Starsky and Hutch: The TV story & the classic theme music (1975-1979)

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Starsky and Hutch television show
Quite possibly the only thing more iconic than the red and white Ford Gran Torino from the classic 1970s cop show Starsky and Hutch was the theme music.

The iconic, jazz-funk riff that we all remember today didn’t actually show up until the show’s second season — the first season theme, which was darker and more ominous, was written by Lalo Schifrin of Mission: Impossible fame.

The theme from the second season on — titled “Gotcha!” — was written by saxophonist Tom Scott, best known for his work with the west coast jazz/jazz fusion ensemble LA Express.

Take a trip in the wayback machine, find out a little bit about the show behind the scenes, then listen to the classic theme from a classic TV show.

The original Starsky and Hutch

The original Starsky and Hutch: Offbeat cops played by offbeat actors

There’s a line in one episode of the new ABC series “Starsky and Hutch” that applies not only to the characters, two undercover cops, but the actors who play them: Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul.

At one point in this story about a leak in the police department, Starsky (Glaser) asks Hutch (Soul): “Who do we trust?” “Like always,” answers Hutch. “Me and thee.”

While television hardly needs another cop series, “Starsky and Hutch” may be one of the better reasons to turn on a TV set this fall There’s a quality there.

Shotgun Britten, the veteran makeup man, put a bony finger on it when he cornered me on the set the other day: “You know me, boy, I’ve worked with the great ones and the near-great over the last 42 years: Gable and Tracy, Cagney and Eddie G., Ty Power, Bob Mitchum, Errol Flynn.

“I’ve seen ’em come and go. Take my word and make book on these two boys. They’ll be the hottest thing on the tube; they’ll be to television what Newman and Redford are to movies.”

So saying, Shotgun rushed onto the set to apply his powder puff to a massive thug who moments before had been trying to separate the head from the torso of Starsky while two other thugs were attempting to alter the handsome face of Hutch.

Protective of their roles

The fight in a mountain cabin had been staged (in part with doubles) with such effectiveness by Bob Kelljan, the director, that the entire crew, including Glaser and Soul, broke into prolonged applause.

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Yet earlier that day in another scene on that same set, there had been a bristling confrontation between the stars and the director.

Starsky and Hutch were checking out the cabin which they suspected was a gang hideout. Tall, blond, Ivy League Hutch had opened the refrigerator door. Kelljan objected. “No cop would look in the refrigerator,” he said.

Rugged Glaser, dark and glowering, leapt to his partner’s defense: “It’s not a question,” he said, “of what a cop would do, but what Hutch would do.”

This was their fifth show in the series working with various directors from scripts by various writers and they had developed a wariness, a suspicion — constant guard to protect their characters as they see them and as they originally played them in the TV movie that spawned the series. “We won’t play stereotype cops,” Glaser muttered darkly. “We won’t let them turn this into ‘S.W.A.T.’

Which is not only a swipe at another ABC show, but at their own producers — Spelling-Goldberg Productions — also produces “S.W.A.T.”

Starsky and Hutch television show

That Starsky and Hutch chemistry

Soul feels the strength of the show, the element that must be protected, and that they achieved in the movie, is “what happens spontaneously when Starsky and Hutch are together.”

It’s really what happens when the personalities of Soul and Glaser collide. It’s a kind of volatile chemistry, instant action and reaction, coupled to wild, irreverent gallows humor, gags to be gunned down by. But though it has a ferocity and passion of its own, it’s full of human apprehension and fears, none of the mechanical heroics of “S.W.A.T.” or the sophomoric melodrama of “The Rookies.”

“It’s playing people as opposed to cops,” Soul said.

But there’s always the worry that what worked effectively in a movie can be lost in the hack limitations of a weekly program.

A new breed of actor

Glaser and Soul met eight years ago in a new talent program sponsored by Columbia Pictures, but this is the first time they’ve worked together. They’re of the new breed of college-trained actors.

Glaser has a master’s degree in theater from Tulane. He’s the son of a Cambridge (Mass.) architect who started out in architecture, but switched to theater in college. He worked in soap opera (“Love of Life,” “Love Is a Many Splendored” Thing”) while acting on and off-Broadway, played Perchik in the film version of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

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Soul is the son of Dr. David Solberg, Lutheran minister and State Department advisor. He was signed by the White Sox as a pitcher, but switched to music and, eventually, acting.

WATCH STARSKY & HUTCH AGAIN: Get the show here!

From William Blinn’s original characters, they have constructed elaborate biographies of the men they play.

Starsky, according to Glaser, was a street kid raised by an uncle who dealt in shady enterprises. He went the other way to be a cop.

Ken Hutchinson, his partner, according to Soul, is from a wealthy background but a sour marriage, and a directionless life led him, by accident, to the cops.

“I’m an actor because I wouldn’t be anything else,” Soul says, “and I think Hutch feels the same way about being a cop.”

Trying for two years to start

When you mention playing Starsky and Hutch for five years or so to Glaser or Soul, each shudders. “Let’s try for two,” Glaser says.

But with “Baretta” as a lead-in on Wednesday nights with Bobby Blake playing his own unorthodox undercover cop, the show could very well be around awhile. Gangling Antonio Fargas as a barroom snitch and Bernie Hamilton as a hard-nosed captain of police willing to let Starsky and Hutch go their own way are other regulars.

Neither Soul nor Glaser has any illusions of reality about his character — they figure they’re playing heroes in romantic fiction. The reality they try to achieve is their own.

It’s not easy to see where Starsky and Hutch leave off and Glaser and Soul begin. They even have their own offbeat sense of humor — the T-shirts they bought for the crew are emblazoned “Husky and Starch.”

And they are wary. Ask them who they trust, and you get the answer Hutch gave Starsky: “Me and thee.”

Starsky and Hutch (or Glaser and Soul) get crazy in Teen Beat magazine

David Michael Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Kenneth Richard “Hutch” Hutchinson (David Soul)

Starsky and Hutch teen magazine collage

Starsky and Hutch TV show intro and theme music

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