I loved this show when it first ran. The idea of a normal, everyday woman — Mrs. King, a single mother of two boys — accidentally falling into the spy business when a chance encounter brought her into contact with an attractive special agent was an exciting (but not too challenging) fantasy just right for the 80s.
Scarecrow and Mrs. King:
The Complete First SeasonBuy this DVD
The show ran four seasons from 1983-1987. The first season contains 21 episodes on five discs. There are no extras or special features, with the exception of a printed episode guide. Popping the first DVD into the player, as soon as the theme music started, I was right back there, watching the episodes the first time around, dreaming of adventure and excitement entering my normal life. I hadn’t realized how much of the opening credits I still remembered, with particular images (and the song) apparently still held in my brain.
Kate Jackson played Amanda King, recently divorced and unemployed housewife. (Nice casting, since she made a very believable suburban mom, but her Angels past reminded us there was more to her when given a chance. Still, she could sell a line like, “Philip, do not hit your brother in the head with trash!”) Beverly Garland was her mother, living under the same roof to take care of the kids and provide someone to hide secrets from. Lee “Scarecrow” Stetson was played by Bruce Boxleitner, as a more comfortable, domestic Bond type — handsome, but not scarily or exoticly so. His co-workers were Billy Melrose (Mel Stewart, stern-but-jolly boss) and Francine Desmond (Martha Smith, glamourous single working woman with way too much eyeshadow).
The pilot sets things in motion by having Scarecrow hand Amanda a package by random chance. They were both at the train station, he evading killers, she dropping off her boyfriend. The distinctions between them are played up, sometimes a bit heavy-handedly, as when he suggests they meet at a fancy costume party; he’s wearing a tux, she a cardigan with sensible purse hanging off her shoulder. But she’s the only person who figures out that he’s in trouble and comes to the rescue, based on clues found on a cooking show. By the end of the episode, she’s demonstrated that, in spite of her occasional ditziness, her common sense and status as a normal would be an asset to his missions. Mr. Melrose finds her helpful for being “anonymous, idealistic, and responsible”. She, meanwhile, protests having to have a secret life but somehow keeps winding up in those situations.
It’s often silly but enjoyable. Whether he’s hiding in the bushes outside her kitchen window, so her mother won’t see him when he comes to get her, or she’s trying to reform him from a globe-trotting life she sees as lonely, it’s clear they belong together. Today’s viewers may find the pacing slow, the plots predictable, and the events sometimes overplayed, but it’s still fun family viewing, largely due to the chemistry between the two leads and how well they commit to their roles. It was also refreshing to see how the only people who treated Amanda as “just a housewife” were usually villains, shown to be wrong for underestimating her.
By episode two, they’ve trotted out the “go undercover and pretend to be married” plot. Somehow, this is going to stop Central American gunrunning. However, it does put their different worlds into sharp relief, as she knows how to move into a home and deal with neighbors while he’s out of his depth. This villain turns out to be related to door-to-door cosmetic sales, another domestic choice. This episode in particular reminded me of how much Scarecrow and Mrs. King had in common with Chuck, although from an earlier era, with different expectations for TV action and stunt work. I’ve only watched the first disc so far — the remaining episodes there feature
- a brainwashed agent, which leads to Lee throwing out his knee (and showing off bare legs a lot), which requires a medical exam from a suspicious physician and Amanda having to take care of the injured Stetson. (I was surprised to see Julie Brown guest-starring as a candy striper!)
- Lee and Amanda investigate a group of survivalists who hijack a weaponized Winnebago to obtain the release of “The Stewed Tomato Two”. (More bare legs, running shorts this time.)
- them having to babysit a 12-year-old hacker, played by 80s fave Meeno Peluce. (I think he had the same role on Remington Steele.) (Bare legs in shorty robe, and chest shot as he has ribs taped up.)
As a footnote, I hadn’t realized how great an invention the wireless phone was until I saw everyone on this show stretching phone cords around each other and out windows to make calls. And I found myself wondering whatever happened to the three-piece suit. An entertaining piece of nostalgia.
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