Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Hart to Hart’: Why the Classic Mystery Series Ended Too Soon

‘Hart to Hart’: Why the Classic Mystery Series Ended Too Soon

Detective series with unique twists find places to land on television. This was the case for Hart to Hart.

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers starred as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy couple who found themselves sleuthing around in murder mysteries. They did this detective-like work for no pay, by the way. The Harts did receive help and support from Max, termed as their majordomo, played by Lionel Stander.

He would make decisions about different matters at the Hart residence while they were away. Of course, fans of Hart to Hart also know the couple was dog owners with Freeway always around for attention.

Sidney Sheldon, who was the creative mind behind I Dream of Jeannie, also created this series. However, the original concept fell into the hands of executive producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. They, in turn, turned to Tom Mankiewicz to work his magic on the storyline.

‘Hart to Hart’ Ran For Five Seasons on ABC

Hart to Hart ran on ABC for five seasons between 1979 and 1984. Some people might wonder why the show ended too soon. The series was mired in low ratings and the network made the call.

What’s interesting, though, is that this didn’t become the death toll for Hart to Hart. Wagner and Powers returned to play their iconic roles in eight television movies. They aired between 1993 and 1996, with the first five on NBC and the others on The Family Channel.

Those who watched the show and are old-school movie buffs might notice a little similarity. It appears that a little bit of The Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy might have influenced the TV show. There are moments where Jonathan and Jennifer have rhythmic timing in their dialogue. It kind of sounds like Nick and Nora Charles, but not exactly.

Coming up with the right cast also proved to be time-consuming. Producers ultimately settled on Wagner, who suggested they look at Powers for the female lead. Yet a slew of other names for both leads got some attention, too. They included Cary Grant, Natalie Wood, Lindsay Wagner, Suzanne Pleshette, and Kate Jackson. Jackson had just recently wrapped up her time on Charlie’s Angels, too.

When it came to the role of Max, Wagner suggested Sugar Ray Robinson for it. Producers, though, weren’t too keen about having a black man act in a role subservient to a rich white couple. Ultimately, they settled on Stander. Wagner remembered Powers and Stander both from their guest-starring turns in Wagner’s old series It Takes a Thief.

Lionel Stander Finds New Life Thanks to Series

Stander had been blacklisted in Hollywood due to his political beliefs from the 1940s through the 1960s. He ended up going to Europe and doing several movies over there. When Stander returned to the United States, he found work on Hart to Hart. While the show continued to develop into television movies, Stander sadly died in 1994 at 86 years old.

Wagner, meanwhile, had to deal with Wood’s death in 1981. Wood was previously married to Wagner between 1957 and 1961 when she discovered him allegedly having an affair with a man. They reunited in 1972 and got remarried that year. Wood died under mysterious circumstances.

These days, Wagner keeps in touch with his fans on Instagram. Powers’ career also saw her as The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and the longtime partner of actor William Holden. She’s been a staunch supporter of wildlife conservation for decades.

Fans looking for the series on DVD will find all seasons available. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment put out the first two seasons. Then, Shout! Factory released the other three seasons, along with the Complete Series.