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Following up on my last few posts, this post profiles yet another short-lived detective series of the 1980s: Beverly Hills Buntz, which premiered in November 1987. Only 13 episodes of the show were produced, and four of those never made it to air following the show’s cancellation.
The story of Beverly Hills Buntz is an interesting one because it was really expected to be a hit (see for example this glowing radio review of the pilot episode). It was a half-hour comedy drama premiering at a time when these types of shows were starting to become more popular; and it was a spin-off of the hugely influential series Hill Street Blues, which ran from 1981 until 1987.
The main character of the show was Norman Buntz, played by Dennis Franz. On Hill Street Blues, Buntz was a cop working in the unnamed northern US city; but at the beginning of Beverly Hills Buntz, viewers found him quitting the police force to become a private investigator in Beverly Hills. His sidekick on the show was Sid Thurston, played by Peter Jurasik, who was also a character on Hill Street Blues — his main role there was being a small-time crook and Buntz’s snitch. A new addition to the show was the character of Rebecca Griswold, played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, who is introduced as someone who has an office in the same building as Buntz’s detective agency.
As to why this show didn’t make it through its first season…? Recent reviews I found online (e.g. on IMDb) suggest that the Hill Street Blues characters could never be made to work in a more comedic setting, and thus the show failed in its goal of evoking a Beverly Hills Cop vibe. On the other hand, some fans of the show argue that it never got a fair chance. When it first aired, ABC called it its “designated hitter” series — meaning that it was used to fill in an empty time slot to give another regularly scheduled show a break. The first four episodes aired several weeks apart and on different days of the week. It wasn’t until the end of March 1988 when the show was given its own weekly spot. But by the end of April, after just five more episodes, the show was cancelled.
As is the case with many of these short-lived shows from the 1980s, Beverly Hills Buntz has never been released on DVD and is not available for streaming. However, all the episodes do exist in some form thanks to fans who had tapes of the show on VHS. You can currently watch them on YouTube via my YouTube playlist. The pilot episode of the show is also embedded below:
As always, here is a slide show of some additional show-related images I could find: