Spenser: For Hire

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Spenser: For Hire
Spenser For Hire title screen.jpg
Title screen
Genre Crime drama
Based on Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker
Developed byJohn Wilder
Starring Robert Urich
Avery Brooks
Barbara Stock
(1985–86, 1987–88)
Ron McLarty
Carolyn McCormick
Richard Jaeckel
ComposersSteve Dorff
Larry Herbstritt
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes66, and 4 TV movies (List of Episodes)
Running timeapprox. 48 minutes per episode
Production companiesJohn Wilder Productions
(season 1)
Jadda Productions
(season 2)
Warner Bros. Television
Distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution
Original network ABC
Original releaseSeptember 20, 1985 (1985-09-20) 
May 7, 1988 (1988-05-07)
Followed by A Man Called Hawk

Spenser: For Hire is an American crime drama series based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. The series, developed for TV by John Wilder and starring Robert Urich, was broadcast on ABC from September 20, 1985 until May 7, 1988.



The series ran on ABC from September 20, 1985, to May 7, 1988. Despite frequent time slot changes and occasional pre-emptions, the show garnered decent ratings. Location shooting ultimately led to the show's demise, with costs being cited as one of the main reasons why ABC cancelled it. Filmed largely in Boston, which was considered one of the show's strong points, it featured shots from many locations, even showing the harsh winters there (notably in the pilot). The show's music was produced by Steve Dorff and Larry Herbstritt.

The series was estimated to have generated $50 million for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [1]



Spenser (Robert Urich) is the only name used for this character throughout the show. While it is clear in the novel that Spenser is the character's last name, this is not made clear in the TV series until episode 03x01: "Homecoming" ("Silverman's back and Spenser's got her" quote scene). According to a popular rumor, Parker was going to name the character David, after one of his sons, but changed his mind out of consideration for his other son, Daniel. [2] In "An Eye For An Eye," Spenser quotes 16th-century poet Edmund Spenser, who may be the inspiration for the name since the spelling is identical. When introducing himself, he often says "Spenser with an 'S', like the poet." Spenser is surprisingly sophisticated for a private eye and former boxer. In "The Choice", it is revealed that Spenser fared poorly in a professional fight 12 years ago, which might have contributed to him leaving the profession. However, he still boxes and exercises at Henry Cimoli's Gym. He is well-read, often quoting poetry in everyday conversation. He is also an excellent cook, often making recipes he picks up from watching Julia Child on his kitchen counter television.

Spenser lives in Boston, initially at 357 Massachusetts Avenue, and drives distinctive cars. His first is a mildly-worn out, ivy green '66 Ford Mustang (possibly a nod to Steve McQueen's Mustang in Bullitt ) which is destroyed at the beginning of the second season. It is succeeded by a new 1987 Mustang 5.0 GT which, five episodes later, is traded for a perfectly restored 1966 Mustang GT which gets banged up over the remaining run of the show.

In the show Spenser carries a Beretta 9mm pistol, whereas in the books his weapon of choice is a Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol along with a 38 cal. snubnosed revolver for casual carry.

In the novels, Spenser had served as an infantryman in the 1st Infantry Division during the Korean War. However, the television version of the character was younger than his literary counterpart, and acknowledged being a veteran of the Vietnam War in the series' pilot episode. Spenser was also a former member of the Boston police force and occasionally cooperates with the BPD in the series.

In "Children of the Tempest Storm", Ms. Silverman reveals that she is pregnant with Spenser's child. The word abortion comes up when talking with her doctor, and is discussed throughout the episode, though often not using the word. Susan and Spenser discuss the issue and are at odds over the moral dilemma before them. Spenser, a Catholic, does not know if he can stay with Susan, though he loves her deeply, if she aborts. He believes it is only for her convenience that she would choose abortion. In the end, she has the abortion, and he brings her flowers. They silently affirm that the relationship will continue. After Susan leaves the show, ADA Rita Fiore becomes Spenser's love interest during the second season, but they do not seem to develop the personal bond that was apparent with Silverman.

