Spencer for Hire

Spenser: For Hire was a mystery television series based on Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” novels. Spenser was surprisingly sophisticated for a private eye and former boxer. He was well-read, often quoting poetry in everyday conversation. He was also an excellent cook. Spenser lived in Boston and, like many detectives on TV, drove a distinctive car, an ivy green ’66 Ford Mustang.

Robert Urich played Spenser. The other major characters were Hawk, played by Avery Brooks, and Susan Silverman, played by Barbara Stock. Ms. Stock left the show in its second season and was replaced by Carolyn McCormick as Rita Fiore. Ms. Stock then returned for the final season. Characters actors Richard Jaeckel and Ron McLarty also co-starred as Spenser’s police contacts, Boston homicde detectives Lt. Martin Quirk and Sgt. Frank Belson.

While the show had a loyal following, Mr. Parker was somewhat disappointed with the final product (though he said it was not the fault of the performers). Mr. Urich, however, indicated it was his favorite acting role.

The series ran on ABC from 1985 to 1988. The two-hour pilot movie was an adaptation of the fourth novel in the book series, Promised Land. The show garnered decent ratings, despite frequent time slot changes and occasional preemptions. In the end, all of the location shooting helped do in the show as cost was cited as one of the reasons why ABC canceled it. In 1989, after the show ended, Mr. Brooks received his own spin-off series, A Man Called Hawk.

During the early 1990s, Mr. Urich and Mr. Brooks reunited for four made-for-TV films. The movies were based on four of Mr. Parker’s novels. In fact, Mr. Parker and his wife Joan co-wrote the first two screenplays. Barbara Stock was replaced as Susan Silverman in the first two movies by Barbara Williams and in the other two by veteran actress Wendy Crewson (Air Force One). Mr. Parker’s son Daniel appears in all four movies as a waiter in Spenser’s favorite restaurant. Unlike the series, which often filmed in Boston, the new movies filmed in Toronto. One of the movies was based on Mr. Parker’s Edgar award-winning novel A Savage Place. Sadly, Mr. Urich passed away on April 16, 2002 after a long struggle with cancer.

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