[Back in May of 2003 (!!) I posted a Video Cheese review of a set of '70s cop show first episodes. One of these was the first chapter of the S.W.A.T. TV show. In honor of Steve Forrest's recent passing, I thought I would report that piec...
[Back in May of 2003 (!!) I posted a Video Cheese review of a set of '70s cop show first episodes. One of these was the first chapter of the S.W.A.T. TV show. In honor of Steve Forrest's recent passing, I thought I would report that piece.]
S.W.A.T.: “The Killing Ground”
Theme Music/Credit Sequence: One of the great themes of the ‘70s is supported by a pretty cool action montage. The S.W.A.T. team transport truck was right up there with the A-Team’s van.
Concept: An elite police team employs Special Weapons and Tactics. “When people are in trouble, they call the police. When the police are in trouble, they call S.W.A.T.”
Regulars: Steve “Captain America” Forrest* is team leader Lt. Hondo Harrelson, Robert Urich is Off. James Street.
[*Editor Ken: Mr. Forrest didn't play Captain America, but he had appeared in the Reb Brown failed TV pilot movie.]
The Episode: Before S.W.A.T. became a series, it was given a backdoor pilot via a two-hour episode of The Rookies. However, the only character introduced there was team leader ‘Hondo’ Harrelson. The rest of the regular cast we meet here, with all the normal exposition and so on. Thus this is the only show of the five featured on this DVD that feels like a real ‘first’ episode of a series.
Handsome young patrol cop Jim Street and his veteran partner Rob Duran respond to a domestic disturbance call. Upon reaching the scene, however, they find themselves ambushed by a trio of snipers. Another patrol car comes by and helps drive their assailants off, but Duran is severely wounded. Quickly on the scene—too quickly, it seems, although as explained later it makes sense—is a S.W.A.T. team led by Lt. Hondo Harrelson.
Duran dies at the hospital. Street cries big glycerin tears, obviously an attempt to make the characters more ‘realistic’ and sensitive than earlier TV cops in the Joe Friday mold. He then asks Harrelson to let him try out for the new S.W.A.T. team Hondo’s establishing.
Afterward, Harrelson informs Mrs. Duran, pregnant with their third child, of her husband’s fate. She looks about twenty years younger than her husband was, for whatever reason. Perhaps because if she’s young and attractive the whole thing seems more tragic.
Since Hondo isn’t in Duran’s chain of command, his assuming this task seems unlikely. Besides, wouldn’t Street, who was the guy’s partner, want to be the one to tell her? In any case, the scene is a sadly hilarious example of ‘70s earnestness, exemplified by Forrest’s forehead-wrinkling acting. And the dialog is shameless:
Grieving widow: “The baby’s birthday is tomorrow. We…were going to buy the party decorations tonight! God! God! Why?! Why?!”
The ambush was the latest in a string of cop killings. We the viewers now meet the killers, who are seeking revenge for a felonious relative shot down by police. Meanwhile, Street, fellow patrol cop T. J. McCabe (‘T.J.’ being popular initials for TV cops, I guess) and undercover narc Dominic Luca attempt to make the S.W.A.T. team. Luca’s the class clown guy whose mouth usually gets him in trouble. When we first see him he’s in full undercover Serpico-mode, including the inevitable battered army jacket and beard.
There are other guys trying out, but Street, McCabe and Luca are clearly the ones who will make the cut. (First of all, we saw all of them in the opening credits.) We’re told what a hard-ass Harrelson is, and how rigorous the training, although all we see is some standard calisthenics and field stuff.
Part of the show’s appeal was the team’s, well, stuff. Particularly the “war wagon.” This was the big blue truck that transported the team and their equipment. To facilitate speed, the team members grab their weapons on the way out and leap into the truck. Then they don their jumpsuits and body armor en route and arrive ready to instantly deploy. Extra weapons and gear are on board for off-duty personnel, who are directed to head directly to the scene when a call goes