Opening Statement

Big hair, big blue van, big funk theme song! The short-lived SWAT is an iconic example of a 1970s police show.


SWAT was an Aaron Spelling produced television show from the mid-1970s that featured stories about a big city police department’s special weapons and tactics unit. A spin-off of another show, The Rookie, SWAT featured an ensemble cast playing combat veterans turned police officers. SWAT officers are selected to deal with the most dangerous breeds of criminals on the streets. Far from misdemeanors, traffic tickets and mug shots. Most of the episodes involve elaborate set piece engagements where the SWAT team employs their weapons, training and more gadgets than 007s Q-branch to overwhelm their opposition.

Frequent favorites are hostage situations, terrorists and barricaded suspects. Often the tactics and gadgets come off as gimmicky and not likely to succeed in real life. I don’t really hold this against the show, since it doesn’t pretend to be an accurate portrayal of real SWAT units. The LAPD SWAT team was notably a frequent critic of some of the show’s tactics.

I can see why producers would be interested in a show of this type. During the early 70s, SWAT tactics were brand new and on the front page due to the antics of domestic terror groups like the SLA and the new breed of drug fueled criminals flooding the streets. While barely considered a PG today, the level of violence in SWAT was notable for a prime time show of the era.

SWAT sniper Robert Odierna

Not sure how he expects to hit anything that way.

SWAT entry Robert Odierna

Apparently battering rams haven’t been developed yet.

SWAT hostage Robert Odierna

Crazy, man!

The shows move along at a brisk pace and have high quality TV production values. Big name stars like Lesley-Anne Warren and Farrah Fawcett are frequently featured in episodes. This being an Aaron Spelling show, there are also a number of other beautiful, blond starlets in featured guest roles.

SWAT farrah Robert Odierna

Gotta have the starlets! It’s an Aaron Spelling production.

SWAT was also notable for its rockin’  theme song, which became a bigger hit than the show and is frequently covered and sampled. The song, by funk group Rhythm Heritage, hit #1 on the R&B charts after the show debuted and is an iconic show theme. If you’re like me and like the big horns and bass, wocka-chicken guitar and syncopated beats of classic funk, then check out the song on Youtube!

Unfortunately, SWAT had trouble breaking free in a decade loaded with great police and detective shows. It was canceled after just 2 seasons and replaced by another Spelling vehicle. The much more successful Starsky and Hutch.

Verdict: 3.5 Gavels out of 5

Fun little 70s police drama. Great soundtrack and a likeable cast. This show is a fun diversion, especially if you’re a fan of the era.


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