Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sledge Hammer (Marvel Comics, 1987)

Y'know....the reason for the lateness of this (the most recent) entry of Who's Who...Cares? is due to just pure lack of motivation. Sure, I've been planning an expose of DC Comics' busty heroine Power Girl's seemingly ever-expanding busom (hey....don't place any blame on me...I blame the topic on the folks over at the Comic Geek Speak forums for starting this whole mess....), but the hassle of searching through scans, preparing the proper CBR files for sharing, and just finding the time, effort and inclination to do this has been a task as of late.....

But then, out of nowhere while digging through some old comics to read, I ran across the two issues of the 1987 Marvel Comics adaptation of the ABC television show, Sledge Hammer....

From Wikipedia:

Sledge Hammer! was a satirical police sitcom produced by New World Television that ran for two seasons on ABC from 1986 to 1988. The series was created by Alan Spencer and starred David Rasche as Inspector Sledge Hammer, a preposterous caricature of the standard "cop on the edge" character, with a name parodied from Mike Hammer.

Inspired by Clint Eastwood's no-nonsense approach to law enforcement in the Dirty Harry films, teenager Alan Spencer dreamed up the idea of a police officer whose approach was even more over-the-top, to the point of comical absurdity. At the age of sixteen, Spencer wrote a screenplay based on this idea. The script and the main character were both named "Sledge Hammer".

Spencer, who at his young age had already written for various standup comedians such as Rodney Dangerfield and television shows such as The Facts of Life and One Day at a Time, was unable to sell the script until the mid-1980s, when the release of the fourth Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact and the popularity of NBC's Dirty Harry-inspired action series Hunter created demand for a satirical police television show. When HBO approached Leonard B. Stern, former producer of Get Smart, about developing such a show, Stern recommended Spencer's "Sledge Hammer!" idea.

Spencer quickly reworked his script for a half-hour television format. HBO executives did not like it, however, and suggested changes that Spencer found unacceptable, such as casting Dangerfield or Joe Piscopo in the lead role. Surprisingly, last-place ABC was willing to take a chance on the unorthodox script. ABC insisted that the violence be toned down for network television and that a laugh track be included (although it should be noted that some versions, such as that shown by ITV regions in the United Kingdom, do not have this track), but agreed to cast Spencer's first choice for the lead character, the classically trained actor David Rasche. Sledge Hammer! entered ABC's fall lineup in 1986.

Fortuitously, the pilot of Sledge Hammer! was completed just as Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" became a huge hit. ABC took advantage of this pleasant coincidence by using Gabriel's popular tune in television, radio and film advertisements for the show.

Inspector Sledge Hammer of the Los Angeles Police Department is a violent, sadistic, insensitive, yet oddly likable detective. His best friend is a .44 Magnum with a customized grip featuring a drawing of a sledgehammer. Hammer sleeps and showers with his gun, and even talks to it. Hammer believes in shooting first and asking questions never. In the pilot episode, he deals with a sniper on a roof by blowing up the entire building with a rocket launcher, then turns to the uniformed cops on scene and says "I think I got 'em"; he also mentions that his favorite charity is "Toy Guns for Tots". Hammers father was Jack Hammer, a legendary carnival trick shooter whose repetory of shooting tricks included catching a bullet in his teeth, which saved his son's life in one episode. His mothers name was Armin Hammer.

While purportedly a stickler for law and order, Hammer is rather lax when it comes to following police regulations. He enjoys roughing up suspected criminals, whom he frequently refers to as "brain-dead mutants", "yogurt-sucking creeps", and the like. He is often suspended from duty, and his police file literally requires a wheelbarrow to transport.

Hammer drives a beat-up, bullet-riddled, lime green Dodge St. Regis with an "I ♥ VIOLENCE" bumper sticker. He prefers to wear cheap sports jackets, loud neckties, and dark sunglasses. He is divorced, and frequently makes jokes at the expense of his ex-wife (who makes an appearance in the final episode, played by Rasche's real-life wife, Heather Lupton).

Despite his irresponsibility and utter incompetence, Hammer always ends up getting his man (or woman), often through sheer luck or brute force. Hammer's unintentionally ironic motto is "Trust me. I know what I'm doing." (Disaster usually follows afterward.) Another expression he often utters is "Don't confuse me", typically in response to any remark that challenges his ridiculously one-dimensional worldview.