After his apartment goes up in flames at the start of the second episode, Spenser moves into a "firehouse", given to him by grateful local firefighters for saving the life of a firefighter at his apartment building. It is situated on the corner of River Street, near Mt. Vernon Square and Beacon Hill. In the second season, we find that the Fire Department took the station back as they needed it and Spenser finds himself in a small top floor apartment in Charlestown, near the old Boston Navy Yard which he now uses as his office.


Hawk (Avery Brooks) is the street-wise black kid who grew up to become a smartly dressed enforcer. Though he is for hire, he has a code of ethics and generally works on the side of good. In the pilot episode ("Promised Land"), he and Spenser obviously have respect for each other, and he switches over from King Powers' (Chuck Connors) side to Spenser's side when he does not like the way Powers is doing things. Hawk carries a Colt Python .357 Magnum as his weapon of choice.

Lt. Quirk

Lt. Quirk (Richard Jaeckel) and Spenser have an uneasy, somewhat adversarial relationship, but often work together. In the episode "Heart of the Matter", Quirk suffers an angina attack and reluctantly accepts the fact that he must retire after 35 years on the force.

Robert Urich (right) as Spenser, Avery Brooks as Hawk Spencer For Hire.jpg
Robert Urich (right) as Spenser, Avery Brooks as Hawk


The series consisted of three seasons (1985–1988) with a total of 66 episodes, and was followed by a series of four made-for-TV movies (1993–1995).

Home media

On June 28, 2005, Rykodisc released the four TV movies on DVD that were made following the cancellation of the weekly series. [3] In 2007, Rykodisc re-released each of them separately. [4]

DVD NameEp #Additional Information
Spenser: The Movie Collection4
  • Spenser: Ceremony
  • Spenser: Pale Kings And Princes
  • Spenser: The Judas Goat
  • Spenser: A Savage Place

On August 26, 2014, Warner Bros. released the first season on DVD via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a manufacture-on-demand (MOD) release, available through Warner's online store and Amazon.com. Warner's website explains that the initial disc run was pressed traditionally "to meet expected high consumer demand". [5] The second season was released on May 12, 2015. [6] The third and last season was released on September 1, 2015.

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The Complete First Season22August 26, 2014.
The Complete Second Season22May 12, 2015.
The Complete Third Season21September 1, 2015.

Spin-offs and remakes

In 1989, after the show ended, Brooks starred in his own spin-off series, A Man Called Hawk .

In an April 23, 2009, blog entry Robert Parker stated that he was in talks with TNT to produce a remake of the series. [7] However, Parker died in 2010 before these plans could take place.

The 2020 Netflix film Spenser Confidential is the first installment of a reboot of the series.

Notable guest stars

Related Research Articles

Spenser is a fictional private investigator created by the American mystery writer Robert B. Parker. He acts as the protagonist of a series of detective novels written by Parker and later continued by Ace Atkins. His first appearance was in the 1973 novel The Godwulf Manuscript. He is also featured in the 1980s television series Spenser: For Hire and a related series of TV movies based on the novels. In March 2020 he was featured in the Netflix thriller film Spenser Confidential.

Robert Urich American actor and producer

Robert Michael Urich was an American film, television, and stage actor, and television producer. Over the course of his 30-year career, he starred in a record 15 television series.

Robert B. Parker American crime writer

Robert Brown Parker was an American writer of fiction, primarily of the mystery/detective genre. His most famous works were the 40 novels written about the fictional private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the mid-1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character was also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, and Dennis Lehane as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre.

<i>The Wayans Bros.</i>

The Wayans Bros. is an American sitcom television series that aired on The WB from January 11, 1995, to May 20, 1999. The series starred real life brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans. The series also starred John Witherspoon and Anna Maria Horsford.

<i>Jake and the Fatman</i> Television series

Jake and the Fatman is an American crime drama television series starring William Conrad as prosecutor J. L. "Fatman" McCabe and Joe Penny as investigator Jake Styles. The series ran on CBS for five seasons from September 26, 1987, to May 6, 1992. Diagnosis: Murder was a spin-off of this series.

