Can one cop make a difference? Only if he knows what he’s doing! (Other punctuation marks as required…] ; &
I think it’s best for all of us if I let you experience Sledge Hammer! the same way I did, with absolutely no context or expectations.
We’ll be back, right after this:
When that bit of marvel drifted across my screen, I’m not ashamed to admit that I laughed. I cried. I stared in mild disbelief. I went through a whole range of emotions.1 For more than a moment I thought this show might actually be taking itself seriously, the living inspiration for Arrested Development‘s faux series “Wrench” made all too real.
Oh but that it were. Sledge Hammer!2 was of course a knowing mid-80s send-up of the overly-macho shoot-at-anything cleaning-up-scum-means-getting-dirty cop cliche of the time. And then some. In its two seasons Sledge Hammer! used Robocop, James Bond, and Max Headroom as bases for episodes, had Hammer and by-the-book lady-cop Detective Dori Doreau battle everyone from the mob to nuclear-armed bikini models, and never left a good crime show trope unturned. In fact, during the course of one investigation it was TOTALLY NECESSARY for them to visit a (male) strip club – and believe me, if they pulled a stunt like that again Captain Trunk would yank them rightoff the case.3
There is nothing wrong with any given episode of Sledge Hammer! Sure the title character is a lunkheaded misogynist with an unhealthy relationship with his ivory-handled revolver, but that’s exactly the point and, even by 80s standards, there’s little to actually offend here. The show and the characters are just the structure on which whatever variant of jokes are hung that week, a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live stretched to 22 minutes. And it’s often funny, with clever-enough exchanges and some spot-on mugging from the lead.4
Sadly though, it’s not as dense as its predecessor Police Squad!5 and it was an 80s parody of 80s cop shows, meaning interminable shootouts with occasional one liners sometimes substituted for plot denouements. Sledge Hammer! is many things, including a time capsule6, a fairly exemplary example of serial storytelling, worth recommending as an experience if nothing else, and currently leaving me searching for yet another metaphor.
Oo, maybe this will work – this show is like Nerds, as in the candy. Wasn’t your favorite, but it was sugary and tasty. It came in many flavors, and when a new one was introduced it reminded you that Nerds were a thing and you ate some more. But if you gorged on them, you were going to discover how same-y they all were. And you’d probably be a little sick of them for a while.
There we go. Nailed it.
So please – if you decide to take a taste of Sledge Hammer!, don’t binge. Or maybe binge responsibly. Watch the pilot – if you don’t care for it, you can safely walk away having had the Sledge Hammer! experience. If it made you chuckle, read the episode descriptions and see if a particular conceit strikes your fancy.
I, for one, plan on watching the terrorist bikini team episode. Probably next month sometime. For… research.
Sledge Hammer! can be called into your office to turn in its badge and gun anytime on Hulu.
- Still not better than Cats, but what is? ↵
- I’m not overly excited; the exclamation point is a part of the title. ↵
- And I mean now goddamit! ↵
- Classically trained David Rasche was apparently the show creator’s first choice for the role ↵
- Thaaat’s where they got the punctuation! ↵
- There was a Robert Bork throwaway. I only got it because I read Doonesbury. ↵