T.J. Hooker (1982–1986)
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Death Is a Four Letter Word 

A detective hunts the pornographers he thinks caused his teenage niece's death.

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
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John Calvin ...
Lester
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Det. Nathans
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Mary Ellen
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Det. Max Brodsky
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Arnold Parton
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Janet
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Nick
Diane Hoyes ...
Wendy
Debbie Young ...
Laurel
Jere Fields ...
Geege (as Jeré Fields)
Laura Bradshaw ...
Candy
Alexandra Liccet ...
Shannon
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A detective hunts the pornographers he thinks caused his teenage niece's death.

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Action | Crime | Drama

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6 November 1985 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Shocking Snuff Film Episode!
4 April 2014 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

Veteran cop Sgt. T.J.Hooker (William Shatner) is called to the scene when the corpse of a 17 year old girl is discovered in an alley dumpster. He instantly recognizes her as Wendy (Diane Hoyes) - the niece of a colleague Max Brodski (Christopher Stone).

We in the audience have already seen what happened to her. She died on the set of a pornographic film after her psycho male co-star Lester (John Calvin) punched her because she tried to quit mid-scene. She fell and hit her head awkwardly on a piece of the set.

While not quite murder (manslaughter) the fact that it is caught on film makes this episode about an urban legend - that of the 'snuff film' i.e. a pornographic film in which a performer is literally murdered.

The skeevy porn producer Arnold Parton (Jonathan Goldsmith) keeps the film to blackmail Lester in to doing all that is necessary to cover up the crime.

Brodski, who knew his niece was wild and had run away nevertheless did not know of her career in porn. He takes her death poorly and goes rogue to get the people responsible.

This particularly provocative entry in the series is a decidedly intense one especially for an offering so early (4th episode of season 5) in a TV season. Evidently the production team felt they needed to massage their Nielsen standing as evidenced by going with a sensationalist snuff film premise.

Family-values groups and many gender feminists to this day readily accept pornographers as villains. Even those which produce legal porn. On a show like this they could see a tough guy cop go after these kinds of people but the writers needed to give him a solid reason. The script not only makes the runaway girl an underage victim but one who died. To make it hit home just a little bit more Diane Hoyes - a top ten semi-finalist in the Miss Teen USA Pageant portrayed that victim.

Observant viewers will remember 'The Cheerleader Murder' (Episode four from season three) in which a teen cheerleader was plied with cocaine until she did porn before being murdered. Here we see Heather Locklear as Officer Stacy Sheridan going undercover as a porn actress and wearing a cheerleader uniform as costume. One might guess 'The Cheerleader Murder' episode was well received by viewers though neither episode wins points for good taste.

John Calvin as the steroid-mad porn star is especially effective in this episode. I could say Jonathan Goldsmith was perfectly cast as the sinister producer but since he could play just about anything that should go without saying.


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