One of network television’s most obscure crime dramas returned to the spotlight for the first time in over 25 years when Patrick Swayze died of cancer in September. Making the viral rounds was the opening title sequence to a TV series Swayze starred in when he was a 29-year-old actor looking for a big break. And he probably thought THE RENEGADES was that break.
It isn’t difficult to figure out where THE RENEGADES came from. Co-creator Lawrence Gordon was the producer of THE WARRIORS, Walter Hill’s colorful 1979 action film about a New York City street gang. Meanwhile, Rick Husky, whose T.J. HOOKER was a big cop show on ABC, had produced several episodes of THE MOD SQUAD a decade earlier. Like putting chocolate in your peanut butter, ABC teamed up the two men and came up with a high-concept combination of the two properties. Hence, THE RENEGADES, a cop show about a Los Angeles street gang that becomes undercover police officers.
The Renegades were Bandit (Patrick Swayze), Eagle (Randy Brooks), J.T. (Paul Mones), Tracy (Tracy Scoggins), Dancer (Robert Thaler), Dragon (Brian Tochi), and Gaucho (Fausto Bara)—L.A.’s first multi-racial co-ed street gang. All of the actors were basically unknowns, though Tochi had been a child actor with several regular series gigs (including ANNA AND THE KING and SPACE ACADEMY) and the tall, shapely Scoggins was appearing in a lot of episodic television.
Each Renegade had his or her own specialty. Bandit was the tough leader, Eagle the smart one, J.T. the wiseguy who carried a pocket tape recorder, Tracy the sexpot, Dancer the handsome one, Dragon the martial artist (well, he was Asian, you know…), and Gaucho was, well, Gaucho was Mexican.
The Renegades had been busted by hardass but compassionate Lieutenant Frank Marciano (James Luisi), who made a deal with them. Instead of going to jail, the gang went to work with Marciano out of a precinct house, where they had their own groovy clubhouse in the basement. Whether they actually lived there or not is hard to say, since we never saw any of the Renegades at home. Marciano’s perpetually pissed-off boss was Captain Tom Scanlon (Kurtwood Smith), who didn’t like the Renegades or Marciano’s concept, but had to admit they got the job done.
THE RENEGADES began as a two-hour pilot movie that aired on ABC in August 1982. It was directed by Roger Spottiswoode, a former film editor whose two earlier movies, TERROR TRAIN and THE PURSUIT OF D.B. COOPER, had been low-budget moneymakers. Husky and Steven E. de Souza wrote the teleplay based on Gordon’s story. Gordon, de Souza, and Spottiswoode had worked together on Hill’s 48 HRS. the year before.
I haven’t seen the pilot, but I have seen the six one-hour episodes that followed. Episodes generally fell into a simple formula of Marciano splitting the Renegades into two separate teams: one that infiltrated the gang/criminals/robbers from the inside, and one that followed outside leads. Despite their disparate backgrounds, the Renegades get along extremely well, and none of the guys ever flirts with Tracy, who is usually seen dressed in a bikini, leotard, or T-shirt with no bra whenever the writers could get away with it.
THE RENEGADES premiered as a midseason replacement on March 4, 1983, but low ratings led to its quick cancellation six Fridays later on April 8. Did it deserve its early death? Well, it isn’t very good, but I can’t say it’s any worse than other ABC cop shows. It was regularly trounced in the ratings by DALLAS (which was the #2 rated show of the year, behind 60 MINUTES) on CBS and KNIGHT RIDER on NBC. In fact, THE RENEGADES was the lowest-rated non-news prime-time series of the 1982-83 season. So, yeah, I guess it deserved to die.
What follows is a listing of THE RENEGADES’ regular cast and crew, as well as a short episode guide. If I don’t do it, who will? Perhaps the most fun I had watching THE RENEGADES was glimpsing guest shots by actors who were either well-known and welcome sights or just starting out and hoping to break out soon: Kelly Preston, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Dick Miller, Xander Berkeley, Don Stroud, Terry Kiser, Terence Knox, Brion James, and Kane Hodder, to name a few.
Patrick Swayze as Bandit
Randy Brooks as Eagle
Paul Mones as J.T.
Tracy Scoggins as Tracy
Robert Thaler as Dancer
Brian Tochi as Dragon
Fausto Bara as Gaucho
Kurtwood Smith as Captain Tom Scanlon
James Luisi as Lieutenant Frank Marciano
Executive Producers: Lawrence Gordon and Charles Gordon
Supervising Producer: Nicholas Corea
Producer: R.J. Louis
Creators: Lawrence Gordon and Rick Husky
Production Executive: Joel Silver
Associate Producer: Stephen P. Caldwell
Executive Script Consultant: Gregory S. Dinallo
Executive Story Editors: Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas Szollosi
Costume Designer: Bobbie Mannix
Director of Photography: Charles Correll
Music: Barry DeVorzon and Joseph Conlan
A Lawrence Gordon Production
In association with
“Back to School”
March 4, 1983
Writer: Bobby Zavatini
Director: Nicholas Corea
Guest Cast: John Furey (Harold Primus), Grand Bush (Jewel), Kelly Preston as Kelly Palzis (Lisa Primus), Rex Ryon (Raymond), Wally Taylor (Coach Riley), Chris Hensel (Danny Mehlmann), Keenan Ivory Wayans (Lloyd Wayne), Pete Antico (Carlo), Travis McLaughlin (Grunt), Rex Pierson (Soldier), Julius LeFlore (Skull), Steve Hulin (Skull)
The Renegades go undercover to investigate a game-fixing scheme on college campuses. Lt. Marciano enlists Eagle, the group’s only black guy, to join a college basketball team. Tracy and Dancer become students to befriend Lisa, whose brother Harold is the criminal mastermind, while Bandit and J.T. join the biker gang that provides Harold’s muscle.
