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The Arts & Entertainment network made three two hour movies based on the books. Stylistically, they were made for a very different audience than fans like myself who are deeply into the novels, or even some who came from the other Spenser TV offerings. They have their good and bad points (mostly bad) but in doing this page I looked at all of them again and came around a bit.

Parker himself insists that Joe Montegna best brought out the spirit of Spenser. I thought that casting a dwarfish Italian to play an oversized Irish detective seemed ludicrous, but after many viewing I have to agree that he is a very talented actor and really does have the chops to nail down the character. It's not his fault that he looks like someone my kid sister could kick around and steal his lunch money. Marcia Gay Harden plays a very adequate Susan, and I have no complaints there. Shiek Mahmud-Bey and Ernie Hudson, on the other hand, never convinced me for one nanosecond that they were anything but someone that Hawk could run over on his daily jog and barely notice a speed bump while Spenser did the same to Montegna.

In the style of Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Parker appeared in every episode, while his wife Joan was in the second and son Dan played two significant characters.

Small Vices - 1999Edit

An A&E Original Movie Presentation A Michael Brandman Production in association with Jaffe/Braunstein Films Ltd. Written by Robert B. Parker

Based on his book Directed by Robert Markowitz

Shot on location in Toronto and Chippawa, Ontario

Spenser's "best" list he goes over while jogging:

  • Songwriter: Matt Dennis
  • Player: Willie Mays"
  • Man: Jackie Robinson
  • Novel: The Great Gatsby
  • Woman: Susan Silverman
  • Short story: The Bear
  • Novelist: Faulkner
  • Sex: Susan Silverman
  • Fighter: Ray Robinson
  • Play by play: Vin Scully
  • Color man: Joe Morgan
  • Comic strip: Tank McNamara
  • Private eye: Me

While I understand the economic advantages of shooting in Canada, the substitution of a bridge in east rural nowhere for the Weeks Footbridge across the Charles River as the location for Spenser to be shot just freaks me out.

Thin Air - 2000Edit

An A&E Network Movie Presentation A Michael Brandman Production In association with Jaffe/Braunstein Films Ltd.

Screenplay by Robert B. Parker Based on his book Directed by Robert Mandel

  • Joe Montegna as Spenser
  • Marcia Gay Harden as Susan
  • Luis Guzman as Chollo
  • Daniel T. Parker as Father Ahearn
  • Joan H. Parker as Belson's Doctor
  • Robert B. Parker as a sleeping policeman

Walking Shadow - 2001Edit

An A&E Network Presentation A Michael Brandman Production In association with Pearson Television Production and Jaffe/Braunstein Films Ltd.

Teleplay by Robert B. Parker and Joan Parker Based on the book by Robert B. Parker Directed by Po Chic-Leong

  • Joe Montegna as Spenser
  • Marcia Gay Harden as Susan
  • Ernie Hudson as Hawk
  • Eric Roberts as Police Chief Despain
  • Robert B. Parker as a Janitor

An utterly horrible adaptation. Rather than trying to put it into words myself let me quote two others who have done a good job before me. Dean Spier on

The director... Po-Chih Leong, who somehow has made the transition from the Shanghai cinema school to teleflicks… must have seemed like a good choice given the setting, the Chinatown of an East Coast port city which is an entryway for an illegal alien smuggling scheme, apparently has seen one too many Ang Lee films, and tried mixing alternative points of view in a style reminiscent of the late '60s Roger Corman drug flicks. It detracted from an already incompletely realized narrative and was nothing more than an absurd stylistic conceit. (No cohesive story? Dazzle'em with camera-work!)

and Kevin Burton Smith on The Thrilling Detective Web Site

Director Po-Chih Leong is a British-born Hong Kong horror specialist. Lots of gimmicky (and pointless) special effects in this one. Painful -- possibly the worst Spenser TV movie yet. And the last.