Growing up back in the 90s, I remember watching an old television show about the famous California highway with a catchy intro song:
“California highway taking me back home
right back where I belong
down from San Francisco
I feel so free again
I feel like me again”
Lee van Cleef was in the opening credits saying ‘California has it all’.There was also a girl in a bikini professing her love for California.
I have recenlty looked for the show online but only found a very brief clip, so all I know is that it was directed by a German filmmaker and that it was a German show. I’m not even sure whether this is an 80s or 70s show but by the looks of it, possibly late 70s or very early 80s.
I enjoy watching old television series and films just to see how the world was before I was born. A few weeks ago, I revisited “The streets of San Francisco”, a very popular 1970s (September 16, 1972, and June 9, 1977) cop tv series that showed the city in all its 70s glory.
At the time, the 1960s counterculture movement was coming to an end, the sexual revolution was in full swing, the disco era was about to reach the zenith and San Francisco, was at the center of all it all.
“The Streets of San Francisco“ manages to capture this special time really well so it is worth watching just for this reason alone. The main characters of the series are two homicide detectives for the SFPD, played by Karl Malden and a young Michael Douglas.
Stone (Karl Malden) is the street-smart veteran police officer and Keller(Michael Douglas) is the college-educated rookie. The duo team up, and together they solve cases in and around San Francisco.
Paternal and lovable Stone represents the establishment, whereas ladies’ man Keller, embodies the freewheeling 70s. While working together they come into contact with a variety of characters including hippies, spaced-out druggies, glam disco queens or conservative businessmen.
The combination of a standard cop-show format and a peek at lifestyles that back then were considered fringe and edgy, helped to make this show a big hit.
The way the police officers solve crimes is not particularly groundbreaking, the structure is a bit formulaic and the crimes are always wrapped up in the final act, often following chase scenes or fight scenes that are rather gentle by today’s standards.
However, structure or how the main characters solve crimes, is not why the audience will love the show today. You will love it because the show has a very unique appeal, the always charming city of San Francisco.
San Francisco,one of the most liberal cities the world has ever known, is a main character in every episode and that alone, made the show appealing back in the 70s when it first aired, and makes it interesting to watch nowadays.
“The streets of San Francisco” is a product of its time, but above all, it is a great legacy to this wonderful city as it plays like a video time capsule of the era, and through its vibrant history, San Francsico has allowed its past to shape what it is today.