While Scarecrow And Mrs. King first aired in 1983, this show is really one of the last of the 1970’s crime dramas. It was an early attempt to bring in more of the female audiences that seemed reluctant to join the popular detective shows of the era. While not really a “detective” show (they were spies), it employed a lot of the 1970’s conventions. Even the film footage has that distinct style from those days and type of shows. The idea worked, and the series did bring in a sizeable female audience, but it never really caught on with the guy crowd who found it a bit too relationship-heavy. The two leads were chosen less for their character appeal than for their apparent “easy on the eyes” look. Again more fodder for the chick crowd. The show was always rather lighthearted, even if the material was somewhat serious cold war espionage. The two shared a banter that revealed a kind of love/hate relationship and the expected sexual tension that would eventually lead to the two getting hitched. And while the series only lasted four seasons, the formula would end up being tweaked to bring us the more successful Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, which took the idea more into the 80’s with slicker production values but still a mainly female appeal.
Amanda King (Jackson) was a recent divorcée with two sons and a nosy mother (Garland) who lived with her. She has a boyfriend named Dean who works as a meteorologist at a local Washington DC television station, whom you never actually get to see. While at the train station, she suddenly finds herself embroiled in an espionage plot when a package is handed to her on the platform. Then she meets government agent Lee Stetson (Boxleitner) who works under the codename: Scarecrow. She’s intrigued by Scarecrow and agrees to help him in his current case. Of course, she ends up in a more permanent role with “The Agency”, taking a job at their cover corporation The International Federal Film Company. Every week we find Amanda trying to balance her new role as a spy with trying to raise her kids, have a normal dating relationship, and keep her cover safe from her particularly prying mother. The results are often quite funny. There is also Scarecrow’s partner, Francine (Smith) who is somewhat jealous of Amanda and Lee.
It all starts here, and I’m sure there are more than a few fans who have been waiting for this one. It all starts with the pilot where the two meet for the first time. Other episodes of note include: If Thoughts Could Kill finds Scarecrow brainwashed and under an enemy agent’s control. In The A.C.M. Kid, the duo are protecting a young Russian whiz kid who is trying to steal top secret government codes because his parents are being held captive. Amanda’s in more trouble than she can handle in Saved By The Bells. She’s been kidnapped, and her captors want to trade her for one of their spies being held but The Agency might not take the deal. Amanda is kidnapped once again in I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been A Spy. This time she can’t remember who she is, or who Scarecrow is. More importantly, she can’t remember the next person on a hit list. Amanda must protect a Hungarian defector who happens to look exactly like Francine in Dead Ringer. Amanda’s Mom unwittingly gets caught up in a case when she comes into possession of a book that is really a top secret database in Fearless Dotty.
Each episode of Scarecrow And Mrs. King is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The prints really show their age here. You’ll find plenty of print artifacts like dirt and hair. Color is pretty soft but it’s more a product of the film stock used. It’s all the more evidence of that 70’s feel I was talking about. There is some compression artifact and black levels are less than fair.
The Dolby Digital Mono track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation.
One of the most interesting elements of this series was its attempt to downplay the violent aspect of their spy lives. This was one of the first of those shows where the violence was really rather comical, and no matter how hard a fall someone takes, very rarely was anyone seriously injured in the process. I guess the predominantly female audience wasn’t very interested in seeing the bad guys get taken out. This one remains strictly for the ladies. Guys will find it tame and likely be left feeling uncomfortable with the “will they or won’t they” tension in the lead characters’ relationship. It only took a couple of episodes for me to just want them to get on with it already. I guess it has its charms, and it wasn’t all THAT painful to watch some episodes here. I’d say that this series is strictly for the chicks, but then again, “I mean you never can tell who’s the type for what.”