Sledge Hammer does have a catchy title, a clever premise, funny characters, and a sycophantic laugh track — still, it goes nowhere. Sledge Hammer is Dirty Harry, Mike Hammer, and Fearless Fosdick all rolled into one, but either his aim is off or his gun isn’t loaded, because this show just keeps missing. — “The Season in a Nutshell,” F.R. Duplantier, 1986
With a review like the one above, you wouldn’t think I’d have been delighted to receive the first season of Sledge Hammer as a Christmas gift from my daugther Ida, but I was. My nutshell review was based solely on the first episode, before all the comic elements had gelled in the show, or in my perception of it. I was intrigued by the program, however, kept watching, and was soon hooked. When the first season ended with Sledge accidentally detonating a nuclear bomb that destroyed the entire city (the show’s creator was convinced that it would not be renewed and wanted to go out with a bang), I was among the hardcore fans who wondered all summer long how the show would be “revived” in the second season. The solution proved to be ingeniously simple: the words “Five years earlier” supered on the first frame.
I made out like a bandit at Christmas. In addition to Sledge Hammer, I got collections of Three Stooges films from Audrey and Isabel, a fancy new ice bucket from my son Crozet, a new Mr. Boston book from Maxine (the old one was suffering from overuse), and Myers’s rum and cigars from Maria. If you’re thinking all I do is drink, smoke, and watch movies, you get an A+ for perception. It’s a wonderful life.
But wait, there’s more. I also got several nifty things from my wife, Evann: a Three Stooges poster, the complete Thin Man collection on DVD (our video version is suffering the same fate as the old Mr. Boston book), a bottle of Frangelico, and a handtruck. Yes, a handtruck! I’ve always wanted one. A man’s not fully a man without a handtruck — and a polesaw (which I got for Father’s Day). The handtruck will come in handy when it’s time to wheel Dad to bed after the movie.
It’s fun to look back at my review of the 1986 television season, my first and only foray into TV criticism, and see which shows survived and which did not. As I expected, Life with Lucy was an early fatalilty. But Amen, one of the worst shows ever broadcast, somehow prospered, as did Designing Women. Three of my favorites — Matlock, Perfect Strangers, and ALF — did achieve syndication immortality. Sledge Hammer, of course, which I mistakenly panned, has become a cult classic.