Partly inspired by Get Smart!, Spencer and a host of talented writers and directors dished up consistent laughs and daring anarchy, challenging broadcast standards with topnotch spoofs of hit movies (in episodes titled "Witless," "Jagged Sledge," "The Color of Hammer," etc.) while familiar guest stars like John Vernon, Brion James, Clint Howard, Michael De Barres, and Mary Woronov raised the comedy quotient even higher. After a deliberately outrageous, go-for-broke season finale it's a miracle that the low-rated Sledge Hammer! was renewed for a second season, but Anchor Bay's DVDs do justice to the show's enduring quality, and Spencer's commentaries (on four episodes) rank among the funniest ever recorded (one of them during an earthquake, no less). All in all, this is one of the most delightful DVD surprises of 2004, with more fun to come in season 2. --Jeff Shannon
The first season opens with Inspector Sledge Hammer (David Rasche) ordered by superior Captain Trunk (Harrison Page) to partner with Sergeant Dori Doreau (Anne Marie Martin) where they investigate the kidnapping of the mayor's daughter and closes the season with a bang - literally - as Hammer sets off a nuclear bomb; the producers had not expected the series to be renewed. So when the green light was given for a second season, Hammer showed up alive and well.
While most "Sledge Hammer!" diehards know what to expect from this oddball cult-show, the appeal may be lost on first-time viewers. But if given the chance the show is sure to please simply for it's goofy dead-on satire and sharp, laugh out-loud dialogue. Big ups to Alan Spencer, who joins the ranks of "Newsradio's" Paul Simms and "Roswell's" Jason Katims for striving to release their shows in quality DVD sets. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.
01 - "Sledge Hammer!" (23/Sep/86): Hammer and his new partner Doreau must rescue the mayor's daughter.
02 - "Hammer Gets Nailed" (26/Sep/86): A tv reporter follows Sledge and Dori around.
03 - "Witless" (3/Oct/86): Sledge is forced to hide out in a Manynote community.
04 - "They Shoot Hammers, Don't They?" (17/Oct/86): Hammer's old partner breaks jail and challenges Sledge to a duel.
05 - "Dori Day Afternoon" (24/Oct/86): Two goons hold up Sledge's bank, but he only has one bullet to take care of them.
06 - "To Sledge, With Love" (31/Oct/86): Sledge goes undercover in a tough high school to break a ring of car thieves.
07 - "All Shook Up" (06/Sept/86): Sledge investigates the murder of Elvis impersonators.
08 - "Over My Dead Bodyguard" (13/Nov/86): Hammer is assigned to protect Captain Trunk.
09 - "Magnum Farce" (22/Nov/86): Vigilantes go on the loose and it's up to Sledge to take care of them.
10 - "If I Had a Little Hammer" (29/Nov/86): Sledge and Dori pose as prospective adoptive parents to stop a ring of baby thieves.
11 - "To Live and Die on TV" (13/Dec/86): A game show winner dies suspiciously.
12 - "Miss of the Spider Woman" (20/Dec/86): Sledge accidentally gets poisoned.
13 - "The Old Man and the Sledge" (3/Jan/87): Hammer meets an old cop he admires.
14 - "State of Sledge" (10/Jan/87): Devil worshipping punks surround the station.
15 - "Haven't Gun, Will Travel" (17/Jan/87): Sledge's gun gets stolen.
16 - "The Color of Hammer" (24/Jan/87): Sledge investigates mischief at a pool hall.
17 - "Brother, Can You Spare a Crime?" (31/Jan/87): A criminal claims to be Sledge's brother to pull another scam.
18 - "Desperately Seeking Dori" (07/Feb/87): A bump on the head causes Dori to act exactly like Sledge.
19 - "Sledgepoo" (14/Feb/87): A hairdresser is suspected of being a cat burglar.
20 - "Comrade Hammer" (21/Feb/87): Sledge has to protect a Soviet defector at a science conference.
21 - "Jagged Sledge" (21/Apr/87): Hammer is accused of killing a gangster kingpin.
22 - "The Spa Who Loved Me" (28/Apr/87): Female terrorists organized by an aerobics instructor steal a nuclear bomb; Hammer sets it off.
Unaired pilot episode
All New Cast & Crew Interviews
Audio Commentary With Creator Alan Spencer
First off, the shows NEVER looked this good. Every episode looks brand new and has stereo audio (2.0 as opposed to 5.1.). What's really great is that Anchor Bay went to the time and trouble to remove the network imposed laugh track that marred the first thirteen episodes of the show. (Based on the way he talks about it on the DVD, my guess is creator Alan Spencer insisted on that one.)
Time has treated the show well as it was WAY ahead of its time. While there are the occasional outdated 80's references, there are plenty of topical wisecracks that prove strangely prophetic. At one point, Sledge Hammer rails about liberals mucking up his crime fighting system and literally daydreams about invading Iraq!
Time has also treated the cast well. They're all featured on an all new documentary called "Go Ahead, Make Me Laugh" that was informative as well as touching. It's clear that David Rasche, Anne-Marie Martin, Harrison Page and Alan Spencer all love each other.
Spencer does audio commentary on four episodes, supposedly completely unedited, and I think one of them will be the topic of much discussion. Here's my appraisal of the commentaries:
"Under The Gun" (The Pilot Episode): Spencer talks a mile a minute at a Robin Williams pace on this. He doesn't let up because he seems to want to cram in as much as possible for the fans who have waited so long for this release. Trust him, he knows what he's doing. You'll definitely get your money's worth.
"Witless": This famous episode spoofed the Harrison Ford thriller "Witness" and Spencer recounts his struggles with the network censors (who were sensitive to offending the Amish) as well as star Rasche's kindness to a bit player. Spencer stream of consciousness comments about James Bond made me laugh out loud.
"All Shook Up": Another well known episode is about Hammer's attempt to thwart a serial killer knocking off Elvis impersonators around town. Spencer talks at length about his late friend Andy Kaufman and gives him full credit for getting him into the King of Rock & Roll.
"The Spa Who Loved Me": Here's the season finale with that insanely impossible cliffhanger. This is the commentary people will be talking about as something unexpected happens midway through and I can't tell whether it's a joke or not. The fact that Spencer was a good friend of Andy Kaufman makes me suspicious, although I've listen to it three times and it sounds totally convincing. The message blogs will have a field day with this and I'm eager to see how Spencer will respond in interviews when they ask him what the heck was going on. (I'd like to know the EXACT date he recorded audio in LA.)
"Sledge Hammer: Season One" was worth the wait. Alan Spencer dedicates the set to his three favorite "teachers" Oliver Hailey, Marty Feldman and Andy Kaufman. I think they'd be very proud of their prize student.