NEWSDAY

Thursday, June 22, 1989

Written by Ben Kubasik

Quote: "NO LONGER FOURTH AND LONG IN THE RATINGS

FRED DRYER TACKLES TV

FRED DRYER KNOWS that "Hunter" has improved since it first went on the air in 1984. He

also knows it needed time to be fixed. And that it might not be on today except for fortuitous

placement on the schedule. This fall begins a sixth full season for Dryer's homicide detective Rick

Hunter and his partner, detective Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer), who bring bad guys to

heel.

Not a bad run for a series that, during much of its first five years, never had a permanent time

slot. Finally, in March 1988, NBC gave the show 10 p.m. on Saturdays - where it had been before

between shifts to Tuesdays - right after the longtime hit "Golden Girls" and the relatively new hit

"Empty Nest." For the past 52 weeks, "Hunter" has placed 15th in the Nielsens among regular

programs; several times recently it was among the top 10 weekly shows.

"Things certainly weren't always that way," said Dryer. "When 'Hunter' started, it was on Fridays

opposite 'Dallas,' at its peak on CBS. People didn't even know 'Hunter' was on, or even what it

was. Actually, that was good for us. It provided breathing space for us to get the show on its

feet."

NBC's program head, Brandon Tartikoff, apparently had faith in "Hunter," promising to move the

show elsewhere in the schedule if it failed against "Dallas."

Since then, more has changed for "Hunter" than its time slots. "I've gotten better," Dryer said.

"Scripts have gotten better. My character is more rounded. My relationship with McCall is more

comfortable."

"We now know what to do. We now know how to solve problems. We're streamlined. We've

adjusted 'Hunter's' vision to stimulate and grab and hold the audience."

"What 'Hunter' is," said Dryer, "is twenty-two weeks of gritty police work. It is dangerous. It is

violent. We have to know how to measure those elements out to the audience so the balance

intrigues and interests them."

"Now we've learned how to do it, there's no letting up, except to make 'Hunter' still better."

Dryer's attitude toward the series is the same as his approach to acting. Football fans remember

Dryer as a two-time NFL All-Pro defensive end with the New York Giants and Los Angeles

Rams. Once he made a decision to go into acting, he went after it with the same ferociousness, he

displayed against opposing quarterbacks.

During his last two seasons with the Rams, he began studying acting with veteran acting coach

Nina Foch. He kept at it when he left football and its big paydays; the first year, his new career

earned him only $800. "I knew I had a lot to learn to be an actor," said Dryer, who saw

similarities between athletics and acting. "Both fields deal with performing, considerable skills and

acceptance by fans." Dryer rejected parts he thought would demean him as an actor. Other

former NFL players seeking work in TV and movies have included Rosie Grier, Fred Williamson,

Jim Brown, Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras; they pretty much took what came their way, and none

had the kind of continuing success Dryer now has with "Hunter."

Dryer expects "Hunter" to go on "for at least two more seasons, at which point we'll have 154,

155 shows. That's a good run and plenty enough to go into TV syndication. For all most viewers

know, 'Hunter' is just entering its third or fourth year - so few saw the show its first and second

year."