Monday, 22 June 2015

1984: AIRWOLF 1 (Target Books)

From 1984:  Target's crack rights acquisition squad struck again (the famous-for-one-thing publisher also, during this point in the Star Age, also issued paperbacks based on STREET HAWK, THE A-TEAM and KNIGHT RIDER... see once - and - future - posts) by snapping-up AIRWOLF.

It was, of course, another of the hardware shows (spawned by the success of The Hoff) from the Universal stable.  It initially faced competition from BLUE THUNDER but emerged from the Chopper Wars victorious by virtue of being the better show.  

The first year was a mid-season replacement followed by two more full seasons.  The ratings were never great and the 'wolf only stayed on the air thanks to some network-ordered format-tweaking that played down the international threats of the first batch of episodes in favor of more domestic threats to the States.  

CBS lost patience after the end of year three and dropped the show, leaving the studio in something of a predicament.  The number of completed episodes wasn't sufficient to put the show into profitable daily reruns on local stations.  So, Universal struck a deal with the cable station USA NETWORK (which just happened to share corporate DNA with... surprise... Universal) to get another year's worth of shows into production.

Season four (aka AIRWOLF II) was, literally, only making up the numbers so had to be made as quick and cheaply as possible.  For cable cash.  The original production team and cast were all jettisoned (original star Jan Michael Vincent did stagger back long enough to appear in the opening episode of the new run... his colleagues were less fortunate) and production relocated to Canada.  Improbably the show's back story was fudged to allow Stringfellow Hawk's long-lost MIA brother to suddenly reemerge and become Airwolf's new pilot.  

The new Hawk was played by Barry Van Dyke, no stranger to parachuting into defunct Universal action shows being revived, on the cheap, in the hopes of padding out the episode count.  He was previously involved in the GALACTICA 1980 debacle.  

The new batch of episodes were heavily dependent on stock footage from the original series.  Anything brand new, whether it be sets, locations or effects looked painfully cheap.  The show was (presumably) shot on film but edited on tape, adding to the "that'll do" nature of the end product.

I'm not sure if Universal managed to flog the new episodes to ITV in the UK (the show was a frequent off-peak schedule filler so it's entirely possible the local schedulers just shifted around new and repeated episodes from the CBS years) but i did see the odd episode as part of the show's reruns on BRAVO. 

All four seasons have been released on DVD.  There is also a BR set of the three network years (omitting the last season).  The "movie" version of the pilot (which was only released on VHS in the UK but I believe did get a full theatrical release in some markets) has also been released as a Blu Ray.  It's a certificate 18 edit (which must have confounded a few parents back-in-the-day all thought they were renting the same thing they saw every week on ITV for their kids) which spices up the sex, violence and swearing a bit (although not as much as the certification suggests) and lops off the coda that sets up the premise for the weekly series.  The TV edit is including on the DVD and (presumably... I've not felt the need to upgrade ) BR sets. 

This first book adapts the TV pilot. 

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