Mike Hammer, Private Eye - www.murder

1997 - 1998
Mike Hammer here. I stopped by a few months back to gabatya about the second of my TV movies from the early 80s, "More Than Murder." Well, I'm back, baby. 

Call me Ishmael.
This time around my man-out-of-his-era schtick plays against the backdrop of fin-de-siècle Americana. 

Call me 90s Mike.
This contrast should have been a slam-dunk. But the late 90s were a crowded party when it came to pulp throwbacks, and whether it was that or the somewhat generic-90s-cable look of the show, Mike Hammer, Private Eye never found an audience large enough to keep it on the air. That's show biz.   

I'm not knocking the cinematography - provided in several episodes by longtime vet of the industry Nicholas Von Sternberg 

when I say "generic-90s-cable look," more the set design, wardrobe, and casting choices for guest stars. But what do I know? 

In between this 90s incarnation and the 2 TV movies I just mentioned were two currently-unavailable-on-DVD shows called Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1984) and The New Mike Hammer (1986 - 1987.) Why am I skipping over those, you ask? Well, like I say, they're not available on disc, and if it can't be vinyl, 90s Mike digs discs, baby. 

Also because in 1984 I was sentenced to Reading Prison in England when I got busted at Heathrow trying to smuggle a piddling amount of cocaine (1.3 ounces!) out of the country.  I said come on, bros, 1.3 ounces wouldn't even be enough to get my pals in Mötley Crüe out of bed. No sale. No sense of humor, those Cromwells. 

As a result of my incarceration, the first series got cancelled and then different copyright issues with the second and yadda yadda - no DVD as of yet. I served 6 months in the same cell that once held Oscar Wilde. The full stretch was 9 months, but I got out in 6 - allegedly for good behavior but just between you me and the cappuccino machine, I did the guards a few favors. Nothing political was my only rule. Prison's full of troublemakers. Cigarettes were my empire. You scratch my back? I shoot your face. I shoot it DEAD

Anyway, if they ever release the show on DVD, I'll be right back here at the ol' Dog Star Omnibus HQ giving you the straight and lowdown.
This time around, they bumped up the action...

Well, sort of. TV was in a transitional period in the late 90s. Contrast the action you find here with the action on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another show premiering in 1997, and it's clear which one more resembles anything anyone would call an action show on this side of the twenty-first century. In MH,PE, the choreographed fight scenes and defenestrations - and the scripts call for an awful lot of them - come across a little clunky. 

Speaking of throwing things through windows, remind me to tell you about the time I ran into Leonard Nimoy at the vending machines on the 25th floor of the Acme Building, the night the lights went out in Burbank. First time I ever ate human flesh. (Not Lenny's.) Got into some hot water and had to shoot our way out - hell of a guy, Nimoy. 

Rest in peace, bubala.
Some changes from the old Hammer:

New castmates.

Shannon Whirry is arguably best known as the lady who breastfeeds Jim Carrey in Me, Myself and Irene. I don't know what the hell Shane Conrad did before or after - hell, I barely paid attention to him in the 90s Hammer. The reason he's on the show is because they figured adding him to the cast would help us skew to a younger demographic. Didn't work. I could have told them that. Hell, I did try and tell them that - unfortunately it was at the Crüe concert at Madison Square Garden. How you going to make yourself heard over a Tommy Lee drum solo? You just can't. Don't even try. 

Shane was a good kid, though. Not his fault his character was blander than the Scrambled Tofu Surprise at the Little Rock Hotel.

You might remember my best friend from the old shows, who was always bailing me out of trouble or providing pretext for me to go off half-cocked:

In 1992 Don came to the aid of a man being mugged in Greenwich Village and was stabbed repeatedly, including in his right eye, which he still can't see out of to this day. I don't know if that had anything to do with his not coming back for Mike Hammer, Private Eye or what. His heyday as an actor would appear to be behind him, but he's still out there, kicking ass. Anyway - the suits created a similar character for me to pal around with, Skip Gleason, played by 

aka Con Stapleton from Deadwood.
Kent Williams returned as Barry, the District Attorney who always wants my badge.
You remember Barry, right?

The shoehorned boobage is not quite as egregious as it was in the 80s movies. But it's still very much the order of the day.

They didn't seem to have the budget they had back in the day, though. Ergo:
Bobbie Brown, now an author of some notoriety but mainly what they used to call a "video vixen."
Not that it mattered much to me which ladies they brought in, because also joining the cast was my real-life wife, Malgosia Tomassi:

She played the yoga instructor next door to my office who was always losing her keys or somedamnsuch.
Here we are with two of our little Hammers.
I actually like that they have me an age-appropriate love interest. But having your wife on set definitely ruins your opportunity for banging the extras in the cloakroom. I mentioned this to my pal Nikki Sixx once, and he didn't understand at all - for him, that's what cloakrooms are for. Nikki has the spare key to my home in Malibu - we've been neighbors for years. He's the only one I trust to feed my armadillo when I'm out of town.

On the smack, he was useless. But sober, he was always there for a friend. Thanks, pal.
As for the male guest stars, the show sometimes had an anyone-who-was-on-the-lot-that-day feel to it. 

