Booker: Collector’s Edition
August 17, 2009
At the height of its popularity, cop television show 21 Jump Street introduced the character of Dennis Booker (Grieco), a rebellious cop and a bad boy alternative Johnny Depp’s brooding, moody cop. Booker proved to be enough of a hit with audiences that he got his own spinoff series entitled, imaginatively enough, Booker. However, the public’s interest in Richard Grieco’s character quickly evaporated and the show was canceled after one season. After a brief flirtation with the mainstream (If Looks Could Kill), he settled into a career of direct-to-video fare. His show has finally been given a Region 1 DVD release in what was originally billed as “The Complete Series,” but after two episodes were left off (one because of music rights issues), it has been renamed, the “Collector’s Edition.”
We first meet Booker working as a bouncer – sorry, a customer relations expert. He’s tired of trading fists with meatheads every night and is looking for a new job. He manages to get one working for a private investigation division of Teshima, a large Japanese corporation. Remember in the 1980s when everyone was afraid that the Japanese would buy up everything? (see Ron Howard’s Gung Ho) He answers to Alicia Rudd (Strassman), a no-nonsense businesswoman who has no time for his roguish Teen Beat bad boy shtick. He’s also assigned a secretary named Elaine Grazzo (Rich).
Booker is not exactly keen on investigating boring insurance cases and decides to help Elaine who believes that an innocent man went to prison based on a court case that she served on the jury. The show plays on the clash of cultures between the corporate world and the streetwise Booker but many of the stories deal with his misadventures when he’s not working for Teshima. The first two episodes see three cast members from Jump Street appearing in an attempt to draw some of that show’s considerable fan base to Booker. The scripts and stories are typical Stephen J. Cannell fodder, that is to say formulaic, but that is just the nature of episodic T.V., especially during the 1980s.
In episode seven, we meet Lori Petty posing as her twin sister who is a part-time model that skipped out on a hearing to testify against a mobster. Booker is assigned to track her down. Petty displays her trademark spunky charm (which some find annoying) and is more than a match for Grieco in the smart-ass department. They have good chemistry together and play well off each other. The powers that be must’ve thought so as well because Petty returned for nine more episodes.
Richard Grieco plays Booker with a petulant, smart-ass exterior but deep down he believes in championing the underdog and lost causes. He is always ready with a cheesy quip and is constantly thumbing his nose at authority figures. Of course, Booker’s got the cool muscle car and motorcycle despite working as a bouncer in seedy bar when the series begins. Grieco does an okay job carrying a show that is basically built around him but there is a distinctive whiff that he’s just a poor man’s Johnny Depp minus the exceptional acting ability and knack for picking offbeat roles as evident from their wildly divergent career paths.
Fans of Booker will be immediately disappointed that the theme song, “Hot in the City” by Billy Idol, has been replaced by a vague, pale imitation. Obviously, the company that released this set could not afford the rights to the song and this is a significant strike against the release. Booker is not really that good of a show but at least fans have finally gotten most of its episodes on DVD.