Hell Town was part of NBC President Brandon Tartikoff
continuation of family programs. Debuting in the 1985-1986
TV season, he put the show on after Michael Landon's Highway
to Heaven. Known as "God's one-two Wednesday night punch,"
NBC looked at a family combination/hit.
Robert Blake (of Baretta
fame) played Father Hardstep. Father Hardstep was an ex-con who became a
Christian in prison (jailhouse religion). After converting, he entered
Catholic seminary and became a priest. His parish (St. Dominic's) was in a
tough town, nicknamed "Hell Town" (set in east Los Angeles).
With Father Hardstep's street-smart toughness, his Bishop saw him as
the perfect choice to pastor in "Hell Town." With Nuns who liked
rhythm & blues singing, a tough and likable mother superior, and
perfect balance of parish members/volunteers, Father Hardstep had a great
crew to help bring God to "Hell Town."
Dealing with many issues like child abuse to rape; Father Hardstep took
on and won the battles. Every so often, a foolish thug would fight Father
Hardstep and got punched out; being a priest never kept Father Hardstep
from showing "righteous anger."
Perhaps the best episode was one of the parish nuns being raped.
Although arrested, the rapist was let out on bail. Brothers of another
girl he raped formed a lynch mob and Father Hardstep tries saving him. The
rapist kills himself, but the nun finds out she pregnant. She considers
having an abortion, but through prayer, the Mother Superior's and Father
Hardstep's counseling she keeps the baby, but puts it up for adoption to
stay a nun.
In the end, baby is brought back to the parish orphanage. Her mother is
put in charge of the orphanage and she can raise her and the other
children. She keeps her nun position and has a new ministry.
Truly a remarkable show, but overlooked by the Nielson audience. Father
Hardstep showed it was okay to be tough and still serve God. What else
would you expect, when you have a church in Hell Town?