Spenser: For Hire

Hollywood came to Harvard Square yesterday, as ABC camera crews drew throngs of curious Cantabrigians to the filming of the new television serial "Spenser: For Hire."

The leading player in the detective show--Robert Urich, best-known for his role as Dan Tanna on the once-popular serial "Vega$"--was also on location, eliciting surprise and glee from star-struck passersby.

The serial, which appeared this fall, follows the escapades of a former Boston policeman and war veteran-turned-private investigator.

"Filming in Boston is great. Of course, it's not February yet," Urich said, referring to yesterday's unseasonably warm weather.

The camera crews filmed four scenes with a Harvard backdrop, at Widener Library, Memorial Church, Robinson Hall, and Out of Town News.

The episode filmed yesterday focuses on a fictional Harvard chemistry professor developing synthetic narcotics for biochemical research. Under threat of blackmail by organized crime sources eager to use her research for criminal means, the professor enlists Spenser's aid.

Harvard "has been very helpful, in terms of affording us security and allowing us to use the locations we chose," said assistant director Michael Rapley. He said the episode will run at 10 p.m. on one of the first two Tuesdays in December.

The filming raised a stir among local passersby, as a crowd hitting an estimated 300 wreaked havoc with the efforts of private crowd-control officers.

"Here I am having a spasm and a hissy in Robert Urich's presence when I should be listening to the lecture in my Shakespeare class," said passerby Marjorie B. Ingall '89.

"Coming from L.A., you wouldn't think that actors would get me excited. But here I am, watching the filming from a window in Sever, getting so excited at seeing Robert Urich that I knocked on the window and shouted," said Judy Schloss '89. "The entire crew and Urich turned around and looked at me. I was so embarassed."

One student ran through the Square yelling, "He [Urich] is not so good-looking. I'm better-looking than him."

Cameraman Peter Salim said he thinks, "Harvard provides a great look for the episode, with all its students and its setting of academia-- we [cameramen] are always striving for good looks."

Urich's right-hand man in the series, actor Avery Brooks, said the "dynamic of Boston--its old buildings, its history--give it an excitement and freshness not found in Hollywood. You just can't match it."

But, the actor who plays Hawk added, "the traffic is a big problem."

If the series is renewed after its initial trial period, the show will continue filming in Boston until February.