When US audiences think of parodies of TV police shows, the first name that comes to mind is Leslie Nielsen in his role as Frank Drebin in the short-lived six-episode 1982 series Police Squad! that later was made into the hit trilogy of Naked Gun films beginning in 1988.
But in between, during the years 1986-1988, there were two seasons of another spoof series called Sledge Hammer!. This starred David Rasche in the title role. Hammer was a stereotypical right-wing sexist puritanical police officer with fascistic tendencies who hated liberals and thought civil liberties and the legal system with its protections of the rights of the accused were indicators of society’s pusillanimity and that what was needed was to let the police loose to do whatever they felt necessary to get the bad guys.
He was fearless and honest but not particularly smart, a Dirty Harry on steroids, who thought that violence was the solution to every problem. He spoke fondly to his gun, always wore it, and slept with it next to his pillow. On the slightest provocation, he would whip out his gun and fire it, giving his precinct captain and his smarter partner Dori Doreau heartburn. Just before he would do something reckless or violent or both, he would say, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.” I had a post in 2006 comparing him to George W. Bush.
The series took place during the latter part of the Reagan presidency and there are frequent topical references to that era’s politics, films, and TV shows, such as this exchange when a secret group of vigilante police officers who summarily kill people they believe have escaped justice think he would be an ideal member and invite him to join their group.
Vigilante police: “The reason we are here inspector Hammer is to invite you to join a clandestine group whose members share the purpose of righting wrongs through force and aggression.”
Hammer: “Oh, I’m already a registered Republican.”
Many of the episodes of this parody series were themselves parodies of films. Being a fan of silly parodies, I found the series funny when I saw it back in the 1980’s but as with all parodies, the concept wears thin after a while and it is not a surprise that they don’t last long. Parodies should be limited to short series or films.
Given the current attention given to police brutality and the many, many instances where police are accused of using excessive force and abusing their power, a series such as this could not air anymore. Excessive police violence is now rightly seen as a serious problem and not a source of humor.
But for those who would like to see it, all 40 or so complete episodes are available on YouTube and I have re-watched most of them. You can watch them in any order, as there is no character development.
Here are a couple of episodes.