25th Anniversary of Television Helicopters

This January marks the 25th anniversary of three television shows that brings justice in the air:

Riptide was the latest light-hearted action/adventure series from Stephen J. Cannell about Nick Ryder and Cody Allen, two former handsome Army friends that goes to business as private investigators in sunny California. They enlisted the help of Murrary “Boz” Bozinsky for computer and technical support. Their helicopter was The Screaming Mimi, Nick’s aging Sikorsky S-58T. The series aired on NBC from 1984 to 1986, and continued to have a cult following as an underrated and hidden gem about the importance of friendship.

Based on the hit 1983 film starring the late Roy Schneider, Blue Thunder chronicles the missions of a high-etch helicopter used to fight crime in Los Angeles. Blue Thunder aired on ABC in January but strong competition against CBS’s juggernaut Dallas and a certain “Lady” lead the series to being grounded after 11 episodes.

And speaking of The Lady, there’s no one better than Airwolf. Created by Donald P. Bellasario, the series follows reclusive yet sensitive idealist Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent), who pilots the most advanced, sophisticated helicopter that is sought after by governments all over the world. In exchange for information on his MIA brother Saint John, he agrees to take on missions of national interest on behalf of the white-clad yet ambiguous Michael “Archangel” Coldsmith-Briggs III (Alex Cord) and The Firm.

The series aired on CBS from 1984 to 1986, and then was picked up by the then-fledging cable network USA for only one season in 1987 with a new cast — much to the charging of its hard-core fans. Airwolf mixed action and adventure with social and political commentary that dealt with the Cold War; this was more than Knight Rider with a helicopter.

DVDs of all three shows can be found online at Amazon