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by
James Lileks

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December 6, 2011 - 12:03 am
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You can’t sing the theme song. You can’t hum it. You can’t mistake it for anything else:

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Ahhhh, 1984. The long malaise was over, and morning in America meant women in bikinis walking out of a post-modern condo with a hole in the middle. Boats thrusting and crashing in the waves! Parrots scratching their heads! JAI-ALAI, for heaven’s sake.

The show’s basic concept wasn’t exactly novel: a sunny location, like Hawaii 5-0, with a burnt-out cop teaming up with someone who wasn’t like him at all. Would these mismatched archetypes learn to get along and like each other? “MTV Cops” was the famous phrase that created the show, but you might as well have said “Odd Couple in Armani.” But it seemed unlike anything else, because it had Phil Collins on the soundtrack. Once they played the ominous opening of “In the Air” while streetlights played over the polished hood of Crockett’s sportscar, everything changed.

Or so it seemed, back then. Wow: real music. MTV bleeding into the network feed from the far end of the cable spectrum. When a cop show in the 70s played “rock,” it was jangly, trebly tripe that let Mom and Dad know the plot was serving up some hippies or switchblade jockeys or some other dangerous element. While the show’s music choices today seem tame or tired — really, two Glenn Frey songs? Two? — the use of Actual Pop brought an immediacy to the show you couldn’t get any other way. Jan Hammer’s scores did more than fill in the spots between songs  from the staccato snares of the opening to the moody doomed languor of the slower numbers. His idiosyncratic synth sounds framed the entire series.

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