1980s action-adventure classic returns

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 20/03/2014
Hart to Hart
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HART TO HART: "It was always very dangerous to be a friend of the Harts."

Hart to Hart Stephanie Powers
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FATAL ALLURE: Freelance journalist Jennifer Hart and her self-made global electronics magnate husband Jonathan solved countless murders.

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Thirty years after its original run ended, Hart to Hart is back on Kiwi screens, featuring charismatic and straight-talking female star Stefanie Powers.

"It was always very dangerous to be a friend of the Harts," she says.

Powers admits that while she and co-star Robert Wagner's characters might have enjoyed living the high life on their 1980s action-adventure series Hart to Hart, anyone acquainted with them usually wound up dead.

"Crime just seemed to fall on their front doorstep and those they socialised with would invariably wind up dropping out of a tree," the now 71-year-old actress says down the line from her home in California. 

Powers played freelance journalist Jennifer Hart, who along with her self-made global electronics magnate husband Jonathan, solved countless mysteries and murders during the show's five seasons from 1979 and 1984 (they later reunited for eight TV movies in the 1990s).

She puts the show's success down to two things - the fact that the pair were not sleuths or police and that they were a married couple still very much in love.

"I think the public were in as much need of seeing romance and lovely relationships as they are today."

Describing working with Wagner as an "unusual and great collaboration" (the pair had first met on the set of 1961 film West Side Story before Powers was let go because she was too young), Powers says they spent around 14 hours a day working together during those five seasons.

"We were in every shot. I remember we looked at each other once and I said 'my god, I think I've spent more time with you than my mother'."

She says it helped immensely that they both eventually had a lot of say in their characters and often found themselves on the same page creatively.

"Robert and I would sit in on some of the story conferences, we'd read the scripts and then make our notes during the lunch hour. Strangely enough we'd come back from our respectively dressing rooms with exactly the same notes."

The show's on and offscreen chemistry also extended to the Hart's dog, Freeway, who Powers has fond memories of.

"There was only one Freeway during the regular series and he was a rescue dog. He was adorable, but he was such a love bunny. When he would have to bark his tail would wag which would send the wrong signal. They tried to tape it down but then his whole rear end would wag."

Of course, one of the most striking features about the character of Jennifer Hart was her wardrobe. Powers admits she used to enjoy her pre-season ritual of buying up large from "a few lovely boutiques in Beverly Hills".

"We more or less knew what kinds of things we would need but if we did need something exceptional we had designer Nolan Miller (who was also working on Dynasty at the time) available to us.

"When asked if she kept any items as mementoes, Powers says "there might have been a couple of pairs of shoes I ran off with".

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She could be forgiven for such an indiscretion, especially after the way the show was cancelled in 1984.

"It was very much a surprise to all of us.

"I was making an eight-hour mini-series in Paris called Mistral's Daughter, and we had been planning to open the new season of Hart to Hart by doing two shows in Paris - one where we would go to see the art collections, and one where Freeway runs off with a French poodle and we have to chase him around Paris.

"I thought they were terrific ideas, but then nobody knew what was coming next. On the Sunday before the Monday when the line-up for the new season was to be announced by the network. ABC's new head of programming, he who will remain nameless but no one will ever remember anyway, promptly cancelled us and six other hours of prime time, established shows just to make his mark.

"Audiences left ABC in droves and he didn't last very long."

It clearly doesn't pay to be an enemy of the Harts either.

- Hart to Hart 5pm, Weeknights, Jones!

- Fairfax Media

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