TV on DVD: “Matt Houston: The First Season”

Written by Television, TV on DVD

In the early ’80s you had rough and tumble men who investigated crimes and brought down the bad guys. And they did it proudly with the stache. Of course, we all immediately think of Tom Selleck and Magnum P.I. The popularity of that series begat a slew of imitators, one of which was Aaron Spelling’s charming and enjoyable series, Matt Houston.

Lee Horsley, starred as the mustachioed Matt Houston, a former football All American turned wealthy Texan who manages off shore drilling along the coast of California, dabbles in diamond mines, is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, and of course, is the best private investigator in the city of Los Angeles. That’s right, Los Angeles. Fed up with the attitude of his homeland, Houston left the longhorn state and went off to make his fortune in California.

Assisting him in his business affairs and helping manage his crazy lifestyle is Houston’s very own girl Friday, C.J., played with a wink and a smile by Pamela Hensley. It’s obvious from the first episode that these two have a thing for each other. When and if they wind up together is part of the fun of Matt Houston.

This first season collection includes all 23 episodes from the first season of the hit series, which premiered in the fall of 1982 on ABC and lasted for three seasons.  Paramount has packaged the season on six discs and it’s available now to buy or rent.

Houston always puts the needs of his clients and friends before his own. Whether it’s the former girlfriend accused of killing her father for his money (“X-22”) or the former girlfriend who is accused of killing her boss (“Deadly Fashion”) or getting to the bottom of who’s trying to kill C.J. and her sorority sisters (“Whose Party Is It Anyway?”), Houston is crafty, tough, and always gets his man. But the great Matt Houston also dabbles in solving high-minded cases like figuring out whether a famous scientist actually saw a UFO before he had a heart attack (“The Visitors”) and deciphering the clues of a special code that predicts the deaths of thousands (“Fear for Tomorrow”). If ever there was a well-rounded detective, it’s this guy.

Let’s be straight, this was an Aaron Spelling production, so it was made for purely entertainment purposes. With Matt Houston you got the glitz and glamor of Spelling’s Dynasty type soaps, mixed with the intrigue, mystery and sexiness of Charlie’s Angels and Starsky and Hutch. Horsley and Hensley are capable actors and are pleasant enough to spend an hour with on a regular basis. For someone like me who grew up on shows like Matt Houston, offering weekly mysteries that weren’t too heavy (if you wanted heavy, you had to watch a “grown up” show like Hill Street Blues), there is a nostalgia aspect to the show that made me eager to see it again after nearly 30 years. I was pleasantly surprised that the show held up. Granted, the plots are derivative and the look of this show may be pure ’80s gold, but there’s no denying that Matt Houston is a good time.

It even made me consider growing a stache.

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