Street Hawk was the shadiest motorcycle cashgrab following the success of KNIGHT RIDER. It starred Rex Smith (Daredevil in that HULK TV film) and MURPHY BROWN's Joe Regalbuto. It was AWESOME! pic.twitter.com/ZgSYRIobot
Dan Slott, a Marvel writer, has a valid point. Street Hawk was fantastic. And, unfortunately, was ignored in the wide array of TV action series.
1984 was a golden year for the creation of genuine pop culture sensations. While Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and The A-Team were at their peak of popularity, networks competed for the next big thing, and Street Hawk would have broadcast in the autumn of 84. Featuring an iconic black jumpsuit-clad hero, this two-wheeled version of KITT and Airwolf had all of the necessary ingredients to make a successful multi-season run.
Burton Armus, the writer and producer of Street Hawk, believes that network interference should be the title of a series with ten novels and accompanying photographs.
Jesse Mach, an ex-motorcycle cop who was wounded in the line of duty, is being accompanied on a top-secret government task to ride Street Hawk, an all-terrain attackmotorcycle capable of reaching three hundred miles an hour and incredible firepower. The pair are tasked with assessing the vehicles' potential for wider law enforcement use, according to the series' first narration.
Back to the Futures Christopher Lloyd would play the lead actor in the ABC network in late 1984, but network television's cut-throat nature delayed production, forced casting changes, and moved the program to a mid-season replacement slot in 1985.
Street Hawk became a one-season sensation that spanned 13 seasons and sold to 42 countries throughout the world. It is well-known in India and Brazil, where it is still known as Moto Laser.
Street Hawk's 70-minute pilot remains one of the most exciting television debuts you could see. Just months before he would be cast as Jesse Machs' ill-fated best friend who was murdered by Lloyds drug trafficking kingpin in Back to the Future and Star Trek: Voyagers, Virgil W. Vogel (Six Million Dollar Man, Streets of San Francisco, Magnum P.I.) who would later direct episodes of Miami Vice. The music is superbly orchestrated and driven
The fact that the bike is a joy to see, as well as the first sequence to demonstrate the vehicles 300mph hyperthrust computer-assisted system, suggests that Street Hawk and his character would be at odds for a long run through the sewers of Los Angeles. When their investigation into Machs best friend appears to link to the murder of Mach, Jesse commandeers Street Hawk for his own ends.
Rex Smith is an engaging lead who brings a genuine likability to Jesse, brimming with an innocence and self-confidence youll remember from your youth. Together with consummate actor Joe Regalbuto, the pair maintains the odd couple relationship in good order.
Jayne Modean, an actress and model, gives a moving performance as Sandy McCoy Jesses superior in his post-accident PR desk job. Another engaging aspect of the pilot is the pairing's complicated and cantankerous relationship, with Sandy unaware that Jesse is the very vigilante causing problems for her department.
Sandy is nowhere to be seen in the following series, and the longer-term implications of this interesting dynamic are left for a more amiable and less subordinate relationship with Rachel Adams, who is eleven years younger than Jayne Modean, according to the network. She was replaced with a very competent actress who I thought was too old for the role.
After a sudden increase in ratings, Street Hawk lost its opening slot in the fall season of 84. Another show favored by a different executive stayed in that position, resulting in a more cautious approach from the producers. Armus explained to Street Hawk Online:
The studio desired a crime fighter (Batman/GreenHornet) style script for the program, and who knows, given we were a mid-season pick up, if it would have worked. Given the parameters of the cast and show structure, it made sense to keep it light and simple.
Street Hawk found itself in an unviable position when it faced off against one of TV's most famous artists, in the form of Dallas's all-conquering soap opera.
The weekly series that followed appeared to be a somewhat shaky imitation of what we were sold in the pilot. Despite the changes, the series does have many worthwhile moments. The opening episode, A Second Self, features a young George Clooney in his first big television role as Jesses ultra-competitive old friend, Kevin Stark. The crime lord unwittingly hires the vigilantes' former best friend to act as a car thieves and to lure Street Hawk into a deadly ambush
It's a shame that Clooney's character was removed so soon, or that another evil motorcycle group never appeared to challenge Jesse again. The pilot episode had made excellent use of the criminal motorcycle gang, both visually and technically. We wanted George, but the studio canceled it. I'd probably have a feature career right now if I had chosen Clooney as the lead.
Burton Armus agreed, stating that Rex wasnt a bad kid. I think he tried to do what he could, but what he did not have was danger. Clooney was a day player, and he might have been a better street Hawk, or not. It would not have changed the surrounding facts that left the show a mediocre product.
The remainder of the series are of varying quality. Yet even if an episode rehashes the obligatory rescue a rock star episode a guest star such as Daphne Ashbrook (DS9, Doctor Who) or 80s villain Charles Napier (Rambo: First Blood Part II) ensures that things remain interesting. Although as a product of its time, a lack of diversity and the questionable attitude towards women may now induce a wince.
In the era of 1980s network television, robust merchandise and overseas sales failed to save the show. A network that appeared to be developing cold feet ever since it postponed its launch was deemed inadequate. By the time the series finished its run in May 1985, the popularity of similar super-car shows had begun to wane.
Street Hawks' international success would be too late to save it. Had the program been in its initial slot, maintained its original premise, and not faced with such fierce competition, it might have had more of an opportunity to shine and win that crucial second season.
I believe we won the game against Dallas on a Friday night. Considering the competition, we finished pretty well, but at the time it wasnt enough. The program was also a smash hit, and Universal fought for it, but ABC let it go. It was not a cheap program to produce.
Burton Armus gives his own rationale for Street Hawks' failure. It had no legs. I always felt the bike was too small and lacking the bulk and strength of a major automobile when compared to KITT or Airwolf. The hero had the same flaw. That's the nature of television business. You go with it or get off.
Street Hawk is a far superior show than the one proposed by TV history over 35 years ago. Even now, fans from across the world have assembled to construct replica bikes and a command center for traveling on the convention circuit. While unlikely to see Street Hawk immortalized in the worlds of Lego or pop-vinyl figures, their supporters have created one final heartfelt tale for Street Hawk.
Josh Barber has provided Burton Armus and Robert Wolterstorff's quotations from his 20 years running Street Hawk Online. Many thanks to Jon Rowlands, David Green, and the members of the Street Hawk Command Centre.