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9 Hard-Hitting Facts About 'Hunter'

Sometimes criticized as too violent for television during its initial run, on Hunter by-the-book police work doesn't always cut it when taking down LA's slimiest criminal elements. On this show, tough-minded renegades were essential if the LAPD was ever going to really take out the trash.

LAPD homicide detectives Sgt. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) and Sgt. Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) play by their own rules, rebellious law enforcers who aren't afraid to do what it takes to see justice served.


'Hunter' initially faced cancellation.

The series struggled at first, broadcast on NBC Friday nights, competing with the popular Dallas. In an attempt to attract viewers, a catchphrase was introduced ("Works for me") and several episodes featured montages set to popular music, à la Miami Vice. Criticized for often graphic violence and facing cancellation for poor ratings, the show was put on hiatus by NBC, but the network gave it one more chance. After two months on the shelf, Hunter began airing on Saturday nights and viewership started to rise. 


Roy Huggins saved the series in its second season.

The show's second season benefited from the inclusion of Hollywood veteran Roy Huggins, who previously worked on Maverick, The Rockford Files and The Fugitive. Acting as executive producer, Huggins softened the violence, made Hunter less volatile, and placed an emphasis on the chemistry between Hunter and McCall. Also, the setting moved from the gritty and dangerous backstreets to posh areas of Los Angeles, and a Mob-related subplot from season one disappeared.


Season two got controversial.

Controversy surrounded two-part season two episode "Rape and Revenge." After McCall spurns a psychopathic foreign diplomat, he brutally rapes her in her home. This episode pushed the boundaries of television violence at the time with its realistic and shocking depiction of rape. However, the two-parter must have done well ratings-wise, as the producers attempted to repeat the theme in season four. (More on that below.)


The Dodge Monaco is Hunter's car of choice.

Though Hunter demolishes vehicles of many makes and models during the series' seven seasons, he is most often seen cruising in a variety of Dodge Monacos, beginning with the pilot episode, in which he drives a dilapidated '77 model. Most notably, Hunter cruises for criminals in a moss-green '77 Monaco for much of the series' run. Conversely, McCall often appears driving smaller, sporty numbers, such as her '84 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z and her '87 Daytona Shelby Z.


Erik Estrada appears in season four.

Season four introduces Erik Estrada as Sgt. Brad Navarro in a three-part storyline. Best known as Officer Frank "Ponch" Poncherello on CHiPs, Estrada's Sgt. Navarro helps Hunter and McCall bag a serial rapist known by the moniker Big Foot. A departure from his lighthearted adventures as a California highway patrolman, here we see Estrada in a more gritty and violent environment.


Norris from 'The Thing' is Hunter's boss.

Season three saw the addition of Charles Hallahan as Captain Charlie Devane, who would be a regular on the series until its end. Science-fiction and horror fans cannot look at the actor without remembering one of the coolest, grossest and most affecting moments in sci-fi/horror history: The Norris sequence from John Carpenter's 1982 cult classic The Thing

Image: MCA/Universal Pictures


Originally, McCall was to be sexually assaulted twice

Though McCall already went through a traumatic rape in "Rape and Revenge," the script for season four's "City of Passion" called for the character to again be sexually assaulted, this time by serial rapist Big Foot. Ratings must have been good the first time around. However, actress Stepfanie Kramer balked at the idea and threatened to quit unless the script was changed. In the end, McCall is attacked but manages to get away. 


The stars didn't want an onscreen romance.

By season six, the network and fans were clamoring for Hunter and McCall's working relationship to evolve into romance. Stars Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer balked at the idea, feeling such a storyline would make the show akin to something like Hart to Hart. However, Dryer, by this time the show's executive producer, did allow for one indiscretion between the partners. In season six's "Unfinished Business," it is mentioned in passing that the partners did indeed at one point have a one-night stand. 


'Hunter' was revived several times.

Years after the series ended, the Hunter franchise was revived by NBC with several television movies: The Return of Hunter: Everyone Walks in L.A. (1995), Hunter: Return to Justice (2002) and Hunter: Back in Force (2003). The success of the 2002 film prompted the network to attempt a Hunter television series revival in 2003 (Back in Force serving as the pilot). Five episodes of the new series were filmed, but only three were ever broadcast. The revival fizzled out when NBC decided to suddenly cancel the series. 


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