CHASE (1973) – This cop show from the 70s had an odd history and ultimately wasted an initially promising premise.
The pilot movie aired on March 24th, 1973 and, as often surprises even devoted fans of Chase – the guy with the German Shepherd K9 cop did NOT appear! He and his dog weren’t added until the first episode after Chase was greenlit as a series.
At any rate, that pilot movie brought together Jack Webb and Stephen J. Cannell, who, at that point in their careers, represented television’s past and future, respectively. The story centered on Mitchell Ryan as Captain Chase Reddick, a tough cop who – don’t be shocked – often played by his own set of rules.
Chase was heading up a new unit for the Los Angeles Police Department. That unit was part Major Cases division and part Violent Crime Task Force. Typical of Stephen J. Cannell, this show’s hook was going to be vehicles.
Officer Steve Baker (Michael Richardson) was a former race car driver who handled the car chases. Officer Norm Hamilton (Reid Smith) was a Vietnam War veteran and helicopter pilot who handled aerial activities. And Officer Fred Sing (Brian Fong) was a hotshot motorcycle cop long before CHiPS hit the airwaves.
Shaaron (her spelling) Claridge, the real-life police dispatcher who had added “One Adam-12, One Adam-12, see the man …” to the national lexicon of catch-phrases, was brought along by Jack Webb for more voice work.
The 90-minute (with commercials) pilot saw Chase Reddick leading his team against a violent cop killer. Then, for the first episode of the resulting series, another gimmick was thrown in as Wayne Maunder joined the cast playing Sergeant Sam MacCray, accompanied by his K9 partner Fuzz.
The Chase unit operated out of a former fire station that was ideal for housing the various cars, motorcycles and aircraft used by our heroes. The team often went undercover, usually in roles that gave the show plenty of excuses for car chases, helicopter chases, motorcycle chases, etc.
Memorable episodes found our heroes clashing with a motorcycle-riding gang of armed robbers, a covert gambling operation run from a ship, a fast-driving car theft ring and drug dealers who used land, air and sea to smuggle their products.
If Cannell had been granted full creative power, Chase would probably have become as big as later shows like Starsky and Hutch or Cannell’s own Rockford Files and A-Team. Unfortunately, Jack Webb and/or the studios (sources vary) worked to undermine Cannell’s popular – albeit gimmicky – approach.
Webb apparently did not recognize that his time was passing, and Chase began to incorporate an approach more like Jack’s dry, clinical shows such as Dragnet and Adam-12. Roughly 13 episodes into the series’ run, colorful characters like Baker, Sing and Hamilton were jettisoned, to be replaced with blander, unlikable characters portrayed by Gary Crosby, Albert Reed and Craig Gardner.
As it was, with only Mitchell Ryan and Wayne Maunder remaining from the early cast, Chase limped toward the end of its one and only season. The pilot movie and first several episodes were fun and watchable, the stunts were impressive for a 70s program and the dog Fuzz was sure as hell better than Baretta’s cockatoo Fred.
After that, Chase fell into the “mediocre at best” category and is barely remembered here in 2022.
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