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DVD Review: Jake and the Fatman: Season Two

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There comes a point in time when all of the cop, lawyer, and doctor shows start to run together. The murky labs, the tonal mood music, and the exceedingly staid dialogue are often too much to bear. That’s why looking back at some of the great dramas of the '80s and '90s is such a treat.

The vivid Dixieland magnetism of Matlock, the rich liveliness of Nash Bridges, and exotic and fun tag team of Jake and the Fatman all make for fascinating throwback viewing.

In the case of Jake and the Fatman, running for five seasons on CBS from 1987 to 1992, the show works as a crackerjack Matlock spin-off running its way into a Diagnosis Murder spin-off.

Starring the late and great William Conrad as prosecutor J.L. "Fatman" McCabe and Joe Penny as Detective Jake Styles, Jake and the Fatman was built from a Conrad guest appearance on an episode of Matlock (“The Don”) during its first season on NBC. Alan Campbell also stars as Assistant District Attorney Derek Mitchell. And, of course, let's not forget the English bulldog Max.

Jake and the Fatman’s second season, just released on DVD, is the shortest season of the entire show’s run with only ten total episodes due to the extensive writers' strike in 1988.

Running initially in 1989 and 1990, this season showcased the move of McCabe and Styles to Hawaii to change their crime fighting venue. Interestingly, Jake and the Fatman was able to use many of the set pieces from Magnum P.I. after the Great Moustache left Hawaii at the conclusion of that show’s run.

Things get started with a two-hour season premiere entitled “Wish You Were Here” where Jake heads to Hawaii to visit a friend. As per usual, things get interesting and Jake is erroneously accused of the murder of an old friend. He calls on the Fatman’s acquaintance with the Hawaiian underworld to help get him out of trouble.

Other episodes include “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” in which Jake and McCabe try to track down the crooks who robbed a shipping company, and “It Ain't Necessarily So,” in which nothing is as it seems in a tale of burglary, murder, and an adult magazine publisher.

Jake and the Fatman works because of the chemistry between Conrad and Penny in the two lead roles. It also features glamorous locales and has a grand easy style about it that makes for pleasant viewing in a time filled with exaggeratedly grave melodramas and reality shows. For amusing retro entertainment, throw in Jake and the Fatman's second season on DVD.

This DVD release features all ten second season episodes on three discs. There are no bonus features.

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