Ohara (1987 detective show starring Pat Morita)

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Note: This post was updated on June 26th 2022 to incorporate new research and fact checking. Scroll down for newly added information about the show’s episodes.

Since starting this blog over three years ago, I have slowly begun to immerse myself in the detective show genre. For over a year now, I have been building and expanding the TV Detective Database section of the website, and more recently I have been uploading videos to my YouTube channel of older shows that are either in the public domain, or that have never been released on home media and are thus otherwise inaccessible.

One consequence of this is that I have learned so much about obscure and short-lived detective shows that few people remember. One such show premiered in January 1987 and starred Pat Morita (of The Karate Kid fame) as a Los Angeles-based police lieutenant named Ohara.

Full page TV Guide ad advertising the premiere of Ohara.
TV Guide blurb for the pilot episode of Ohara.

Pat Morita not only starred in the show, he also helped create it. But while Ohara was revolutionary for being one of the first shows to star an Asian American, it failed to resonate with audiences. During its quite short time on air, the show underwent several cast and format changes.

The cast of Ohara from the first half of Season 1.

In addition to Pat Morita, the relatively large initial cast of the show included (from left to right according to the above photograph):

  • Catherine Keener as Lt. Cricket Sideris
  • Richard Yniguez as Det. Jesse Guerrera
  • Jack Wallace as Sgt. Phil O’Brien
  • Kevin Conroy as Capt. Lloyd Hamilton
  • and (not pictured) Madge Sinclair as Gussie Lemmons

After just seven episodes, Kevin Conroy left the show and his character was replaced with Jon Polito, who played the new commanding officer — Capt. Ross — until the end of Season 1.

Season 2 started with a new cast and a revamped opening intro (complete with a brand new theme song). This time, the recurring cast was much smaller, and only three people were listed in the opening credits:

  • Robert Clohessy as Lt. George Shaver
  • Rachel Ticotin as Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Storm
  • Megan Fey as Roxy

By episode 14 of Season 2, the opening theme song changed again and the recurring cast was made even smaller as the show decided to focus on Ohara and his partner Shaver leaving the force to become private detectives.

Publicity photo of Pat Morita and Robert Clohessy from Season 2 of Ohara.

After debuting on January 17th 1987, the show was ultimately cancelled by May 1988.

As with many shows that didn’t last beyond one or two seasons, Ohara was never released on home media (to my knowledge). In some cases, VHS recordings of the original TV broadcast may exist and have been digitized. Those that do exist, have been uploaded to YouTube and you can watch the episodes in order by clicking on the following the link to my Ohara YouTube playlist. Be forewarned though that because they were digitized off old VHS recordings, they are of varying quality. My hope is that eventually someone out there will come forward with better quality recordings and the remaining episodes, or that perhaps I may one day have the resources to enhance the recordings we already have to make them more enjoyable.

Sidenote: In researching this series, I learned that soon after Ohara was cancelled, Pat Morita went on to play a cop opposite Jay Leno in a 1989 movie titled Collision Course (which was only released in Germany, until finally being released straight-to-video in the US in 1992)! You might be able get your hands on it on Amazon.

Episode guide (added June 26th 2022)

When I first put this post together, I was relying on information that was available online at the time. The information I gathered from the show’s Wikipedia page and IMDb page suggested that the pilot episode and the final episode of the show have been lost (since I couldn’t find those episodes among the recordings I gathered and there was otherwise very little information available about those episodes). Thanks to a fan (Ron Li) who commented on this post in June 2022 and pointed out that the description of the pilot episode sounds like it was actually describing the episode “Eddie” (which had been listed as the second episode in all the online sources), I decided to do more digging into the existence of these episodes.

This involved visiting the Toronto Reference Library and looking through back-issues of TV Guide (New York Metropolitan Edition) on microfilm to verify the episode air dates and descriptions. Now, I don’t know where Wikipedia and IMDb got their information from (as they do not list their source), but the results of my research suggest that there were a few errors in how episodes of Ohara are listed on those websites with respect to their sequence and their air dates. Based on the descriptions published in TV Guide, the complete sequence of Ohara episodes from Season 1 should be listed as follows:

