12 June 2010

Hart To Hart

The idea behind Hart To Hart was once described as a "'spin on the Thin Man films".

There are similarities: like Nick and Nora Charles, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart were a wealthy, crime solving husband and wife team. Like Nick and Nora Charles, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart had a dog.

But Jonathan and Jennifer Hart also had a friend/servant who was a genuine one-off - Max!

The pilot show made its debut in England on Sunday, 27 January, 1980 - on ITV - the series having begun in America a few months previously. Minus the famous "'cause when they met it was murder" catchphrase, which came a little later (in the first season Max said: "I look after both of them which ain't easy - 'cause their hobby is murder!"), the other ingredients were all present and correct. The fabulously wealthy Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner), his wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers), their faithful servant and old pal Max (Lionel Stander), and Freeway, the dog, solved crimes week after week.

TV was more of an event in those days, with only three channels, and most of us looked forward to the feature-length pilot episode. Hart To Hart began at 9.15 pm, breaked for fifteen minutes of news at 10.15, and then continued until 11.15.

In my ITV region it was followed by a dreary programme called A Question Of Sex, in which Clive James and Anna Raeburn debated whether women are more emotional than men, then, just after midnight, it was Closedown. Those were very different days.

Hart To Hart was an instant hit here. The final episodes were filmed in America in 1984.

One mystery remains. Whilst the Harts' bedroom was regularly featured in the show, Max did not appear to have one and it was a standing joke on the set that he slept standing up!

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