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HUNTER (1976)

hunter_mv_h hunter_tv_h
 
Full Name: James Hunter
Nationality: American
Organization: Unnamed Agency
Occupation Agent

Creator: William Blinn
Time Span: 1976 - 1977

ABOUT THE SERIES

     James Hunter is an agent with an unnamed American Intelligence organization.
     In truth to call it an organization is to give it far more gravitas than it really deserves. It was the brainchild of a high-ranking government official whose identity was kept extremely hush-hush, so much so that I am only assuming he was in the government.
     What we know is from a telephone conversation shown each week at the start of an adventure, relating how a General Baker received a call from this enigmatic individual with the following dialogue:


- Voice: "Baker, I want you to establish a special force of six agents, accountable to you only."
- Baker: "There's one man I want for this job. He's running a bookstore in Santa Barbara. His name is James Hunter. He's strictly civilian now but he's one of the best agents we had."
- Voice: "Advise him that all missions will be so covert that once assigned, an agent will be entirely on his own, no matter what the consequences. Get to him immediately."
- Baker: "I'll call him right now."
- Voice: "To ensure complete secrecy, these agents will operate the normal channels of your community."


     Immediately thereafter, we observe a call to Hunter from the General with the simple, "This is Baker. I think it's time that we talked."


     As the General stated, James Hunter, when we first meet him, indeed does run a bookstore in Santa Barbara and has for several years. This handsome, blond-haired man is in his early 40s and remains in exceptionally good shape considering his now rather sedentary vocation.
     He was not always a bookseller, however, as the General told us. Eight years before that first adventure, he has been an operative with 'the Agency', a department whose identity is never stated but likely was the CIA. Back then he was attached to a division called the 'K Group' which apparently was run by Baker, considering his familiarity with Hunter.
     Hunter is said to have gotten upset with the way that the group was being run, or with the sort of work they were tasked with doing, and quit, this happening in 1969. Now it is 1977, the General has been given the directive to start a new group, and he calls Hunter. Surprisingly, considering the fact that he had left due to unhappiness with his occupation, Hunter agrees to the new offer.
     Now Hunter is one of the half dozen agents working under the control of the General at the behest of that mystery void. He will be tasked with taking on an assortment of missions going up against traitors, enemy agents, rogue operatives, and occasionally organized crime.


Marty Shaw
     One of the other six operatives is the beautiful and extremely capable Marty Shaw. Unlike Hunter whose "cover" identity (in quotes since that was his occupation before joining the group) which would seem to ground him more than help him, Shaw is a renown international model. For her to go any place for any reason could be made to seem normal and legitimate. On the other hand, if anonymity is called for, her fame and beauty would be problematic.
     While it was made clear to the General by the covert leader that each agent would acting 'entirely on his own', several of the missions we are shown of Hunter also include Shaw in them, something that proves beneficial to both.
     The relationship between the two is one of considerable closeness as evidenced on several occasions, including one instance where, in a hotel restaurant, Hunter was commenting that he should get back to Santa Barbara when Shaw informs him that her plane did not leave for a few hours. When Hunter offers with some humor to stick around, Shaw leads him away for some obvious alone time.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1976
Last Appearance:1976

     As was and is common in the television industry, a concept is shopped to various networks to see if anyone is interested enough to pony up money to make a pilot. This pilot would be used then to see how the executives think of the treatment and sometimes how a focus group might react. If favorable, the producers get the green light to make a set of episodes to be aired later.

     The creator of Hunter must have been amused (my word for it) when his concept for a show was deemed good enough for the pilot but then not good enough for the actual series. Also, while in the series credits each week showed him as the creator, there was no mention of him as a producer, executive or otherwise, telling me that he was no longer involved.


     The pilot is listed here as a made-for-tv movie only because it would like have been shown as such at some point. Its length was not really movie-sized, coming in as would a typical hour-long drama.

1 Hunter Hunter
Director: Tom Gries
Writer: William Blinn
Actors: James Franciscus as James Hunter, Linda Evans as Marty Shaw, Ned Beatty as Lt. Kluba, Broderick Crawford as General Meeter
Released: 1976

An unaired pilot, this made-for-television movie dealt with a James Hunter who is quite a bit different from the Hunter that would be in the actual television series. This 'movie' Hunter was a man who was only recently released from prison after an 8-year stretch for an embezzlement he did not commit. He is determined to find the man who framed him, his  and to get justice. Helping him out is a prostitute he meets named Marty Shaw and a police lieutenant named Kluba. The nature of the man being sought, Ebersole, is shrouded in mystery.

TELEVISION


Number of Episodes:12
First Appearance:1977
Last Appearance:1977
Network:CBS

REGULAR CAST
James FranciscusJames Hunter [ 1 ]
Linda EvansMarty Shaw [ 1 ]
Ralph BellamyGeneral Baker [ 1 ]

     After the pilot for an action series about a fellow named Hunter, starring James Franciscus, had been shown to the network executives, it was decided, apparently, that a total retooling of the package was in order. The action part would remain. Franciscus and the ever lovely and talented Linda Evans would stay. The rest would not.

