'Hunter' back as a kinder, gentler cop show

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Twelve years after its cancellation, the "Dirty Harry"-inspired cop drama "Hunter" returns to NBC's schedule. Last fall, a "Hunter" reunion film scored pretty decent ratings. Can an "A-Team" revival be far behind?

The series opens with another two-hour movie, "Hunter: Back in Force" (8 p.m. today, NBC). Fred Dryer returns in the title role as Sgt. Rick Hunter, a taciturn guy who lets his .44 magnum do most of the talking. Older and grayer since the first series, Dryer's character looks more like a bank vice president than a gun-wielding avenger. Stepfanie Kramer also returns as his right-hand woman, Dee Dee McCall.

With PG-rated dialogue and a more discreet depiction of violence, morbidity and gore, this revived "Hunter" might appeal to fans of older, less-complicated cop dramas, from a television era before "NYPD Blue," "Homicide" and "The Shield."

As in cop shows of yore, the bad guys here are really, really deranged. Hunter is stalked by Randall Skaggs (Gregory Scott Cummins), a paroled murderer out to kill Hunter for sending him up the river. He's the kind of killer who might earn the nickname "Mad Dog," and he's helped out by his crazy brother, who might as well be named "Plumb Loco."

Five additional new, hourlong "Hunter" episodes will run at 9 p.m. Saturdays beginning next week.

At his best, Miller sounds like he's trying out for the job of the court jester for the Fox News Network. For a guy whose reputation is based on a news junkie's savvy, Miller trots out a lot of musty material.

With an accent that jumps from Boston to Brooklyn to "West Wing," the handsome Lowe is less than credible as a blue-collar cop. So you're not terribly surprised when Meyers tricks him, or when Neill steals the movie.

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