Sledge Hammer! (ABC, 1986-1988)
A while ago I was watching some clips online of various ITV regions in the late-80s when they had something that could pass for a proper night-time schedule. I noticed a show that seemed to turn up rather frequently was the American sitcom Sledge Hammer! I decided that I should try and find out more about this, and after tracking down a few episodes to watch, I was rather impressed.
Inspector Sledge Hammer was a rather incompetent policeman, who thought that he was rather macho, and he would shoot first, and ask questions later. Indeed, he was so fond of his gun that he treated it as if it was his best friend. He often spoke to his gun, and it even took pride of place on a pillow in his bed. And when he isn’t suspended, he is challenged to deal with various crimes.
But things often end in chaos, with his “trust me, I know what I’m doing” (yes, that was his catchphrase) not managing to reassure anybody. The other main characters are Dori Doreau, his sidekick who often goes on assignments with him, and her more sensible attitude often comes to the rescue. And there was also Captain Trunk, who couldn’t believe what Hammer got up to, and would often inform him of this.
The first series ended with Hammer having to diffuse a bomb and failing miserably, which was a rather unsettling climax. But when it was decided that there would be a second series, it was announced that this was set five years before the first which concluded with the oblivion of the majority of the USA. This concept was adhered to for about five minutes, but then they just carried on, with many more tense situations for Hammer to show off in.
I was pleased that Sledge Hammer! turned out to fit my type of humour. Whilst probably not hitting the heights of Police Squad!, this is another cop parody sitcom that was very good. It won’t surprise you to learn that one of my favourite episodes featured the game show parody The Million Dollar Question, hosted by Peter Marshall (not to be confused with the Peter Marshall who was a continuity announcer on Thames, and hosted a few game shows himself), where Hammer went undercover to investigate the mysterious death of a successful contestant.
There were 41 episodes of Sledge Hammer! in two series, but none of them have been released on DVD in this country. When this was shown in every ITV region varied, and some episodes were being shown on LWT as late as 1996, a decade on from the first series, but this was always definitely worth staying up late for, and deserves another repeat run.