Don’t Hire This Spenser

Bob Sassone reports over at TV Squad that Rykodisc is releasing the four, made-on-the-cheap-in-Canada SPENSER reunion movies  on DVD. Those crappy, flatly-directed, and exceedingly dull MOWs shouldn’t be mistaken for the underappreciated SPENSER FOR HIRE  series (and I’m not just saying that because I wrote for it).

Robert Urich and Avery Brooks were the perfect Spenser and Hawk,
the scripts were literate and intelligent, and the on
location filming in Boston added a lot of atmosphere and color. But
then the show was cancelled, and they decided to make these rather
so-so movies, and they don’t include Barbara Stock as Susan Silverman
(sorry again: Wendy Crewson and Barbara Williams just aren’t the same).
The good news? They aren’t the lame Joe Mantegna Spenser
flicks that A&E produced later, and it’s great to see Urich and
Avery together again. The bad news? It’s not the TV series.

I hope the TV series comes out on DVD soon and not just because I’d like pristine copies of my episodes. It was a very good PI series and seems to have dropped out of syndication a few years ago.

Unlike Bob Sassone, I actually liked Joe Mantegna as Spenser a lot (and I love his readings of the Parker novels on CD) …but he was teamed with lousy actors as Hawk and, once again, the movies were shot on the cheap in Toronto with bland Canadian actors. The scripts weren’t so hot, either.  I think if they’d cast Mantegna and Avery Brooks, and shot the movies in Boston, and hired better writers (like Bill Rabkin & me!), the movies might have worked…

Tom Selleck, who did a bang-up job playing Parker’s Jesse Stone on TV recently, would make a good Spenser. So would Robert Forster who, incidentally, does a great job reading the Jesse Stone novels on CD.

22 thoughts on “Don’t Hire This Spenser”

    • No way. Urich was as perfect for Spenser as Brooks was for Hawk. They were both born to play those roles and born to play off each other.

  1. I can’t stand Joe Mantegna as Spenser. He has no physical presence. I loved the show, and not just because Lee wrote several episodes, and always found Urich to be a fine, if bland, Spenser. Selleck would have been great then, and still would be great now.
    You know what we should do? We should take out a huge ad in Variety demanding that the entire original living cast be reunited in their own movie. Yeah. And we should get a website. We should form a group and call ourselves Spenser’s Gifts and begin an earnest letter writing campaign to Robert Parker, and Avery Brooks, and ABC and everyone who ever had anything to do with Spenser. We should get t-shirts and mugs and message boards and we should demand that our fan voices be heard! And then, and only then, we should also demand that Urich’s other final star turns — as captain of the Love Boat and as Emeril’s agent in Emeril — be released on DVD. Who is with me?

  2. Spenser was best when he was more rough-edged and morally gray. Like Keith, I didn’t quite buy Urich as Spenser because his wholesomeness seeped into all his roles.
    I’m a fan of Avery Brooks, but I’ve always thought he played Hawk too angry. Then again Parker’s Hawk as written is too impassive and taciturn to appeal to a leading actor.
    Barbara Stock was strikingly beautiful, but Parker’s Susan–before she got so full of herself that she could only lunch on lettuce leaves–was supposed to have more physical presence than classic beauty.
    Speaking of presence, I agree with Tod that Mantegna lacks it. The A&E movies seemed to be wish-fulfillment for Parker, who got to have more of his own words show up onscreen. Unfortunately, Parker’s familiar (tired?) banter played flatter onscreen than it does in the books.
    Sure, the Urich movies were shot in Toronto, but Urich is a better physical match than Mantegna for Spenser. You’ve got Avery Brooks as Hawk, and Parker’s influence is there, but not overbearing. I’ll buy the set.

  3. I loved that series and thought the casting was wonderful. Robert Urich and Avery Brooks are Spenser and Hawk to me. The guys who played Quinn and Belson were terrific, too.
    Definitely a real favorite of mine. Classic PI entertainment.

  4. Belson was played by Ron McLarty, the excellent reader of the Ed McBain audiobooks and author of MEMORY OF RUNNING.

  5. I didn’t know you wrote any Spenser shows. Which ones?
    An interesting thing about the Spenser series it that guys loved it, women hated it. Go figure. Least wise that’s the comments I get when I mention the show. I liked it. Girl friends don’t.
    Also the early books are the best. I think after number 5684 the writing droped off.
    I like your idea of Robert Forster for Spenser. Now who is going to play Hawk?
    PS: Has anyone figured out what Spenser’s first name is?

  6. The original cast of the Spenser:For Hire TV series will always be the characters I picture when I read the Parker novels. I do agree though that Tom Selleck would be a good replacement for the late/great Robert Urich. Also, how about Tommy Lee Jones or maybe James Brolin as Marty Quirk?

  7. I’m a big Robert Urich and Spenser Fan. Bob Urich was very very perfect in this role – Avery Brooks was a perfect Hawk, nobody does it better 😉 The both – a cool Dream Team. Barbara Stock, a very beautiful Women and a very good Susan. Barbara Williams was in the later movie OK…but Wendy Crewson was very very bad in the role – she was to cold! I like the Spenser-Movies with Joe Mantegna, he played the role very well – but Bob Urich is the best in it 😉
    When come an Movie in Cinema – I think Daniel Day Lewis were a good Actor to play Spenser.

  8. Spenser would be best played by Chris Noth (law & order fame) now that Robert Urich has passed away.
    Thats my 2cents worth.

  9. It seems that Barbara Stock who played Susan Silverman has disappeared off the map as of 1997… any news?

  10. Wow, I was searching for…something or another about Spenser for Hire, here in 2020, where I just finished watching the series. My mom mentioned it in passing, I didn’t have anything else I wanted to watch, I pulled up the first season, and WOW. I made my way through the second season and was relieved at Susan’s return in the third (so yeah, I watched it old-school style without searching ahead for info on upcoming plots).

    As the kid I was when Spenser originally came out, I didn’t recognize and appreciate it for what it was. I’m blown away now by how ahead of its time the show seems (I’ve not yet read the books) in terms of its characters, characters’ relationships, and subject matter, while also being saddened by the fact that in a lot of ways, the show is still current: still ahead of its time.

    I’m glad to see others who are still interested in the show, in more recent times. And to Lee Goldberg, congratulations for having written for the show. What little I’ve read of Robert Urich, I can’t help but think that he would be glad to have his role in the show be part of his legacy.

    I’ll likely go ahead and check out at least one of the movies: thanks for the heads up about their flaws. I’ll likely agree with your take.

  11. I don’t accept any other Spenser than Robert Urich or any other Hawk but Avery Brooks. They WERE Spenser and Hawk and their chemistry is something that can’t be replicated or manufactured. I wouldn’t ever disrespect the late great Robert Urich by even watching another Spenser.

  12. Robert Urich was perfecr as Spenser. No one else could ever replace him in my mind. And who but Avery Brooks could play Hawk as well? No one. That played well together. Barbara Stock was the perfect Susan, Spencer’s love interest. I just never thought Carolyn McCormick as Rita Fiore had the chemistry with Spenser. I have watched every episode on the Roku Channel and I also have the complete DVD set of all 3 seasons. I miss that show. The ruggedly handsome Urich left us far too soon. He was a class act.

    • I thought Joe Mantegna did a great job as Spenser in the two (or was it three?) TV movies he did. But the guys playing Hawk in those movies didn’t come close to Avery Brooks’ definitive performance. Don’t get me started on the excreble SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL on Netflix….


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