1991 represented a unique opportunity for U.S. TV show creators. Unlike today, when cable networks make up much of the original programming, there were few markets for new shows. The fledgling Fox network was only four years old, and the triumvirate of broadcasting giants (ABC, CBS, and NBC) had the power of dinosaurs. But there was a hiccup in late-night scheduling: David Letterman had signed a new contract to host a talk show on CBS, but his NBC contract still had two years to run. So CBS decided to run a slate of dramatic fare -- five new shows to keep the seat warm for Letterman -- which they called "Crime Time After Primetime". Stephen J. Cannell, creator of literally dozens of TV shows, had something called "Silk Stalkings" that he'd been working on for a few years; he pitched it, got the go-ahead, and quickly went into production.
This was a cop show featuring a pair of Palm Beach (Florida) police detectives who specialized in crimes of passion in that enclave of the wealthy, said crimes being referred to as "silk stalkings". A first for television, they were a mixed-sex pair who were friends and partners on an equal footing (both Sergeants) -- but NOT romantically involved. The headliners were Rob Estes (whom Cannell had been attempting to fit into a series for a while) as Chris Lorenzo, and newcomer Mitzi Kapture as Rita Lee Lance. Longtime Cannell friend Ben Vereen completed the short list of headliners as Captain Hutchinson. But the important element of "Silk Stalkings" was the dynamic duo of Rob & Mitzi as Chris & Rita, with a natural screen chemistry that shone over such dialog as "That woman would leave skidmarks on your libido."
From the first episode of "Silk Stalkings" it's easy to see that this show is long on style and short on budget. The low advertising rates for late-night TV meant that the show had to be shot on a relative shoestring, so Cannell and company decided to emphasize stylistic elements, such as vivid colors in both sets and wardrobe. Chris and Rita both refer affectionately to each other as "Sam". This isn't the expected reference to Dashiell Hammett's detective, but rather to "Slammin' Sammy Sneed, the greatest golfer of all time". Golf is VERY important in the first season of "Silk Stalkings", because it's used mostly as a metaphor for sex. When you're specializing in crimes of passion sex takes center stage, and the riveting opening credits featuring many quick cuts of attractive bodies capably sets the tone for the show.
Two years before "NYPD Blue" brought "partial nudity" to prime time TV, "Silk Stalkings" established it as a late-night mainstay. In the very first episode there are topless women jumping into a pool. The bare breasts here happen to be moving quickly and in dim lighting, but this was just a start. With the limited budget they couldn't afford to re-shoot accidental exposures any more than they could redo the frequent poor acting of an episode's bimbo of the week, so there are several nipple exposures that would have caused fits with the prime time censors. To be fair these only show up for a second or two each, but DVD sets mean never having to say "I missed that". (There are also a couple of actresses who wore flesh-tone pasties for modesty.)
The first season tried a bunch of experiments toward achieving a workable series formula, and many failures were quickly discarded. Rita is introduced with an inoperable brain aneurism; a questionable life expectancy is supposed to make her wring the most out of every day. After a few episodes the aneurism is never mentioned again. In the first season women's hosiery is worn ubiquitously (silk stockings for the "silk stalkings" crowd, of course) after bare legs had been the fashion norm for the beach crowd a couple years already. Plus there was lots of 1980's big hair to go with the hosiery (perhaps an attempt at copying some of the feel of "Miami Vice", which had been airing while Cannell was developing "Silk Stalkings"). The golfing metaphors dropped off quite a bit after this season, too. And there were a couple too many hillside homes used from the San Diego shooting locations than made sense for Florida, where a 20-story Miami Beach hotel towers over the highest spot in that very flat state.
Guest stars for this season included Gary Hudson, Cindy Ambuehl, William Anton, Ann Turkel, R.G. Armstrong, Kim Morgan Greene, Jay Acovone, Terri Treas, Dennis Paladino, Judith Chapman, William McNamara, Elizabeth Barondes, Denice Duff, Marta DuBois, Kristen Cloke, Vanity, and Bobbie Phillips.
The DVD collection doesn't have any audio commentaries, and lacks closed captions. The audio and video are of very good quality, though. The bonus material features a few minutes each of reflections on the show and the people they worked with from Rob Estes, Mitzi Kapture, Steven J. Cannell, and Ben Vereen.
Summary: If you can overlook frequents signs of a low-budget show, "Silk Stalkings" has a lot to offer. Highly recommended.