Thursday, January 31, 2013

80's TV Thursday: Street Hawk

For the foreseeable future, Thursdays on my blog will now be devoted to chatting about old 80's "genre" shows. In the past, I've talked about two of my favorites from back in the day: Voyagers and Tales of the Gold Monkey. As with my posts on New Comics Wednesday, I will strive to incorporate some bits on how elements from the programs can influence and/or inspire some tabletop (or G+, for that matter), gaming, and also I'll now include a short blurb on whether or not I think the show is appropriate for kids, for those of us who are raising geeks-in-training.

Note that my purpose in chatting about these shows is not to make fun of them - despite some of the jokes I may make, I remember all of these fondly from my youth. I'm not necessarily saying that they'd hold up today, but I do think that there's some good ideas in each of them that can be explored and expanded on, particular for use in certain styles of RPGs. 

Today's show is a fabulous example of 1980's style-over-substance: "Street Hawk." Remember this one? If not... do you remember "Knight Rider" or "Air Wolf"? If so, then you know "Street Hawk", except that the main vehicle is a motorcycle. In a similar fashion to Knight Rider, the vehicle is a better actor than the humans on the show.

The premise of the show, from what I can remember (augmented by a little Internet research I did) is that there's this secret government project run by a nerd scientist named Norman Tuttle, played by Joe Regalbuto (a very recognizable character actor, but probably best known for his role on "Murphy Brown"). The government has decided to fun this super awesome attack motorcycle that is capable of incredible speeds and has guns and missiles and stuff, and, most importantly, can be controlled by the nerd scientist guy in this awesome computer control room that's vaguely like the Batcave, except with no bats.

The project is super top-secret, and needs to go through a test-phase, so the government recruits a police officer named Jesse Mach, most likely just based on his last name alone. Mach (played by Rex Smith) was a former motorcycle cop who was injured in the line of duty and has been moved to a desk job as a PR officer for the department. Tuttle and Mach had a very "Felix and Oscar" type of relationship, which is natural given the broad brush with which their characters are drawn ("the nerd" and "the jock," essentially). However, of course, a level of mutual respect develops at the end of the Pilot and they agree to work together. Mach leads a double-life, continuing his police department PR job during the day, and then becoming the helmeted vigilante, The Street Hawk, by night.

Further complicating matters is that Mach's very own Captain at the Police Department is fixated on finding out the identify of The Street Hawk and bringing him to justice. He of course he no idea that one of his own men is the black-clad motorcycle vigilante.

This show debuted on ABC in 1985 as a mid-season replacement and ran for only 13 episodes, through May. It was not renewed for a second season.

I remember being really excited about this show when it came out. I guess I was just at the right age (14) to be able to enjoy a show like this. I had never been a huge fan of "Knight Rider" but for some reason, "Street Hawk" seemed grittier and more "real" to me than a talking car.

I think one of the reasons I really liked this show was that I had recently been really getting into a little game called "Car Wars," which is a small little "wargame" wherein players design cool customized vehicles using a point-buy system and then battle each other in a vaguely defined dystopian post-apocalyptic future. I was really into the game, by which I mean, I was into designing vehicle after vehicle of cool cars, trucks, and motorcycles that were equipped with guns and lasers and missiles and grenade launchers and turbo boosters and all that kind of stuff. We always spent way more time designing cool vehicles than we did actually playing the game.

Also, the show had an awesome intro and a theme song by Tangerine Dream. Come on!

Here are some thoughts:

  • Seriously? This sounds kind of cheesy. Should I really watch it? Honestly, I think you can get all you need from this show from the introduction posted above, unless you really are into motorcycles and want to see it in action. This is definitely more of a "nostalgia" show for me - I don't claim, by any means, that it's good television. It was just a fun time as I recall, but I don't even see myself watching it if it were to come on TV in reruns any time soon.
  • Anything useful for my tabletop gaming? There are some interesting ideas in the program, depending on what kind of game you're running. If you're running a modern spy-type game, there are probably a few things you could pull out of this for inspiration. The shadowy government agency top secret program that's designing an "all-terrain attack motorcycle designed by fight urban crime" is a huge stretch, but it could lead to some questions as to why it's secret in the first place. There are some interesting bits with how the computer control center works, doing things like plotting out a route in real-time that avoids traffic and other obstacles and then programming that into an auto-pilot for use then the motorcycle goes into "hyperthrust." And of course, if your game involves having high-tech vehicles, you could get a bunch of ideas from this.
  • Is it okay for kids? Yeah, I think this one is fine. There are guns and explosions and stuff, but it's that really exaggerated over-the-top stuff that's not much different from a typical animated program that's on these days. I'd say you'd be fine with ages 5 and up, if your kids are really interested in wanting to watch this.
I'd be really interested in hearing all of your thoughts on whether you remember this show, if you watched it, and what you thought of it. And, also, if you tried to stat-up a Street Hawk type motorcycle for your "Car Wars" games. :)


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: just tap water right now
Listening: "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" by 布袋寅泰


  1. I was not a huge Street Hawk fan, but I applaud the idea of the Thursday 80s Tv retrospective.

    1. Thanks, Trey! I have a short list of shows I'll be going through, and then I'll move to a new different "Thursday" topic.

  2. Wow, great posts! I hope you don't burn yourself out here writing every day.

    1. Glad you're enjoying 'em! It's funny, when I started my blog back in February 2011, I used to post about once a day on average, and did that for about two months. And then, I lost my main client (I run my own ad agency from home) and I immediately switched from blogging to "aggressive new business mode." I'm now, after about two years, in a place where I feel a little more comfortable carving out an hour or two a day to blog a bit, and not feel guilty that I'm not cold-calling people to try to get business.

  3. I haven't seen this one or I don't remember it.

  4. I don't know if we got it a year or two later, but I do remember Street Hawk. I don't recall much about it, but I do remember that I liked it a lot. I've not seen a single episode since, and I suspect it won't hold up, but the theme tune is still great.

  5. Did you ever watch an 80s show about an alien who was recently revived and traveled from town to town. I can't remember the name of the show, but he had a crystal and seemed to be avoiding the military. He had a Nordic look to him. And I remember that he did not like "air conditioning"! Seemed to be in touch with nature and animals.

    1. That doesn't really sound familiar... but now I can't stop trying to figure out what it must've been!

    2. Okay, I did some exhaustive searching...
      The show I am thinking of is very obscure. I am surprised I remember it all as I was probably 10 at the time.
      It is... The Phoenix!


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