Lane Slate (THE CAR) created STRIKE FORCE, a violent cop show about a special team of special cops that was only assigned to the most special cases, the sicker, the better. Slate thought up a real sicko for the 90-minute pilot, which aired on ABC in 1981: a nut who is using an axe to decapitate his victims. He strikes only on Tuesdays, and his six victims so far seem to be random choices, so it’s up to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Strike Force to find the connection and prevent number seven.
Slate’s teleplay leavens the grim storyline with humor and banter-filled dialogue (much of it of the racial, ethnic, and homophobic variety) among the cops, which are well-cast by executive producer Aaron Spelling and supervising producer E. Duke Vincent. Robert Stack (THE UNTOUCHABLES) is solid and stalwart, of course, Frank Murphy, recently divorced and the leader of solid family man Dorian Harewood (ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION), wiseguy Richard Romanus (THE SOPRANOS), rookie Michael Goodwin (THE DEAD POOL), and Trisha Noble (THE PRIVATE EYES), whose impressive bust is emphasized as often as possible by director Richard Lang.
By the way, Lang (HARRY O) does a very good job behind the camera, kicking off the pilot with an impressive pre-credits sequence showing the Strike Force blasting a pair of holdup men in sparkling slow motion. The television series was often criticized for its violent content (I loved it, of course), and Lang demonstrates right off the bat what kind of series STRIKE FORCE is going to be. The source of the serial axe killings is revealed in a chilling scene excellently performed by two guest actors that almost jumps genres from crime drama to horror.
A well-done pilot, but STRIKE FORCE had little chance of survival. ABC scheduled it against DALLAS, which was the highest-rated show in all of prime-time that season, and STRIKE FORCE was cancelled after twenty episodes. Dominic Frontiere composed the pulse-pounding theme.