     This new Hunter would be a former operative running a bookstore and brought back into the intelligence community on the down-low. The Marty Shaw who had been a call-girl was now Marty Shaw, an experienced operative herself. So really all that remains from the pilot was the name of the show, the names of the two main characters (but not the characters themselves) and the actors portraying them.
     The show was picked up to be a mid-season replacement. Since it would have been impossible to know which show would not prove worthy of staying on the air and would need replacing, it was a certainty that something would be booted and something would need to do the replacing. Hunter was that latter.
     From the get-go, the love that CBS did not have for this show was apparent. While they did not switch the night it was on, a common tactic for a doomed show, it was haphazard in the steadiness of its showing. It was on for 4 straight weeks (good), then off for 3 weeks (bad), then on for 3 weeks (fair), and then off for 5 weeks (murder), and then back for the final airing. The last three episodes made never got an on-air viewing at all!


Note: the synopsis of the shows given below were taken from the excellent reporting by IMDB.
1 Bluebird Is Back
Episode 1-01, first aired 02/18/1977
Director: Gerald Mayer
Writer: Seth Freeman

Hunter's nemesis, a killer named Bluebird, returns, leaving a toll of victims that leads Hunter and Marty to discover a Russian plot to discredits the design of an electric plant using nuclear power.

2 Mirror Image
Episode 1-02, first aired 02/25/1977
Director: Bruce Bilson
Writer: David Karp

A Russian agent who is a double for Marty must fool Hunter in order to carry out her assignment to kill Gen. Baker and frame Hunter for the murder.

3 The Lysenko Syndrome
Episode 1-03, first aired 03/04/1977
Director: Barry Crane
Writer: David Karp

A plot to assassinate an Admiral involves brainwashing Marty. And also involves Hunter getting killed.

4 The Hit
Episode 1-04, first aired 03/11/1977
Director: Harry Harris
Writer: Parke Perine

A professional killer dies during a car chase. Hunter assumes the man's identity in order to find out who hired the killer and who he was supposed to kill.

5 The Costa Rican Connection
Episode 1-05, first aired 03/18/1977
Director: Barry Crane
Writer: Gregory S. Dinallo

A witness testifying before a Senate committee investigating ties between organized crime and the GIA is murdered. Hunter and Marty must persuade the remaining witness that they can protect him if he testifies.

6 The K Group (1)
Episode 1-06, first aired 04/08/1977
Director: Gary Nelson
Writer: David Karp

Hunter and the agency try to find out who killed an East German spy at an L.A. film festival.

7 The K Group (2)
Episode 1-07, first aired 04/15/1977
Director: Gary Nelson
Writer: David Karp

Hunter, Marty and Baker set out to stop renegade American agents from assassinating a government official.

8 The Barking Dog
Episode 1-08, first aired 04/22/1977
Director: Lawrence Dobkin
Writers: Gregory S. Dinallo, Bryan Gindoff, Bruce Henstell

[plot unknown]

9 Yesterday, Upon The Stair
Episode 1-09, first aired 05/27/1977
Director: Robert Douglas
Writer: Brian Cassidy

Hunter is assigned to aid with a spy exchange involving a veteran spy who was his mentor. However, during the exchange the spies from both sides suddenly disappear, having been kidnapped by a third unknown party.

10 The Backup
Episode 1-10, Unaired
Director: Reza Badiyi
Writer: Adrian Spies

While escorting a Chinese defector to a safe house, an American agent disappears, as does the defector. Hunter is assigned to find out what happened and retrieve both the agent and the defector.

11 The Lovejoy File
Episode 1-11, Unaired
Director: Harvey S. Laidman
Writer: George Bellak

A file that is meant to only be seen by the President turns up missing. A shadowy group makes a deal to return the file in exchange for payment, but when Hunter and another government agent arrive to retrieve it, it is stolen by a different group.

12 U.F.M. 13
Episode 1-12, Unaired
Director: Harry Falk
Writer: George Bellak

Hunter goes undercover to infiltrate an ultra-right-wing group who plan to use stolen plutonium to make an atomic bomb.

MY COMMENTS

     I was unfortunately overseas when this series originally aired and if it subsequently saw itself on the tube, I missed it. I could fork out $30 for a VHS copy of the pilot but then I would have to dole out money for a machine since I got rid of mine a couple decades ago. Plus the pilot, as indicated above, was nothing at all like the series so no good then.
     There is a partial of one episode on YouTube that I watched but it is mostly the beginning and the end credits and several commercials so not much help there.
     That is a shame because while it was obvious that CBS had no affection for the series, I was a James Franciscus fan from his Longstreet days, a show that was highly unlikely but still a lot of fun for the young adult me to watch.
     Plus it had the gorgeous and ever-watchable Linda Evans. 'Nuf said!


     My Grade is based, since I really do not know that much personally about it, on what I read and the grade should be accepted with that in mind.

GRADE

My Grade: B-

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