Dennis Booker

Created by Stephen J. Cannell & Erik Blakeney

“No badge. No back-up. No problem.”

God help me. Although it was pretty much universally dismissed at the time as “Mannix for the MTV generation,” I sort of enjoyed the absolutely preposterous late-eighties TV show Booker. For some reason, I didn’t find it all that bad.]. Sure, it was cheesy, and at times pure fluff, but having Stephen J. Cannell as a co-creator and executive producer didn’t hurt. Nor, considering the intended audience, did having “Hot in the City” belted out by Billy Idol at the beginning of every show.

And as for cutie pie Richard Grieco as private eye DENNIS BOOKER, well, you or I might not know, but the little girls, they understand.

The whole thing started when, in the wildly successful 21 Jump Street‘s third season, rumours began to circulate that series heartthrob Johnny Depp was going to jump ship. So the worried producers quickly added a back-up hunk (Richard Grieco) to the cast as Officer Booker.

But wouldn’t you know it? Depp changed his mind and decided to stick around for another season, and suddenly there was a surplus of pretty boys on the show.  So Booker, his leather jacket, his tight jeans and his puppy dog eyes were spun off into his own show. The premise was simple enough: rather than accept being reassigned to a desk job following his “numerous violations of procedure” on Jump Street, an angry Dennis quits the force and eventually lands a plum spot as head investigator of the suspicious claims division for the Teshima Corporationa of America, a Japanese insurance corporation based in Vancouver (where both shows were filmed).

Or, as Fox put it:

“You know him as the rebel cop on 21 Jump Street, but now he’s off the force, and working for a corporation as a private eye. He loves his new job, he just hates showing up for work. He knows the streets; he knows the players; he just doesn’t always know when to quit.”

Uh-huh.

The Teshima Corporation turned out to be too straitlaced, however, for the rebellious young cop, and his leather jackets, tight jeans, muscle T-shirts and that long, dangling earring didn’t go over well (I’m surprised, considering how many time he got beat up in the show, that some thug didn’t just rip the damn thing off!). Booker’s superior, Alicia Rudd, played by Marcia Strassman (Mrs. Kotter!) was constantly on his case, ordering him to toe the company line, dress right, and to “Put your libido in mothballs!”

But somehow it worked. Especially during the second half of the season, when Booker started to take more and more outside cases, much to his Alicia’s dismay, and the emphasis was switched from his corporate duties to his relationship with his pals. The humour was also played up, and his “rebel/bad boy” image was toned down, and even poked at a time or two. As another reviewer put it, it became more like “Magnum P.I. with an earring.”

But it was all to no avail, and the plug was pulled after one season.

UNDER OATH

  • “You forgot to mention the mascara, Kevin! What sort of world would trust a private eye with that much eye makeup? What’s next — Boy George as DA?”
    — Duke Seabrook

TELEVISION

  • BOOKER | Buy the series on DVD Watch it now!
    (September 1989 to May 1990, Fox)
    22 60-minute episodes
    Created by Stephen J. Cannell and Erik Blakeney
    Writers: Stephen J. Cannell, Nicholas J. Corea , Gordon Dawson, Carleton Eastlake, Charles Grant Craig, Thania St. John, Bill Nuss, Kim Manners, Glen Morgan & James Wong, Jan Eliasberg, David Kemper, Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes, Jacqueline Zambrano & Gary Rosen, Seth Perlman
    Directors: David Jackson, Mark Sobel, Rob Bowman , Jorge Montesi , Reynaldo Villalobos, James Whitmore Jr., Jefferson Kibbee, Mark Sobe, Kim Manners, Mario Azzopardi , Bryan Spicer, Jan Eliasberg, Christopher T. Welch, Bill Corcoran, David Nutter, Peter D. Marshall
    Executive Producers: Bill Nuss, Steve Beers, Stephen J. Cannell
    Theme song: “Hot in the City”, performed by Billy Idol
    Starring Richard Grieco as DENNIS BOOKER
    with Katie Rich as Elaine Grazzo
    Lori Petty as Suzanne Dunne
    Marcia Strassman as Alicia Rudd
    Carmen Argenziano as Charles “Chick” Sterling
    Reginald T. Dorsey as Reggie Mitchell
    Robert Romanus as Tony DeAngelo
    and Jay Brazeau as Sgt. Keith Redding
    Guest stars: Don Cheadle, Ed Lauter, Lori Petty, Vanity, Brian Bonsal, Thomas Haden Church, Blu Mankuma, Ben Vereen, Marcia Cross, Peter Deluise, Holly Robbinson, Ian Tracey, B.B. King

    • Season OneBuy the series on DVD
    • “Booker” (September 24, 1989)
    • “The Pump” (October 1, 1989
    • “Raising Arrizola” (October 8, 1989
    • “High Rise” ( October 22, 1989 )
    • “All You Gotta Do is Do It” ( October 29, 1989 )
    • “Bete Noir” ( November 5, 1989 )
    • “Flat Out” ( November 12, 1989)
    • “Deals and Wheels” (Part 1) (November 26, 1989)
    • The second part of this story aired as episode #65 of 21 Jump Street
    • “Someone Stole Lucille” (December 10, 1989)
    • “Cementhead” (December 17, 1989)
    • “The Red Dot” ( January 14, 1990 )
    • “Who Framed Roger Thornton?” (January 21, 1990)
    • “Hacker” (February 4, 1990)
    • “The Life and Death of Chick Sterling” (February 11, 1990 )
    • “Black Diamond Run” (February 18, 1990)
    • “Love Life” (February 25, 1990)
    • “Reunion” (March 25, 1990 )
    • “Wedding Bell Blues” (April 1, 1990)
    • “Molly and Eddie” (April 8 , 1990)
    • “Crazy” (April 15, 1990)
    • “Mobile Home” (April 29, 1990)
    • “Father’s Day” (May 6 1990)

BUYERS BEWARE

  • You can buy Booker on DVD or stream it, but a few episodes are missing, and all those pumping, throbbing eighties-era hits that made up the soundtrack (including Billy Idol’s “Hot in the City”) are gone, replaced by some of the lamest, most gawd-awfully generic (but cheap) music imaginable. Also missing: The 21 Jump Street cross-over episode, and the one where Booker hunts for BB King’s guitar, Lucille (music rights again!).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks, Sean.

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