A series by David Flynn
An action adventure series with two male leads kept television audiences watching for a couple of years in the 1980s. The law and order series starred legendary television and big screen actor Brian Keith, and his chemistry with the younger up and coming actor, Daniel Hugh Kelly, helped to create a tv hit.
Hardcastle and McCormick was created by producer, Stephen J. Cannell, who had many other hits on the air at the time, including The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero and in the previous decade he created The Rockford Files, which starred James Garner. The co-creator, Patrick Hasburgh, also worked on the other named series.
The writers of Hardcastle and McCormick successfully married wisecracks and humour with law and order and it was mixed with car chases, shooting and violence, but yet nobody was badly injured or killed.
The premise of the Brian Keith series was a simple one. Milton C. Hardcastle (Brian Keith) was a retiring Los Angeles judge in the pilot episode, and he was feeling bad about many cases which slipped through his courts. In his final case, he encountered car racer and thief, Mark ‘Skid’ McCormick (Daniel Hugh Kelly). Mark was put under the Judge’s supervision, and the duo decided to go after two hundred of the Judge’s cases which were lost through the courts.
Mary Jackson, who was an elderly actress of the time and who had played Miss Emily on The Waltons appeared in the first six episodes of the Hardcastle and McCormick, and Joe Santos who was a regular as Lt. Dennis Becker in The Rockford Files appeared in the third and final season.
Hardcastle and McCormick began in 1983 on the ABC network in America on Sunday nights at 8pm. The competition was tight with the hit sitcom, Alice on CBS, and the action drama series, Knight Rider on NBC. It immediately crossed the sea to Ireland’s RTÉ 2 and to ITV in Britain. It became a big favourite with Irish audiences and is still popularly talked about with folks who were teens and young adults at the time.
The series was a hit in its timeslot, and came in at No. 25 in the ratings in the US. It was coincidentally, the exact same rating that Alice and Knight Rider got that season.
The two Hardcastle and McCormick actors were featured on magazine covers at the time, and Daniel Hugh Kelly became recognised throughout the world. Brian Keith was already a star of the big and small screen and had been nominated for three Emmy awards for his lead role in the 1960s sitcom, Family Affair.
Many of the viewers had an interest in the different cars that Mark McCormick (Daniel Hugh Kelly) drove in the series. The Coyote X that Mark drove was loosely based on the design of the McLaren M6GT car. However Brian Keith, who was quite a big man, had difficulty getting into the car, so after the first season, the car was replaced with a different Coyote, which was based on a DeLorean.
The series was picked up for second season, and kept on Sunday nights for Autumn 1984, but the competition got much heavier, with the first season of Murder, She Wrote running at the same time on CBS. It knocked both Hardcastle and McCormick and Knight Rider out of the Top 30, and the Brian Keith series was moved in the winter to Monday nights in the same timeslot.
The competition continued to be tough – this time with the drama series, Scarecrow and Mrs. King starring Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner on CBS, and a comedy series, TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes on NBC. Both of the series opposite Hardcastle and McCormick were in the Top 30.
The original premise of the Brian Keith series was somewhat forgotten about as the two lead characters got into more comic storylines. However the viewers, albeit not in huge numbers, continued to like the series. It was recognised early on by producers that the plotlines were going against the original premise, and they didn’t backtrack but instead continued on, and dropped the introductory explanation at the beginning of the programme about the duo going after two hundred cases.
Hardcastle and McCormick was picked up for a third season on ABC. It remained on Monday night, and besides Scarecrow, it was now up against two hit sitcoms on NBC.
The series broadcast its last episode in May 1986 in the US.