Whatever Happened To Those 90 Minute Episodes of T.J. Hooker?

TJ Hooker

The positive response among T.J. Hooker fans about our upcoming release of The Complete Series on DVD has been overwhelming. You’re a passionate bunch, and we appreciate and share in your enthusiasm.

Shortly after announcing this set, we began receiving a number of customer inquiries regarding the length of the episodes from the fifth and final season of T.J. Hooker. There is a perception among some that the fifth season of the show had longer episodes than those found in previous seasons. This seems to be due, at least in part, to the following passage from T.J. Hooker’s entry on Wikipedia, which at the time of this writing states:

Hooker was canceled by ABC in the summer of 1985, but the series survived when CBS picked up the show and produced new, longer episodes: 17 ninety-minute episodes and one two-hour TV movie titled “Blood Sport”. The 90-minute episodes were shown later at night as part of the CBS “Crime Time After Prime-Time” showcase during the late 1980s/early 1990s. In reruns and international broadcasts, the 90-minute episodes are usually cut to one-hour, and “Blood Sport” is shown in two parts. [1]

It is important to remember that Wikipedia is a resource that anyone can add to or edit, making it an imperfect research tool. In this case, the passage in question does not cite a source, so our research team went to work ascertaining its veracity. We began by discussing the matter with Sony Pictures Television (who licensed T.J. Hooker to us). They told us:

Our research (regarding episode runtimes) is based on the length of the original negative for the show. We do not have any notes that the information found on Wikipedia is correct…There is a possibility that when the show aired on CBS “Crime Time After Prime-Time” the show was extended via the commercial breaks for late night airing.

The physical lengths of the show’s original camera negatives would seem to present a definitive answer – the show did not have an expanded running time during the 1985-86 broadcast season – but we decided to dig a little deeper. A search of various newspaper listings for Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles from 1985-86 indicate that the fifth season of T.J. Hooker aired in a 70-minute, late-night timeslot (not a 90-minute timeslot). This information was corroborated by secondary sources, including The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Ninth Edition) by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine Books, 2007).

As we expanded our search to other, regional television listings, we did find a few timeslots for the show that ranged from 60 to 90 minutes, but only in smaller markets. These were likely the quirks of those particular network affiliates, rather than a suggestion that the length of these first-run episodes were altered to fit each affiliate’s schedule. This reasoning is supported by the fact that some re-runs from earlier seasons of the show were shown during these same, longer timeslots.

Then there is the circumstantial evidence. The resurrection of the series was motivated, in part, by Columbia’s desire to get T.J. Hooker up to an amount of episodes that would make it more attractive in syndication. It was also motivated by CBS’ newfound desire to offer original, dramatic programming during late night. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, these circumstances resulted in an unusual situation between the studio and the network:

Because the series won’t be shown in prime time, the fee CBS pays for each episode is considerably less and Columbia must pick up the extra cost of production. But the extra episodes enable Columbia to sell a much more attractive “T.J. Hooker” package into syndication for television stations. “It was a tremendous shot in the arm for us, and the kind of deal we’d never done before,” says Barbara Rush, president of Columbia Television. [2]

It doesn’t make sense to us that T.J. Hooker’s production team would have filmed additional content for the show’s original broadcast run on CBS. Since the fifth season’s endgame was the one-hour syndication market, any extra material would have been removed after being aired only once – a costly proposition for a show that was already being produced at a loss by Columbia. Why, then, did the show air in a longer timeslot – in most markets, 70 minutes rather than the traditional 60? Most likely to allow local affiliates time for more advertisements, a local news break, or both.

Taking all of this information together, we feel confident that the fifth season episodes of T.J. Hooker found on our complete series set are the correct lengths – about the same as those from seasons 1-4. We hope that you will share our confidence when T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series is released on July 18, 2017.

Thank you, as always, for your support!


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._J._Hooker#Cancellation_and_revival (Accessed May 25, 2017)

[2] Laura Landro, “Coca-Cola to Expand Its Entertainment Line — Firm to Bolster TV Programming After a Few Films Flop,” The Wall Street Journal, Eastern Edition; New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]12 July 1985: 1.

One thought on “Whatever Happened To Those 90 Minute Episodes of T.J. Hooker?

  1. This is a fantastic blog post. Very well put together, and researched over something that, for 80s TV fans, as well as “T.J. Hooker” fans, as become something of an urban-myth. I can even remember in the early days of the internet, fans posting the Season 5 Theme song with subtitles like ’90 Minute Version’ on the CBS season, and the myth just grew and grew, even years after Hooker’s end.

    Looking forward to the set. I was in the middle of re-watching the series in Season 3 ten years ago, then all of the sudden A&E pulled the series. Been waiting for Seasons 3-5 for awhile.

    Shout Factory to the rescue… as always!

    Like

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