I write this review totally unbiased and without nostalgia as I never watched this show during its original ABC run so this series is completely new to me. I bought this because two of my favorite actors of this era had guest spots on this volume. Max Gail ("Barney Miller") plays a rapist with a half-a-million-dollar price tag on his head thanks to the wealthy father (Howard Duff) of his latest victim. Gary Lockwood ("The Lieutenant") shows up as a vengeful ex-con who spent 20 years in prison for a gang initiation gone awry.
While I initially only bought this for those two episodes, the show's sharp writing and impressive guest-star roster drew me in. The installments featuring Jessica Walter and Desi Arnaz Jr. are equally good.
Never a Michael Douglas fan (too smug) or Karl Malden either for that matter, I find Richard Hatch much more engaging even if the scripts give him little to do except deliver exposition. I didn't care much for the Don Johnson episode only because it spends too much time dealing with Mike Stone's (Karl Malden) personal interests as his daughter (Darleen Carr) figures largely into the plot. I've now seen enough episodes to know I don't care for the ones that deal with Stone's home life. I remember seeing Darleen in "Battle of the Network Stars" and she came across as very likeable there, but her character here seems too sweet, even if she is meant to contrast the violence of her father's cases. The episode where she dates motorcycle cop Don Johnson is relatively dull IMO.
The awesome "Who Killed Helen French" episode is one of those episodes that could only have been made in the '70s and has so many intriguing twists and turns you'd swear it was a two-hour episode. Other highlights include the Arnold Schwarzenegger appearance in "Dead Lift"; the gay-themed "A Good Cop...But" and "Once a Con". Even when the stories are less than excellent, the guest star performances make up for it, as in "Let's Pretend We're Strangers" with Linda Kelsey or "Hang Tough" featuring Ned Beatty.
The video quality of these episodes is excellent and I only wish Richard Hatch had been afforded more time on the series.
FIVE STARS. An addictive slice of '70s crime drama with more grit and reality than those from the Spelling-Goldberg stable.