A Fact-Filled Opinionated Guide to the Best and Worst on TV
By Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik
Prentice Hall Press, New York, 1989.
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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
This attempt to revive the Get Smart style of humor comes complete with silly catch phrases, physical slapstick, an exasperated but impossibly tolerant boss, and a main character often oblivious to what's really going on but blessed with enough luck to complete his assignments anyway.
Stand-up comic David Rasche (pronounced "Rah-She") does a good job developing his character (an L.A. [sic] police detective) into an effective exaggeration of the Dirty Harry type of gung-ho supercop popularized by Clint Eastwood. The main problem is that such a super-macho guy is already a caricature, so it's hard to take him too much further without turning him into a total freak.
As it is, Hammer emerges as single-minded to a fault, mouthing knee-jerk conservative cliches against wimps and pinkos while intentionally (or accidentally) knocking about suspects and bystanders in his quest against the bad guys. Yet that dedication also saves him from himself. Though he'll go to any length to squash the scum of the earth, he also really believes in truth, justice, and the American way. Hammer is nobody's willing patsy.
Luckily his partner Dori Doreau is there to help pull him clear when he does become somebody's unwitting (or inadvertant) pawn. Despite his macho image, Hammer honestly respects her abilities as a cop, probably because she also excels in hand-to-hand combat and if provoked might just punch out a "no-good yogurt-eatin' creep" on her own. (Not bad for "only a girl.") Naturally Doreau has a soft spot in her heart for Sledge. When it comes to romance, though, Hammer saves his most tender words for the true love of his life, his .44 magnum. He polishes it, talks to it, and even takes it to bed.
As with Get Smart, the series excels when its stock comedy hooks are mixed with other parody elements, such as episodes sending up Crocodile Dundee [Death Of A Few Salesmen], Max Headroom [A Clockwork Hammer], and the feature film Witness [Witness].
However, the most audacious episode comes a the close of what was expected to be the series' only season. [The Spa Who Loved Me] Hammer, Doreau, and Capt. Trunk have to disarm a small nuclear bomb set to destroy Los Angeles. Confident as always, Hammer delivers his trademark line ("Trust me, I know what I'm doing"), then twists the cap to open the device. It detonates and levels the city. Then the series got renewed.
How did the writers get out of that bind? To open the new season, they repeated the scenes leading to the fatal explosion. Then an announcer came on to explain that the new season of Sledge Hammer! would take place five years before the explosion. [A Clockwork Hammer]
You have to admire their nerve in pulling off such a continuity cop-out.