A Man Called Hawk is an American action drama series, starring Avery Brooks, that ran on ABC from January 28 to May 13, 1989. The series is a spin-off of the crime drama series Spenser: For Hire, and features the character Hawk, who first appeared in the 1976 novel Promised Land, the fourth in the series of Spenser novels by mystery writer Robert B. Parker.

Barbara Stock is an American actress, best known for roles as Susan Silverman in ABC crime drama series Spenser: For Hire (1985–1988), and as Liz Adams in CBS primetime soap opera Dallas (1990–1991); she also appeared in the role of Heather Wilson in two episodes in season five of the series.

<i>Crimson Joy</i>

Crimson Joy is the 15th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker.

<i>Paper Doll</i> (novel)

Paper Doll is the 20th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. The story follows the Boston-based PI Spenser as he tries to solve the apparently random killing of the well-regarded wife of a local businessman.

<i>Small Vices</i>

Small Vices is the 24th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker.

<i>Promised Land</i> (novel)

Promised Land is the fourth Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker, published in 1976. It won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1977.

<i>Hundred-Dollar Baby</i>

Hundred-Dollar Baby is the 34th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. The novel was also alternatively titled, Dream Girl ISBN 1-84243-186-2. The story follows Boston-based PI Spenser as he tries to help an old runaway prostitute he helped several years earlier, April Kyle.

<i>Bad Business</i> (novel)

Bad Business is a detective novel by Robert B. Parker first published in 2004. It features Parker's most famous creation, Boston-based private investigator Spenser, and is the 31st novel in the series. In this novel, Spenser is hired by a wealthy woman to gather evidence on her husband's infidelity. Soon, due to Spenser's investigation, homicides start occurring.

<i>A Catskill Eagle</i>

A Catskill Eagle is the 12th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker, first published in 1985. The title comes from a quote from Herman Melville.

<i>Double Deuce</i>

Double Deuce a 1992 novel by American writer Robert B. Parker, the 19th book featuring the private investigator Spenser. The story follows Boston-based Spenser as he and his friend Hawk butt heads against a street gang while attempting to unravel the murder of a teenage mother and her young daughter.

<i>Pastime</i> (novel)

Pastime is the 18th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. The story follows Boston-based PI Spenser as he attempts to find a man's missing mother.

<i>Spenser</i> (film series)

Joe Mantegna portrayed Robert B. Parker's detective "Spenser" in three TV films on the A&E cable network between 1999 and 2001.

The Widening Gyre (novel)

The Widening Gyre is a 1983 novel by Robert B. Parker, featuring his private detective character Spenser. The title comes from the first line of W.B. Yeats poem "The Second Coming".

<i>Lullaby</i> (Atkins novel)

Lullaby is the 41st novel featuring Robert B. Parker's fictional detective Spenser. It is the first official Spenser novel not written by Parker, but by Ace Atkins. Atkins was asked to write the novel after Parker's death in 2010.


  1. "City Council President Bruce Bolling entered the 'Save Our..." United Press International. March 25, 1987. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  2. FAQ, Robert B. Parker, MindSpring, October 1, 2016.
  3. "Spenser: For Hire - Movie Collection Artwork". Archived from the original on September 28, 2012.
  4. "Spenser: For Hire - 4 New DVD Releases Break Up The Old Box Set". Archived from the original on September 28, 2012.
  5. "Spenser: For Hire DVD news: Announcement for Spenser: For Hire - The Complete 1st Season - TVShowsOnDVD.com". Archived from the original on August 31, 2014.
  6. "Spenser: For Hire DVD news: Release Date for Spenser: For Hire - The Complete 2nd Season - TVShowsOnDVD.com". Archived from the original on May 1, 2015.
  7. "The Return of the Blogger". robertbparker.typepad.com. Robert Parker. Retrieved March 3, 2017.