Imagine that Sherlock Holmes ( the Basil Rathbone version ) was still around in 1980 and attached to the 22nd precinct of the San Francisco Police Department. That was more or less the premise of this short-lived U.S. sitcom, a vehicle for the talented British actor Ron Moody ( 'Fagin' from the 'Oliver!' musical ). His character, Det.Insp. Roger Hart, had been temporarily assigned to the States as part of a foreign-exchange programme. Scotland Yard ( the Americans obviously do not know we have a new one nowadays ), on the other hand, got a fella by the name of Al Swink. Massively unpopular with his fellow policemen, they were glad to be rid of Swink, but when Hart walked in through the door, announced himself, and promptly smashed the window with his umbrella ( before then knocking over a water-cooler ), they took back the whip round they were collecting for him! Hart was a klutz, and every time he caused unintentional damage, would look shocked, and say: "Did I do that?".
He was paired with the attractive Det.Jennifer Dempsey ( Cassie Yates ), and the show that followed was a sort of spoof of police shows of that time. Plenty of visual gags were on offer, many reminiscent of the 'Pink Panther' films. Hart himself was Rathbone's Holmes to a tee, right down to the clothes and pipe, and he had a habit of treating everything like a baffling mystery. When he pulled open the drapes in a hotel room, for instance, he exclaimed in an excited tone of voice: "Hmmm...just as I suspected...the balcony!". It owed a great debt to 'Get Smart' ( and had some of the same writers including Arne Sultan, Mike Marmer and Chris Hayward ). The first episode opened with Hart trying to talk a would-be suicidalist off the Golden Gate Bridge. He failed - the man jumped.
Only eight episodes were made. In America, the show was intended to be shown in September 1979, but apparently was held over until June of the following year for fear viewers might confuse it with 'Hart To Hart'. By the time it reached Britain it had already been cancelled. Another problem the show had was that there already was a British sitcom called 'Nobody's Perfect' ( starring Elaine Stritch and Richard Griffiths ), hence the change of title to 'Hart Of The Yard'.
Was it any good? I liked it at the time. I don't know how it would stand up now. Moody was very funny as 'Hart', playing the role absolutely straight. Another British actor, Clive Revill, guested in one episode as legendary criminal mastermind 'The Ocelot'. Perhaps if it had lasted longer it might have caught on. Who knows?
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