Weird old title sequences: Hardcastle & McCormick (1983-1986)

Hardcastle & McCormick

1983 was a time of change in the US. Ronald Regan was president. The power of technology was on the ascendant. Manliness was back in vogue. And people were worried about law and order and being soft on crime. Indeed, one frequent claim made was that guilty criminals were escaping the justice system on technicalities.

Hardcastle & McCormick was one of the shows that latched onto all those concerns and prospered for three seasons on ABC as a result. The show was created by TV wunderkind Stephen J Cannell, who wrote 450 episodes of TV shows, produced or exec-produced over 1,500 episodes, and created or co-created no fewer than 40 television series including The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings and The Commish.

Its set-up was relatively simple: Judge Milton C Hardcastle (Brian Keith) is about to retire. However, he’s kept track of 200 criminals who escaped on technicalities and he plans to go after them in retirement and get them locked up. His final case is Mark McCormick (Daniel Hugh Kelly), a car thief who steals a prototype sports car, the Coyote X, which was designed by his best friend before he was murdered. Through a legal technicality, Hardcastle is able to take McCormick into his custody and McCormick accepts rather than go to jail. With McCormick living in the judge’s guest house, together they go after those 200 crims, helped just a little – and with a compulsory number of award-winning stunt scenes – by the Coyote X.

Curiously, the show had three different title sequences and two different theme tunes. The more famous and the best theme tune was ‘Drive’, written by another TV wunderkind, Mike Post, who composed the themes for shows including Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The Rockford Files, LA Law, Quantum Leap, Magnum, P.I., Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, CHiPs, MacGyver and Murder One. That accompanied the first season’s title sequence:

Then for the second season, the show switched to a dreadful country music theme.

Viewer outcry was enormous and it wasn’t long before ‘Drive’ was reinstated for the rest of the second season as well as for the third season.

While no classic of writing, Hardcastle & McCormick‘s appeal was relatively clear: as well as the camaraderie between the two leads, this was largely an adrenaline-fuelled show, with some surprisingly well directed high-speed car scenes involving the Coyote X, in actuality a Manta Montage kit car based on the McLaren M6GT with a Porsche 914 engine.

All the same, after three years, Hardcastle & McCormick‘s appeal had diminished enough that it wasn’t renewed for a fourth season. But for adrenaline junkies, it is at least all all available on DVD.




  • Stu

    Ah, rabid right-wingery, baseball caps, overuse of firearms and a quite ugly sports car. America in the 80s!
    I actually remember this quite fondly, in the A-Team-esque don’t-think-about-it-too-much camp. Buy you can probably draw a straight line between shows like this and 24, if you do think about it.
    Also, are we sure that McCormick isn’t played by Will Ferrell?

  • MediumRob

    “Ah, rabid right-wingery, baseball caps, overuse of firearms and a quite ugly sports car. America in the 80s!I actually remember this quite fondly, in the A-Team-esque don’t-think-about-it-too-much camp. Buy you can probably draw a straight line between shows like this and 24, if you do think about it.Also, are we sure that McCormick isn’t played by Will Ferrell?”
    He was in Star Trek: Insurrection. I remember thinking “Blimey, it’s McCormick – or was it Hardcastle? Which one was which again?” when I saw it.
    I think you can try to draw the straight line thematically, but you’d have to go via La Femme Nikita first, which in turn owes a lot to Callan. You’d also have to go via The Equalizer.

  • Stu

    The Equaliser is a sequel to Callan, isn’t it? (No)

  • MediumRob

    “The Equaliser is a sequel to Callan, isn’t it? (No)”
    Only in the sense that Michael Sloan thought “We should cast the guy from Callan in The Equalizer”. Otherwise, no. Whether La Femme Nikita got Edward Woodward in to play Nikita’s dad/boss because he was Callan or The Equalizer, I don’t know, although LFN – reluctant spy asked to do morally questionable things in the name of the greater good by a bunch of people no worse than the people they’re after – is closer to Callan than The Equalizer.
    But to get from “let civilians do whatever they can to put away criminals who have escaped justice” to “let spies do whatever they can to stop terrorists”, you’d have to go via “let civilian spies do whatever they can to stop criminals who have escaped justice” first, which is The Equalizer. LFN’s only real difference from 24, apart from even greater escapism, is that Nikita doesn’t want to do the morally questionable things, whereas Jack Bauer isn’t really that fussed.

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