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“This is my boss, Jonathan Hart – a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy. This is Mrs. H. She’s gorgeous. She’s one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them, which ain’t easy; ’cause when they met… it was MURDER!”
Created by Sidney Sheldon (The Patty Duke Show), and executive produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, Hart to Hart was born out of a script Sheldon had originally written for CBS in the early seventies entitled, “Double Twist.” The story involved a married couple who were both spies. That idea never saw the light of day. However, years later, producers Spelling and Goldberg decided to update the idea for what became Hart to Hart. The show ran for five seasons, from 1979-84.
The series centered Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner), is CEO of Hart Industries, a Los Angeles based global conglomerate, and his beautiful wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers), a freelance investigative journalist. Armed with a lovable chauffeur/sidekick Max (the excellent Lionel Stander), and their adorable dog Freeway, the Hart’s live the ultimate jet-set life; one week in Napa Valley, the next in Hawaii, thwarting nefarious activities.
Anyone familiar with The Thin Man series of films from the 1930’s will likely agree that Jonathan and Jennifer are positioned as a modern-day Nick and Nora Charles. Romantically involved detectives who work together, have a good repartee, and are affectionate during their off hours. That’s definitely the Harts! There’s no denying that Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers had excellent chemistry! The Hart’s seemed just like us, only wealthy.
The clothing, hair styles, cars, and decor all scream 1980’s, but aside from the aestetics, the series has held up well. From the pilot on, the scripts were engaging and well written. while some police dramas such as Hill Street Blues were exploring the grittier side of inner city life and crime, Hart to Hart was unapologetically lighter. After all, this was an Aaron Spelling production, so the romantic relationship between Jonathan and Jennifer was central to everything.
A total of 110 episodes, and the pilot of Hart to Hart were made during the series original run. Below, I’ve written about five of my favorite episodes from the show: The first, from season one “Max in Love” is rather self-explanatory. Max the chauffeur finds himself in love, but he also ends up framed for murder! Lionel Stander was very talented, and a very important piece of Hart to Hart’s success. He won a much-deserved Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries, Television Film in 1983. The second, from season three, “Harts and Flowers” Max has created a rose in honor of Mrs. H., and entered into a contest under her name, as he’s too shy to take the credit. Mrs. H. has been named a finalist. Oddly, other competitors are disappearing! They have to act fast; Jennifer might be next…The fourth season kicks off with a sweet premise. “On a Bed of Harts” finds Johnathan wanting to buy his and Jennifer’s honeymoon bed, only to find his efforts twice thwarted by theft. Eventually, the Harts discover that their eagerness to purchase the bed has put them at the center of an art smuggling ring. “Two Harts Are Better Than One” which kicks off the fifth season, has Jonathan and Jennifer recalling the rather unique circumstances under which they first met. “Meanwhile, “Back at the Ranch” has the Harts having to rescue beloved Max from kidnappers.
As a few of my favorite episodes demonstrate, throughout five seasons, Hart to Hart was a charming, fun, mystery series, focused on entertaining, with no real ‘scares.’ As with many Aaron Spelling shows during the 1980’s, Hart to Hart had it share of famous and soon to be famous guest stars. They included the following: Steve Allen, June Allyson, Eve Arden, Bonnie Bartlett, Lloyd Bochner, Jeremy Brett, Rory Calhoun, Capucine, Barry Corbin, William Daniels, David Doyle, Dominique Dunne, Dana Elcar, Samantha Eggar, Jonathan Frakes, Eva Gabor, John Gavin, Ron Glass, Sid Haig, Florence Henderson, Christopher Hewett, John Hillerman, Pat Hinkle, Salome Jens, Bernie Koppel, Dorothy Lamour, Tommy LaSorda, Carol Lynley, Amy Madigan, Kenneth Mars, Barney Martin, Roddy McDowall, Ray Milland, Juliet Mills, Diana Muldaur, Edward Mulhare, Martina Navratilova, Anthony Newley, James Noble, Jeanette Nolan, Dick O’Neill, Joe Pantoliano, Jameson Parker, Millie Perkins, Markie Post, Jack Riley, Eugene Roche, Madlyn Rhee, Vincent Schiavelli, Stella Stevens, Jerry Stiller, Jill St. John, Dean Stockwell, Dolph Sweet, Nedra Volz, Dee Wallace, Craig Wasson, George Wendt, William Windom, Jane Withers, Natalie Wood, Ray Walston, Dana Wynter, and Leigh Taylor-Young.
All five seasons have been available individually since June 9, 2015. Shout Factory collects them in a single box set containing all five seasons, equaling 111 episodes across 29 DVDs.
The series is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. For a television show that’s more than thirty years old, these standard DVDs do a pretty good job of bring out the color and richness of the Harts exciting life. The Dolby Digital mono audio provides clear dialogue, and a nice level of ambient effects.
The following extras appear on Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season:
- Audio Commentary with Actors Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers and Writer / Director Tom Mankiewicz: The three are obviously very comfortable with each other. They spend time discussing why they believe the show was so popular with viewers.
- The Hart of Season One (22:51) Recorded in 2005, series creator Sidney Sheldon, stars Robert Wagner & Stefanie Powers, producer Leonard Goldberg, and writer / director Tom Mankiewicz reflect on the making of the series.
Movie title: Hart to Hart [TV] 1979 - 1984
Actor(s): Robert Wagner, Lionel Stander, Stefanie Powers
Genre: action Adventure, Crime, Mystery, Romance