“You gotta uphold the law. If you bend a little bit, you look the other way once, you got the beginnings of anarchy” – Judge Milton C. “Hardcase” Hardcastle
Hardcastle & McCormick could be Stephen J. Cannell’s tribute to legendary masked crimefighting duos such as The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet & Kato, and Batman & Robin. The series, which aired on ABC from 1983 to 1986, follows the cases of tough yet honorable ex-judge Hardcastle (Brian Keith) and his protege, ex-race car driver turned thief Mark “Skid” McCormick (Daniel Hugh Kelly), as they go after 200 defendants that walked out of the former’s courtroom on technicalities.
Though mainly remembered for the Coyote X and perceived as a macho, shoot-’em-up, action-adventure series, Hardcastle & McCormick could be known also as a series involving the relationship between the title characters. Like another Cannell show Riptide (1984-86), it was an underrated and hidden gem but continues to have a loyal following through websites such as www.hardcastleandmccormick.tv, and videos made by fans on YouTube.
Now, fans such as Lynn Walker are coming together to celebrate the series’ quarter anniversary by writing a book coming out later this year with an episode guide of the entire series, photographs, interviews, and much more:
GG: How did the idea of writing a book on Hardcastle & McCormick came about?
LW: We’d said once or twice amongst ourselves that we ought to write a book about the show, then someone posted on one of the fan boards that he’d been contracted to do just that. He asked for our help in reaching the people involved with HC&McC and we did a little liaising for him. Unfortunately for him, the Cannell office and Danny Kelly both decided not to deal with him and without their participation, the book wasn’t going to happen. We asked his publisher (with whom we’d checked for his bona fides) if he’d be interested in having anyone else do the book and he immediately asked if we could do it. We were in contact with people from the show through the STAR for Brian effort and they were very generous and helpful and the book is now scheduled for release next month.
GG: Why do you like H&M so much?
LW: It’s a combination of the excellent writing, acting, and directing of the show, along with the premise. And I don’t mean that car, either. This is a show about a relationship, an extremely unlikely relationship that developed believably over the three-year run. There was a real chemistry between Brian and Danny, too, which came through clearly on the screen and made their characters very real to us.
GG: What do you think were the key ingredients that make the show work?
LW: First, you had some first-rate scriptwriters, starting with the pilot by Stephen Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh. Next, the lead actors were not only perfectly cast, but were gifted performers and the characters they portrayed were attractive personalities.
GG: Do you think the show should’ve lasted more than three years? Why or why not?
LW: Obviously, we all wish it had run forever! But I really would have liked to see at least one more season, to explore the situations and change in the relationship that would develop from Mark in law school.
GG: If Hardcastle & McCormick has such a fervent and loyal fan base that is dedicated as yours, then why is it this show isn’t shown in syndication or release on DVD here in the States?
LW: It did run in syndication in this country for three years after it went off the network, and is currently being shown in Germany.
GG: For years, everyone thought The General Lee and KITT were the stars of The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider, so do you think that the Coyote was the real star of Hardcastle & McCormick? Or would the series would’ve worked without it?
LW: The car was appealing to a certain segment of the viewing audience, but it was totally unnecessary to the show. Patrick Hasburgh is a car fan, and the Coyote was his idea, but HC&McC was about the two guys in the title. The car stunts were expensive, time-consuming and expensive since they required a complete second unit to film them. But there are fans to this day who remember nothing about the show but the Coyote.
GG: What are/were your favorite episodes of Hardcastle & McCormick from all three seasons?
LW: Oh, tough one. One of my favorites is “Something’s Going On On This Train” because that was the first one I ever saw. “Hardcastle, Hardcastle, Hardcastle, and McCormick” is another of my faves, because I just adore the aunts. I also love “Do Not Go Gentle”, but not for the reasons that most fans select it. The music montages are so well-done and the humor in that one just tickles me. Fan opinion seems to put “Rolling Thunder”, “The Birthday Present”, and “Chip Off the Ol’ Milt” in the top three pretty consistently.
GG: Which theme song you prefer: “Drive” or “Back to Back”?
LW: They’re both terrific, but very different. As majority of fans seems to prefer the original, but I’m in the minority that votes for “Back to Back”.
GG: Did you or anyone else get a chance to meet any of the cast and crew of H&M, such as Daniel Hugh Kelly or creator/executive producer Stephen J. Cannell?
LW: Oh, yes, we certainly did. In working to get Brian’s star, we got in touch with Victoria Keith, Danny Kelly, the late Larry Hertzog, Joe Santos, Stephen Cannell, Les Sheldon, stunt people, directors, writers, Coyote designers, and more.
As for Brian’s star, the family never thought of applying for one. They were very touched when we approached them and we have become friends. It’s not an easy task to get a star. The three of us were pretty naive about it all, and then, after we’d applied, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce raised the required fee from $10,000 to $25,000. All of it was fan-raised and that is very rare. Jane Seymour’s was the last fan-nominated, fan-paid star, back in (I believe) 1997. Most stars are publicity-related. Someone has a record or movie coming out and the studio pushes for the nomination to be approved and pays the fee. We had to convince the star panel that Brian deserved the honor and collect an enormous amount of money from his fans. Fortunately, he was such a well-loved actor that his fan base still remembers and they were very generous. But it took more than two years, and a tremendous amount of work, to get it accomplished.
GG: The final episode ended with Mark’s parole coming to an end, as he went to law school and decides to become a lawyer. If the series was renewed for a season four and beyond, where would you like H&M go in terms of storyline and character development? Would you like to see more of the Coyote?
LW: I could have cheerfully lived without another single car chase or spectacular jump myself. Other fans, though, liked the car, but most of us just speed search through those parts to get back to the real stars of the show. As for season four, I’m not sure you’re aware that there’s a group of fans (including the three of us) who write fanfic for HC&McC. You can find most of it at The Hardcastle & McCormick Guide