Hammer's partner is the beautiful Detective Dori Doreau (played by Anne-Marie Martin), who is competent, kind, sensitive, intelligent, and sophisticated—everything Sledge is not. Doreau is often shocked and offended by Hammer's crass behavior and obnoxious attitude, but she appears to see some redeeming qualities beneath his gruff exterior. (Indeed, it becomes apparent with time that she has some romantic feelings for Sledge.) Hammer's blatant male chauvinism is a running gag in his dialogues with Doreau:

Doreau: What, you think all women should be barefoot and pregnant?
Hammer: No, I encourage women to wear shoes.

Doreau's cautious and compassionate approach to law enforcement is a crucial counterpoint to Hammer's reckless and nihilistic quest for justice. Yet Doreau is a tough, agile cop who can handle a gun and deliver a well-timed karate kick when necessary. She frequently saves Hammer from the extraordinary predicaments he invariably gets himself into.

Hammer and Doreau are supervised by the chronically uptight, Pepto-Bismol-guzzling Captain Trunk, played by Harrison Page. Trunk spends most of his time yelling at Hammer for his incompetence or complaining about his migraine headaches brought on by Hammer's antics. If Trunk has any respect or fondness for Hammer, he hides it extremely well. In one episode ("Miss of the Spider Woman") Hammer is about to die from snake venom poisoning but is saved at the last minute when Trunk shows up with the antidote:

Hammer: How can I ever thank you?
Trunk: Don't drink it.

Despite critical acclaim, Sledge Hammer! struggled in the ratings. This was due in large part to its being scheduled in the Friday 9 p.m. timeslot (popularly known as the Friday night death slot), against CBS's Dallas and NBC's Miami Vice, two of the most popular shows on television at the time; in one episode, Hammer remarks that it must be bad to be between a man from Dallas and a man from Miami, an obvious reference to both shows. In his commentary on the first season DVDs, Alan Spencer remarks that the only series getting lower ratings than Sledge Hammer! was FOX's The Tracey Ullman Show. That actually applied to the second season.

In truth, Sledge Hammer! attracted weekly viewership of nineteen million viewers who followed the show religiously through its many time slot shifts. The fact that the series appealed to key target demographics also kept it on the schedule. Hammer! would invariably improve on any time slot the network placed it into.

Because ABC intended to cancel the series, the last episode of the first season ends with Hammer accidentally destroying the city when he attempts to disarm a stolen nuclear warhead; just before the explosion Hammer remarks on his infamous phrase "Trust Me....." . The last scene shows the "Beneath the Planet of the Apes"-style ruins of the city with Trunk's voice screaming "HAMMMMMMMER!", and a graphic flashed:

"To Be Continued... Next Season?"

However, this episode got much better than expected ratings, in large part because the network had moved the show to a better time slot. ABC changed its mind and renewed the show for a second season.

The first episode of the second season perfunctorily explained that it and following episodes were set "five years before" the explosion. Bill Bixby (of Incredible Hulk fame) was brought in to direct numerous episodes. Doreau is Sledge's partner in the second season, a glaring (and unexplained) inconsistency, as the two are portrayed as meeting for the first time in the pilot episode, which supposedly takes place years later (though, it is possible that the explosion takes place five years after the first season and the second season picks up where the show left off). This is more than likely a spoof of cop-out endings to season-ending cliffhangers (a notorious example is Dallas's season opener, where the previous season was revealed to be a dream). In the final moments of the final episode, Sledge asks Dori to marry him, but then claims he was only kidding. The viewer is left to imagine what happens next.

The second season suffered from another extremely undesirable time slot (this time against The Cosby Show), a reduced budget, and lowered filming standard (down to 16 mm film from the previous season's 35 mm). It was not renewed for a third season.

I thought that this show was one of the funniest things in existence when it first aired, and treasure my copies of the DVD releases of the entire series.....they just don't make fun television like this anymore, IMO.

Download Links (Hosted By Megaupload)

Sledge Hammer! #1 CBR file

Sledge Hammer! #2 CBR file


yozfitz said...

"they just don't make fun television like this anymore" I couldn't agree more! Thanks for posting the .CBR files!!. I didn't know of their existance. It's a pity there are only tow. Well, that's all. Good Blog!! -TITRON

neckleaper said...

Thanks for posting Issue #1! Could you repost issue #2? Link says its gone.