Knight Rider did it for cars, Airwolf did it for helicopters, and it was Street Hawk that did it for motorbikes. In the 1980’s we loved our shows about technologically advanced forms of transport, and the short lived Street Hawk was no exception.
It aired in 1985 and whilst it only managed to make it to 13 episodes it still holds a place in my heart. Amazingly, despite such a small episode count there were no less than four different versions of the bike made for the show, but the common specifications were that it could travel very fast (200mph, or 300mph with the computer assisted Hyperthrust mode) and that it featured weaponry such as lasers, missiles and machine guns.
The funniest feature was the anti-theft device though. Obviously KITT and Airwolf both had doors that could be locked, but a motorbike doesn’t have that luxury. Instead it had an ejector seat which was triggered if someone other than the designated driver tried to mount it. Authorisation to ride was provided via what essentially amounts to a bum imprint detection system! The rider had to have a special suit made which was moulded to their body shape – the mould being created by having them stand in a glass cylinder that filled up with foam!
In the series Street Hawk was built by scientist Norman Tuttle. Apologies to any Tuttles out there reading this, but the name doesn’t exactly strike you as super scientist bike creator so much as some guy who grows carrots on his allotment.
Anyway, Norman needed somebody to ride Street Hawk and ended up with a public relations police officer named Jesse Mach. I found this quite amusing too, since I have an Auntie Jessie so it seemed funny to have a man with a womans name, as far as I was concerned anyway. Luckily you can’t get a lot more macho sounding than Mach, not unless you stuck an ‘O’ on the end of course…
One aspect of the show that made things seem more realistic was the fact that Street Hawk was constantly connected to a bank of computers back at the secret base, which Jesse always left by jumping the bike out of a hole concealed by a wooden advertising board. This meant Norman could monitor the bike and prevent Jesse from taking risks, and also allowed for Hyperthrust mode to be made available on busy city streets, as the system was connected into traffic control systems so was able to predict traffic patterns and divert the bike around heavy traffic.
The average episode was much as you would expect, with Jesse and Norman bringing criminals to justice with the aid of their super cool bike. I don’t recall much about any particular episode, but I do recall that Hyperthrust was generally used at least once an episode, and it had a really cool theme song, provided by Tangerine Dream. Unfortunately checking out the series for a reminder is difficult now, as the show was released on video a few years back, but has yet to emerge on DVD. A real shame!