John Hawk was a full-blooded Iroquois employed as a special detective with the New York City District Attorney's office. With partner Dan Carter, Hawk was assigned to all sorts of different cases, ranging from murder to arson to organized crime. Because of his background, he occasionally dealt with racism inside and outside the department. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
Burt Reynolds should have played John Hawk more like Quint Asper and less like Ben Casey
"Hawk" (1966) had a brilliant core idea of filming a detective series on location in New York City at night. Making the central character an American Indian and casting 30-year old Burt Reynolds as Lt. John Hawk were also extremely smart moves. (David Carradine was also considered for the role of Hawk.) This show had enormous promise.
"Hawk" was created by Emmy winner Allan Sloane ("Teacher, Teacher", "East Side, West Side", "The Breaking Point"). Sloane also wrote several strong episodes. The executive producer was Hubbell Robinson ("Boris Karloff's Thriller", "87th Precint"), who always strove for quality.
The stories were literate and intriguing (coming from the same people who were doing "The Defenders" and the other top dramatic shows of the day.) The casting of guests was impeccable, often drawing from the fine pool of actors working out of New York City. Some of the guest stars were Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frank Converse, Philip Bosco, Scott Glenn, Diana Muldaur, Diane Baker, Louise Sorel, Bradford Dillman, Carol Rossen, James Best, Emily Prager and Beverlee McKinsey.
The main problem with the series was that the character of John Hawk was an arrogant jerk, apparently modeled after Ben Casey with a little Marlon Brando thrown in. Hawk had a big chip on his shoulder. It was impossible to like him. Burt Reynolds was never more appealing than as "half-breed" blacksmith Quint Asper on "Gunsmoke" for two years in the early 60's. The writers and producers should have let Reynolds play Hawk more like Quint Asper.
Another weakness was that Hawk always had to be right and always had to perform the heroics solo. This made Hawk even more insufferable. The producers should have given Hawk a partner who was an equal rather than an eager beaver trainee. Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Ossie Davis or Frank Converse could have been good choices for Hawk's partner. Reynolds could have easily developed a humorous, easy rapport with any of those actors. The partner could have shared some of the heroics and might even have made fun of John Hawk's preening self-importance.
Even with its weaknesses, "Hawk" was an excellent effort, and I wish it had lasted longer. With just a little tweaking of the main character, this could have been one of the finest TV cop shows in history. Indeed, th premise of "Hawk" was so good, it could be remade as a series today.
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