Synopsis of TV Show

Thanks to hit programs like Adam-12, the cop show rose to a new level of prominence during the 1970’s. And if you know your TV history, you know that means cop shows galore on your prime time schedule. There were indeed several badge-flashing action dramas over the course of the decade, but perhaps none as interesting (or controversial) as S.W.A.T., a program inspired by the real-life crime-control units that rose to prominence in the U.S. after the civil disturbances of the late 1960’s. Although its brutal level of action ensured that it had short life on television, S.W.A.T. became an impressive success during its short run and continues to be a cult favorite today.

S.W.A.T. was a spin-off of the popular ABC cop drama The Rookies. This particular ‘Special Weapons And Tactics’ unit was an elite five-man team of police officers who dealt with situations that were too dangerous for the police force to handle. Each had a specific job: Lt. Harrelson called the shots as the group’s commanding officer, Sgt. Kay was the communicator, Officer Street was the group’s scout, Officer Luca was the resident marksman, and Officer McCabe acted as a backup. Each was also a Vietnam veteran, so they all adopted a military style (navy-blue fatigues) and used a combat mentality to deal with the problems they faced.

During the show’s run, the S.W.A.T. team had no shortage of psychos and crazies to deal with—everything from snipers to Satanists to scuba-diving jewel thieves. The swatters also had to deal with being the direct targets of these bad guys—Street dated a woman whose last few boyfriends were killed by a sniper in “The Bravo Enigma,” and a family of criminals targeted the entire S.W.A.T. team for extinction in “Kill S.W.A.T.” No matter who was plotting to kill whom, you could count on plenty of mayhem each week as the S.W.A.T. rolled from destination to destination in their specially-equipped van to dispense justice the hard way.

S.W.A.T.’s combination of cool cops and brutal action made it a popular choice when it hit the airwaves in 1975. The show even produced a radio hit when its orchestral-funk theme song, performed by Rhythm Heritage, became a Top-10 smash on pop radio. Everyone loved the show… except the critics. Media pundits regularly attacked the show for its high level of violence, the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality of the heroes, and the fact that its heroes often dealt out more violence than the foes they were dealing with. The controversial but popular show enjoyed a two-season run before quietly disappearing from the television schedule in the summer of 1976.

Today, S.W.A.T. periodically pops up in reruns and garners an enthusiastic response from the former kids who grew up on its tales of urban-guerilla warfare. There have also been rumors for a while now that the show will one day be remade as an action epic for the movie theaters. Whether it makes this proposed comeback or not, one thing is certain: S.W.A.T. has earned its place in television history as one of the most memorably intense cop shows of all time.

Release History of Prime Time Show

2/24/75 - 6/29/76 ABC

TV Sub Categories


Television Network


Television Studio

Spelling-Goldberg Productions

TV Cast

Lieutenant Dan "Hondo" Harrelson Steve Forrest
Sergeant David "Deacon" Kay Rod Perry
Officer Jim Street Robert Urich
Officer Dominic Luca Mark Shera
Officer T.J. McCabe James Coleman
Betty Harrelson Ellen Weston
Matt Harrelson Michael Harland
Kevin Harrelson David Adams

Other Prime Time Links