revised_tv_crime_article_jan_2016_002_.doc

Though hawaii five o certainly depended on action

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Though Hawaii Five-O certainly depended on action sequences and spectacle for its distinctive take on the police procedural, it is Starsky and Hutch that provides the significant starting point of the historical trajectory of crime/action I wish to delineate here. Much mimicked over the years, the series’ title sequence 11 involves a number of iconographic action images including cars, guns, pursuit, female bodies on display, physical violence and explosions. In addition, at different points the titles feature the male leads Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and Hutch (David Soul) in a variety of costumes ( operating undercover) or states of relative undress (for example, attired in towels and gun holsters in a sauna). The credits depict the stars of the show engaged in action, racing urgently through onscreen space in gestures that are briefly frozen. Thus we see Hutch leaping onto the bonnet of a car in pursuit of unseen individuals, Starsky charging upstairs seeming to bounce off walls in his haste or the pair emerging from a crouching position drenched in water. The posing of actors within shots and their facial expressions – underscored by the up-beat soundtrack – suggest elements of comedy alongside the action, while in narrative terms battles with authority and strong bonds of male friendship are also promised. As Osgerby and Gough-Yates note, 6
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Starksy and Hutch coupled action with an emphasis on appealing to a youthful audience, combining “laid-back individualism and gritty realism in its premise of youthful, streetwise cops struggling against pimps, muggers and drug-dealers in a downbeat cityscape” (2001, 22). In critical commentary on Starsky and Hutch the relationship between the central characters – its intensity and homoeroticism – has been frequently remarked. 12 Yet the show is less often discussed in relation to action, a designator which seems so obvious as to require little comment. Starsky and Hutch was not the first cop show to foreground action in this way. Stunt-work involving car chases was a notable feature of both The Streets of San Francisco (1972-77) and The Rockford Files (1974-80). And as I have suggested above, the procedural format of Hawaii Five-O was framed by its use of dynamic action sequences. I retain Starsky and Hutch as my exemplar not because it is the first then, but because of the prominence of action within the series from its beginnings through its successful run and, just as significantly, as a consistent feature of individual episodes. In this I take a lead from Eric Lichtenfeld’s (2007) overview of the development of the action film as a recognisable category, a move he pinpoints via a discussion of the 1971 film Dirty Harry which stars Clint Eastwood as hard- boiled cop Harry Callahan. For Lichtenfeld the origins of a distinctive action cinema lie in the coupling of the western and film noir. 13 Crucially he notes that Dirty Harry features an action sequence approximately every ten minutes suggesting that it is the timing and repetition of action that defines the novelty of the genre in cinema. In turn it is the importance
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