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 audience 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 into the 80’s with slicker production values but still a mainly female appeal.
Amanda King (Jackson) is a recent divorcée with two sons and a nosy mother (Garland) who lives 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.
There are quite a few enjoyable episodes in the show’s second season. The season starts out with To Catch A Mongoose. Amanda goes to London when she discovers an old high school pal is believed to be the infamous killer The Mongoose. She ends up captured by the real killer for her troubles. In Double Agent a former spy writes a tell-all book which reveals the names of important agency operatives…including Amanda. Amanda is taken by white-slavers in the episode Brunettes Are In. Lee has to clear Amanda when she is charged with counterfeiting. Lee’s high in the Alps while Amanda’s in prison in Munich on the charges in Our Man In Tegernsee. In A Little Sex, A Little Scandal Amanda is the eyewitness to the hit on a senator’s aide. Now she’s next on the hit list. In Odds On A Dead Pigeon, a hit man has hired an Amanda look-alike to take out Lee. Amanda accidentally takes a drug meant for Lee in D.O.A. – Delirious On Arrival. The strange trip sends her into another reality while Lee attempts to get the antidote in time to save her. In You Only Die Twice, Amanda discovers another agent has been using her identity when she reads her own obituary in the paper.
Guest stars in season 2 include: Dana Elcar, Jean “Dingbat” Stapleton, John “Baltar” Calicos, John “Bad Dates” Rhys-Davies and Arlene “What’s My Line” Francis.
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.”