“The Demon Dragsters”
March 11, 1983
Writer: Nancy Ann Miller
Director: Don Chaffey
Guest Cast: Arlen Dean Snyder, Gary Hudson
Bandit, Tracy, and J.T. ingratiate themselves with the Demon Dragsters and their leader, a beautiful blonde named Hot Rod Hannah, who rip off car parts and sell them to used car dealer Roy Keeler’s chop shop. Lots of tires squeal to bad synth music, as was de rigueur on ABC in 1983.
“The Big Time”
March 18, 1983
Writer: Stephen McPherson
Director: Barbara Peeters
Guest Cast: Kathryn Leigh Scott (Julie Robinson), Marc Alaimo (Manton), Lee de Broux (Backus), Richard Pierson (Alex), Xander Berkeley (Gillette), Ian Rosenberg (Wilson), Dick Miller (Sgt. Young), Clement St. George (Martin Lucas), Jeff Imada (Busecy), Travis McLaughlin (Nash), Bennie Moore (Keith), Thomas Ryan (Security Guard), Glen Wilder (Casey), Tom Zahn (Harbormaster)
Eagle, J.T., and Bandit go to jail to find out who’s training convicts to pull high-tech heists after they’re released. Dick Miller, who appeared in director Barbara Peeters’ STARHOPS and SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS, has a small role.
“On the Pad”
March 25, 1983
Writer: Robert Earll
Director: Bruce Bilson
Guest Cast: Don Stroud (Bob Ellison), Terry Kiser (Phil Reya), Terence Knox (Rufus), Nicolas Surovy (Billy Romaine), Suzanne Barnes (Ginger), Peter Iacangelo (Davis), Dolores Cantu (Celia), James Saito (Sam Chow), Robert Feero (Mark Holland), Jill Andre (Mrs. Harris), Al Fann (Walt), Lillian Lehman (Eleanora), Wil Albert (Shopkeeper), Jeffrey Josephson (Godzilla), Gene Ryals (Minister), Viola Kates Stimpson (Elderly Lady)
The Renegades’ assignment: find out whether a decorated policeman, Bob Ellison (Don Stroud), is involved with a hood named Phil Reya (Terry Kiser) who’s suspected of running a neighborhood protection racket.
“Film at Eleven”
April 1, 1983
Writer: Gregory S. Dinallo
Director: Robert Thompson
Guest Cast: Allyn Ann McLerie (Connie Templeton), Brion James (Cochran), Kipp Lennon (Vic), Peter Frechette (Kane), Charles Boswell (Kramer), Jeff Silverman (Luno), Thomas Babson (Walters), Michael Conn (Flash), Robert Goldner (Store Employee), Norman Howell (Undercover Cop), Mary Kate McGeehan (Lilah), David Sage (Shopkeeper), Lynn Seibel (Mr. Edwards)
A double mission for the Renegades: track down a gang of masked armed robbers who murdered an off-duty cop and find the boy who witnessed the murder before the killers do.
April 8, 1983
Songs: Micheal Towers (sic) (lyrics), Barry DeVorzon (music)
Writer: Nicholas Corea
Director: Barbara Peeters
Guest Cast: Thom Christopher (Anthony Gunn), Darrell Fetty (Silver Stride), Kelly Curtis (Cynthia Holtson), Rick Dean (Tom Tom Porter), Angela Robinson (Rose Richleau), Alex Henteloff (Dr. Rogers), Colleen Riley (Candya), Eugenia Wright (Pixa), William Riley (High Heel Club M.C.), Clark Mitchell Long (J.J. Turrell), Jeremy Sunderland (Punk Rocker), Kane W. Hodder (Distrom), Matt Johnston (Cort), Scott Perry (Mingus), Paul Trafas (Tally)
Tony Gunn (Thom Christopher) busts out of a mental ward where he was serving a sentence for killing Marciano’s partner. He swears to kill Marciano in a letter or innocent bystanders. For some reason, he goes back to his old stomping grounds to produce his old band, the Waste Band. Tracy, J.T., Eagle, and Dancer learn to become punk rockers overnight.
And as a bonus, here are the completely ridiculous opening credits to THE RENEGADES, which run nearly two minutes over a pulsing and catchy synthesizer theme by Barry DeVorzon (who scored THE WARRIORS) and Joseph Conlan.