hunter would say: “It works for me!”