(l-to-r from top) Mickey Rooney from "Lucky in Love," Frank Stallone from "Songbird," and Michael Fairman and Raye Birk from "The Art of Murder." That's Dutch Kincaid and Walt Twitchell from Cheers to you.
Anyway, we had our moments.

I get a little chance to be meta in "Countdown to Murder."
And we flash back to a young Mike Hammer selling newspapers in "Dump This Creep." (A Depression-era timeline that doesn't quite make sense with the show being set in the '90s.)
And I mix it up with cultist-crazies in "Halloween."

Every now and again, I would espy this lady:

aka "The Face."
Whereupon I'd make this face.
This was another conceptual hold-over from the 80s show. The deal was I always running into this chick, and she'd smile at me and I'd go all bug-eyed, but we'd never actually talk. 

The Face was played by Donna Denton in the 80s and Rebekah Chaney in the 90s.
The scripts? Not bad. Not great, but not bad. (Here's one I wrote down: "She was one hard-boiled tomato, but when I found her she was half-boiled, martini in hand.") But the one I'm here to tell you about today is this little number from early in Season One:

Season 1, Episode 3.
Directed by Jim Lemmo and written by Chris Baena.
Almost any show produced between 1995 and 2000 had at least one episode where the cast struggled with the internet as a concept. This was Mike Hammer's. Even the DVD menu for the Mike Hammer, Private Eye set reflects it. See, there's one episode where I go to get internet lessons from Nikki Ziering. Can anyone anywhere imagine such a thing? People in 1997 could. She tells me I have to click the mouse twice, and I turn to her and say in a low voice "What if I click three times?"

This little back and forth plays every time you put in one of the discs or switch back to the menu. Which translates to hearing it something like way-too-many-goddamn-times if you sit down to watch the series. And hey, it makes sense for my character to both not understand the internet and to flirt with the teacher. I'm just saying, when you watch "www.murder" it's a relic of a very specific era in television production.

Our story begins:

Just another day in the office. Great, now I've got a fish and I have to share space with this Nick kid.
Turns out there are these girls disappearing who keep showing up on this horrendous-looking fake sex site.
I say a bunch of things like "speak English, would you?" whenever internet-ese is spoken to me. Suddenly Nick is some kind of expert. Never came up before. I tell him who cares; we've got Velda. We're sending her in undercover, like we usually do.

She discovers this creepy dude.
When I follow him around, I get clobbered, Batman-in-the-70s-style.
Barry shows up and tells me I'm in over my head. This fucking guy! He kidnaps confiscates Betsy.
Little did I know, but I've stumbled into an active FBI investigation, and my snooping around is compromising their agent on the inside. You think I let that stop me? If you do, you're probably the kind of jerk who thinks Generation Swine is the Crüe's best album. And I've got some fist estate in Omaha I'm ready to sell you.

I bring Nick in with me so he can look over the computers and tell me something. He gives them a thorough once-over.

"Yup - these computers are networked."
Then I make a joke about how these bodies are networked to the ceiling rafters. Cut to commercial.
This internet is serious goddamn business. I decide to bust my way in and rescue the FBI agent and punch some people. And stop some international computer rape what have you.

I find the agent's been deliberately doped up; her cover's blown. I get her out of there.
Barry gets his bust, and I get back Betsy. Then Bill Clinton and I spend a poignant moment with my voiceover thoughts and a picture of one of the victims before she was cybersexed.

R.I.P. kid.
If you think you've been cybersexed, get in touch with me. Don't waste another minute. I'll check the networks (or Nick will) and we'll get you sorted out before anything else happens. And the same goes for spam. It's a new world out there, and you've got to protect yourself. Goddamn right.

Well, so long.

The TV Tomb of Mystery is an ongoing attempt to stave off  acquisition of any more impulse-buy DVDs by taking better inventory of the ones already in hand.


  1. "You scratch my back? I shoot your face. I shoot it DEAD." -- That's fantastic.

    I appreciate any use of the word "defenestration," which I know only because a former assistant football coach at the University of Alabama used in an interview once, making it rather popular on campus at the time. It's nice to know there's a word for that action, though; more specific acts of violence should have their own words.

    Shane Conrad is the most nineties-lookin' thing I've ever seen.

    I suspect the very title of the episode being covered here may indicate a substantial lack of savviness with online culture. Because, like, where's the ".com"? Everyone knows you've gotta have one of those (or an equivalent).

    "When I follow him around, I get clobbered, Batman-in-the-70s-style." -- Nice callback.

    Somebody should write a book about the use of the Internet as a villainous entity in nineties television. Not even kidding.

    "And the same goes for spam. It's a new world out there, and you've got to protect yourself. Goddamn right." -- Goddamn right.

    1. The lack of dot-com totally cracks me up. I wondered briefly if it was omitted on the network's request or something, but the more I thought about it, the less I considered it. I think yeah it can be properly chalked up to simple lack of savvy. I like your idea of a book about the internet-as-villain; if someone hasn't written that yet, it needs to be done.