Air DateEpisode TitleTV Guide description
January 17, 1987“Eddie”“Pat Morita plays a cop who prefers to rely on mental acuity to solve crimes, but who will resort to martial arts when necessary. In the opener, Ohara surprises everyone when he helps an accused cop killer escape.” Guest Cast: Castle/Beau Starr; Greene/Jere Burns; Bowers/Dennis Pratt; Sloane/Peter Van Norden
January 24, 1987“Louie”“Ohara’s ability to communicate with an emotionally disturbed 19-year-old charged with murder turns up evidence that the man is innocent.” Guest Cast: Louie Heath/Neill Barry; Joey Heath/Matthew Barry; Jake Macklin/Louis Giambalvo; Candy/Tracey Walter
January 31, 1987“Darryl”“Ohara (Pat Morita) appoints himself as body guard for a ballerina (Melora Hardin) who saw a protected witness being murdered.” Additional Cast: Arnie Newsome/J.E. Freeman; Russ Becker/John Dennis Johnston; Michael Saxon/Sam McMurray; Deputy Chief Gus Aldredge/Henry Darrow
February 7, 1987“Will”“A newspaper mogul hoping to avoide embarrassment pressures Ohara to release his son, who could help nail an arms dealer if he’s not silenced first.” Guest Cast: William Vanders/Ed Lauter; Will Vanders/Scott Burkholder; Laxa/Tom Bower; Angel/Annette McCarthy
February 14, 1987“Toshi”“Ohara (Pat Morita) gives a swaggering Japanese inspector a few lessons in humility and proper police procedure as they try to recapture a prisoner who escaped while being escorted back to Tokyo.” Guest Cast: Inspector “Toshi” Goto/Mako; Frankie Nelson/Jeff Kober; Teri/Barbara Crampton; Tommy/John Walter Davis
February 21, 1987“Terry”“Ohara (Pat Morita) is working undercover at a high school where a student and teacher have a connection that goes beyond the classroom: they’re both involved with the same drug supplier.” Guest Cast: Terry Parsons/Bill Allen; Jack Nash/Peter Crook; Al Cooper/Vincent Baggetta; Allie Gordon/Sherrie Stoner
March 7, 1987“Laura”“An amnesiac woman charged with murder is ready to confess, but Ohara (Pat Morita) doesn’t think she should be so acquiescent. Jon Polito joins the cast as Captain Ross.” Guest Cast: Laura Gregson/Nana Visitor; Frank Gregson/Alan Fudge; Rachel Winston/Denise Crosby
March 14, 1987“Jesse”“The return of Jesse’s brother, who was a gang leader before going to prison for eight years, threatens the truce that Jesse (Richard Yniguez) managed to negotiate in his old neighborhood.” Guest Cast: Ramon/Marco Rodriguez; Carmella Sanches/Roxann Briggs; J.T./Ramon Franco
March 28, 1987“Frannie”“A thief’s planned reunion with his daughter is actually a cover for the delivery of loot he stole from a crime lord’s safe.” Guest Cast: Frannie/Noelle Parker; Freely/Clayton Landey; Cole/Harvey Jason
April 4, 1987“Brian”“Ohara (Pat Morita) fills in at the academy, where he faces a challenge: teaching the meaning of teamwork to a recruit intent on nailing the man who caused his father to lose his job with the force.” Guest Cast: Brian Stillwell/John Scott Clough; Hammond/Eric Frederickson; Dan Stillwell/Richard Herd

Additionally, the TV Guide issues I looked at indicated that a repeat of the pilot episode aired on March 21st 1987, and further repeats aired in the two weeks following April 4th 1987. Therefore, this indicates that the pilot episode of the show was never “lost” and that there in fact were only 10 episodes produced for Season 1.

While I haven’t done a full investigation into the Season 2 episodes, I suspect that the “lost” final episode that is listed on Wikipedia and IMDb is actually not an episode of Ohara at all. I believe that the episode is actually an episode of China Beach which was erroneously registered as an episode of Ohara with the US Copyright Office (which is probably how it came to be listed as an episode of Ohara in other online sources). If you search for “Ohara” and “Hot Spell” in the catalogue, you will find that it lists John Lugar as producer and Beth Hillshafer as director — which is the same as the China Beach episode that aired on May 4th 1988. I intend to visit the library again in the near future to verify this suspicion and will update this post again with further details.

Copyright notice: While I am happy when visitors to this website share links to my posts, please refrain from directly copying any original content you see here (even in translation). I spend hours putting together each page and blog post. This not only includes time spent writing, but also time spent doing research and closely rewatching episodes to verify information, as well as trying to capture the perfect screenshot and putting together collages. If you found this website useful and would like to incorporate information you found here into your own content or other websites/media, please appropriately attribute this website as a source.

6 comments

  1. From the TV guide section you posted, it looks like the pilot episode was “Eddie” though it’s usually listed as the 2nd episode (S1Ep2). The only episode missing is the final episode. I hope this episode turns up someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks to your comment, I did more digging and updated the post with new information about the episodes! It seems that they were never lost because they never existed!

      Like

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