Spenser: For Hire is a mystery television series based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. The series, developed for TV by John Wilder, differs from the novels, mostly in its lesser degree of detail.

Like many TV detective series, the show is voiced over in first person, just as the novels are written.

Contents Edit


  • 1 Production
  • 2 Characters
  • 3 Cast
  • 4 Episodes
  • 5 DVD Release
  • 6 Spin-offs and remakes
  • 7 External links
  • 8 References

Production[edit] Edit

The series ran on ABC from 1985 to 1988. The show garnered decent ratings, despite frequent time slot changes and occasional preemptions. In the end, all of the location shooting contributed to the show's demise, with cost being cited as one of the reasons why ABC canceled it. The location shooting, mostly Boston, was one of the show's strong points, showing all around town, even showing the harsh winters there (notably in the pilot). Music was by Steve Dorff and Larry Herbstritt.

Characters[edit] Edit

Just the name Spenser is used. There is no indication whether this is a first or last name, though in the novels, it's clear that this is the character's last name. In "An Eye For An Eye", Spenser quotes something from Edmund Spenser, a famous 16th century poet, so that may be where the name originated as the spelling is the same. When introducing himself, he often said "Spenser with a 'S', like the poet." Spenser was surprisingly sophisticated for a private eye and former boxer. In "The Choice", we find that he did badly 12 years ago in a professional fight, which probably contributed to his leaving the profession. However, he still works out, boxing and such at Henry Cimoli's Gym (which Hawk also uses). He is well-read, often quoting poetry in everyday conversation. He is also an excellent cook, often cooking recipes as he watchedJulia Child on his kitchen counter television.

Spenser lived in Boston and, like many detectives on TV, drove distinctive cars; at first a mildly-worn ivy green '66 Ford Mustang (possibly a nod to Steve McQueen'sMustang in Bullitt) which gets destroyed a few episodes into the second season, then a brand new 1987 Mustang 5.0 GT, then after 5 or so episodes trades it for a beautifully restored 1966 Mustang GT. Spenser carried a Beretta 92 9mm pistol as his weapon of choice. Spenser used to be on the police force and occasionally goes to them for help, as they sometimes rely on him for help. Hardnose Lt. Quirk seems to view him as a necessary evil while Sgt Belson (portrayed as a bit of a slob) takes Spenser as he comes. Ms Silverman reveals she is pregnant with Spenser's child in "Children of the Tempest Storm". The word abortion comes up when talking with her doctor, and is discussed throughout the episode, though often not using the word. Susan and Spenser discuss the issue, and are at odds over the moral dilemma before them. Spenser, a Catholic, doesn't know if he can stay with Susan, though he loves her deeply, if she aborts. He believes it's only for her convenience that she would choose abortion. In the end, she has the abortion, and he brings her flowers. They silently affirm that the relationship will continue. After Susan leaves the show, ADA Rita Fiore becomes Spenser's love interest during the second season, but they do not seem to develop the personal bond that was apparent with Silverman.

After his first place of business goes up in flames, Spenser moves into a "firehouse", given him by grateful local firefighters for saving the life of a firefighter (at his first place of business). It is situated on the corner of River Street, near Mt. Vernon Square and Beacon Hill. In the second season, we find that the Fire Department took the station back as they needed it and Spenser finds himself in a small top floor apartment inCharlestown, near the old Boston Navy Yard which he now uses as his office.

Hawk is the street-wise black kid who grew up to become a smartly dressed enforcer. Though he is for hire, he has a code of ethics and generally works on the side of good. In the pilot show ("Promised Land"), he and Spenser obviously have respect for each other, and he switches over from King Powers' (Chuck Connors) side to Spenser's side when he doesn't like the way Powers is doing things. Hawk carries a nickel plated.357 Magnum Colt Python 8" barrel revolver as his weapon of choice.

Lt Quirk and Spenser had an uneasy relationship but often did work together. In the episode "Heart of the Matter", Quirk suffers an angina attack and reluctantly accepts the fact that he must retire after 35 years on the force. Belson, having passed the lieutenant's exam 3 years previously, had expected to move up, especially after being recommended by Quirk for the job. But it was said there was no money for a promotion so they drafted in a Lieutenant from Lincoln Heights.

Lt. Nick Webster is a hard nose from day one and the first thing he does is order Spenser out of the station.

Cast[edit] Edit

Robert Urich (right) as Spenser,Avery Brooks as Hawk

Robert Urich played Spenser. The other major characters were Hawk, played by Avery Brooks, and Susan Silverman, played by Barbara Stock. Barbara Stock was subsequently shown the door — or, more accurately, shipped off to San Francisco — in the show's second season because the writers just couldn't figure out what to do with her. When Spenserstruggled in the ratings, ABC and the series' creative types panicked, instituted "improvements," and Stock was out of a job. She was replaced in the show's second season byCarolyn McCormick as ADA Rita Fiore, who at first abhors Spenser, but eventually falls for his charms. Trouble was, ADA Fiore didn't fare any better, plot-wise, nor did the show fare any better in the ratings. So Spenser's humbled star, the late Robert Urich, was forced to eat some crow and beg Barbara Stock to come back. Stock was no dummy, after all, and knew that Urich had creative input on the show. He may not have had a direct hand in her exit, but he certainly didn't stand up for her, either. "I didn't fight it," he admitted later. "I'll take as much of the blame as anybody."

So thus Urich found himself dialing his former costar up. "You might hang up on me," he recalled saying, "but this is what I propose. It's a new ball game here. We've got new people. If you can forgive me because I didn't have the foresight and courage to say 'Let's ride it out to the end,' will you come back?" She asked for time to think about it, and he said he'd call her the next day. He called back an hour later. "I didn't do that very well, did I?" he asked. Well enough, it seems, since Stock returned, though she never pretended to be too sentimental about why. "I did it because it was the right thing for me to do in my career," she said.[1] Her character is explained to have been in San Francisco for a year to try to get over Spenser. The character Rita Fiore just vanished without explanation (the show could not afford both characters financially or story-wise) as her predecessor, Susan Silverman, nearly had at the end of the previous season. Spenser alludes to Susan's disappearance in the opening VO to episode 2 of season 2, and covers it completely—in almost the same terms as in the novel Valediction—in the final scene of the episode. The role of the "leading lady" declined after season 1—season 2 has 3 episodes without Rita,[2] and season 3 has 2 episodes without Susan[3]—as the show focused more on Spenser as detective.

Character actors Richard Jaeckel and Ron McLarty also co-starred as Spenser's police contacts, Boston homicide detectives Lt. Martin Quirk and Sgt. Frank Belson, respectively. Spenser was a cop himself 8 years previously (mentioned in the first season).

Episodes[edit] Edit

Main article: List of Spenser: For Hire Episodes

The series had three seasons (1985–1988) with a total of 66 episodes, and was followed by four made-for-TV movies (1993–1995).

DVD Release[edit] Edit

The 3 seasons of the actual TV show have not been released on DVD.

Rykodisc released the four TV movies that were made following the cancellation of the weekly series, on DVD for the first time on June 28, 2005.[4] In 2007, Rykodisc re-released each of the 4 TV movies in separate collections.[5]

DVD Name Ep # Additional Information
Spenser: The Movie Collection 4
  • Spenser: Ceremony
  • Spenser: Pale Kings And Princes
  • Spenser: The Judas Goat
  • Spenser: A Savage Place

Spin-offs and remakes[edit] Edit

In 1989, after the show ended, Brooks received his own spin-off series, A Man Called Hawk.

In an April 23, 2009, entry of his blog, the author stated he was in talks with TNT to produce a remake of the series.

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