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The movie featured a catch phrase that entered into America's lexicon: "Go ahead, make my day."
As if it were a new idea, people latched onto the notion of attempting a parody of the renegade cop genre.
An executive at HBO approached Leonard Stern about developing a "Get Smart" meets "Dirty Harry" comedy series. Graciously, Stern informed HBO that a script had already been written and recommended "Sledge Hammer!" to them.
Despite HBO's penchant for provocative programming, the "Sledge Hammer" script confounded their executives. Many didn't find it funny. The situation was exasperated by their suggestions to redevelop the piece for a well-known standup comic. (HBO sometimes makes mistakes. Ever seen "Mind of the Married Man"?)
At the same time, the ABC network was languishing in last place in the ratings.
Looking for shows that would generate attention, an adventurous programming executive named Stu Bloomberg embraced "Sledge Hammer!" for what it was: wild, but grounded in a basic reality. The humor stayed character driven.
With the exceptions of toning down the overt violence and removing all profanity, the script remained nearly indistinguishable from the R-rated HBO version.
Still, the use of violent behavior to make a satirical point, as well as abundant politically incorrect humor, served as a constant source of anguish for the network's broadcast standards department. (Their overriding concern was that "Sledge Hammer!" would wind up glorifying the same violence it proposed to debunk.)
The make or break facet of "Sledge Hammer!" would ultimately hinge on who would portray the decidedly unhinged title character.
All along, Spencer had only one actor in mind and crafted the part specifically for him -- despite the fact he'd never seen the performer's work. Having read assorted reviews of David Rasche's stage and screen performances, Spencer had a premonition that Rasche was the only man who could bring verisimilitude to the characterization.
David Rasche was a graduate of Elmhurst College and the University of Chicago who made his off-Broadway debut in the 1976 production "John", then went on to co-star in Michael Cristofer's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "The Shadow Box".
A well-respected serious actor, Rasche was often cast in obsessive roles on TV and film such as his powerful portrayal of an anti-nuclear activist in the controversial made-for-TV movie "Special Bulletin".
Rasche's success in dramatic roles often eclipsed the fact that he'd been a member of Chicago's illustrious Second City improv group, the launching pad for John Belushi and Bill Murray amongst others, and had extensive comedy training.
That facet of Rasche's talent came to the forefront in the Eddie Murphy and Dudley Moore big screen comedy "Best Defense" where Rasche stole the show, garnering rave reviews, as a maniacal government agent.
Spencer never saw the film until after already deciding upon Rasche for Sledge.
The police commisioner of San Francisco is a trans-sexual who runs a sex toy operation. If THAT is law enforcement, SLEDGE help us all!!