The Streets of San Francisco: Season 2 vol. 2
One of the oldest and certainly most popular formats for a television series is the police drama. It contains everything necessary to attract and keep an audience. There is excitement as the police detective finds the clues that lead to bringing the heinous criminal to justice. Over the years this genre of TV show has undergone some radical changes. Now the crime dramas all have to do more with science than standard police work. Most of the old shows did gather and investigate finger prints but now you have to include DNA, fiber analysis and crime scene reenactments to make a story. The old school detectives had little more than a pair of well worn shoes as they followed the leads. Back then the crime scene investigator was little more than a bit part in any of the shows. He would typically be there when the main detectives came on the scene. The proto CSI would usually be found snapping some photographs and would quickly leave as the stars of the series entered. One of the best of these old school police dramas was ‘The Streets of San Francisco’. The series began its five year run in 1972 and for many of us it is difficult to realize that this show is now thirty six years old. I used to watch it with my then girlfriend and we continued to watch as she became my fiancée and then my new bride. When I told my wife that I was to review this series she couldn’t wait to watch episodes again. This is surely a sentiment that is shared by a lot of our generation. This was one of the best crime shows that have ever graced that glowing tube in the living room. CBS Paramount has been releasing this series half a season at a time. They are now up to season two volume two. Since back then most television series were strictly episodic with few if any season or series story arcs you can get this set and jump right into the action. Once that is done the chance that you will want the whole series is pretty high.
This series was one of many from the undisputed king of the crime series Quinn Martin Productions. He helped to created and executive produce the classics of this genre including ‘The Fugitive’, ‘The F.B.I.’ and ‘Barnaby Jones’. He had a format that would become as famous as his series. Each episode was divided into Act I, Act II, Act III and Act IV followed by a wrap up Epilog. This provided the structure to the series making each episode more like a mystery novel. He also attracted a lot of talent on both sides of the camera. Many of the guest stars would go to incredible careers in television and films. There were also directors who honed their skills in series like this. One example is Richard Donner who would go on to big screen fame with the first two ‘Superman’ movies and the original ‘Omen’. He helmed two episodes and even better they are both in this DVD collection; ‘A String of Puppets’ and ‘Commitment’. Speaking of famous people in the cast you can’t do much better than the two leads; Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. By this time Malden had an Academy Award win and another nomination to his credit. Douglas would go on two Oscar wins. As a little piece of trivia his first Academy Award was for producing ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, the film he left the series for in 1975. This level of excellence is a large part of what makes this series hold up so well over more than three decades. Quality will always win out and this series is the epitome of it.
The fundamental plot of the series is a well used one; the buddy cop story. While this has been repeated many times in the past and will be done again this was the way such a story should be structured. The pair of detectives in question is Detective Lieutenant Matt Stone (Malden) and his younger partner Inspector Steve Keller (Douglas). Stone is a twenty five year veteran of the force and has seen it all. He is grizzled and tough; the prototypical street cop. He relies on the old fashion way of dealing with a case; pounding the streets. He is no stranger to the streets. He was from a typical blue collar family and knows the working man inside and out. Under all of his gruff exterior Stone was a man who cared. He fought for justice not only because it was his job; this was a part of who he was as a person. In contrast was his partner Keller. The much younger man was the new generation of detective. He was college educated and anxious to use what he learned in criminology class in the real world. He was often brash and at times overly eager. He was also a single man who enjoyed taking some time off to spend with a young lady. This would frequently conflict with Stone who was all business all the time. He took the idea of a cop never being off duty seriously. Younger audience members should try their best to position this series in the time period it was made. The early seventies was the aftermath of the turbulent sixties. There was still a very real generation gap with the saying ‘don’t trust anyone over thirty’ very much alive and well.
The stories used in each episode were the usual for a seventies detective show. There are a large number of murders, kidnappings and other dastardly activities to keep our pair of detectives running around the titular streets. This DVD set has episodes 12 through 23 of season two. In the first of the set a young boy is framed for a murder and a kidnapping but all he wanted to do was obtain the medicine his sick sister needed. In another an elderly man plays Robin Hood stealing from the rich in order to help provide medicine to other older folks. There were a lot of social issues explored in this series adding to the human element and helping to tap into to the concerns of the audience. Another has a mother on a rampage when she believes her child was kidnapped not still born as the hospital told her. As a break from all the kidnapping that seems to go on in the Bay area there was also a serial rapist that had to be stopped. In one episode a group of men are tired of all the crime and form a vigilante group that Stone and Keller have to stop. Keller even gets to go undercover to find out who is killing the members of a criminal crew. Yes, there was a lot of crime on the Streets of San Francisco. The city was great as a backdrop for the action since it afforded a range in crimes from the elite of society to dock workers.
This is a fantastic series that should be part of your home collection. Sure, Michael Douglas looks as if his hair is in a perpetual wind tunnel but that was part of the fun. This is a chance to see two of the greatest American actors together and that is worth it right there. CBS Paramount has the greatest collection of vintage television and this is just one of many they are releasing to DVD.