The premise of the show is summed up in the opening credits sequence, narrated by Max (the Harts' butler) as he introduces the characters:
This is my boss – Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy. This is Mrs. H – she’s gorgeous. What a terrific lady. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of them, which ain't easy, 'cause their hobby is murder.
Beginning with Season 2 onward, the opening lines were slightly changed:
This is my boss – Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy. This is Mrs. H – she’s gorgeous. She’s one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them – which ain’t easy; ‘cause when they met, it was murder.
Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) is the CEO of Hart Industries, a Los Angeles-based global conglomerate. His wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) is a beautiful freelance journalist. Living the jetset lifestyle, the Harts often find themselves involved in cases of smuggling, theft, corporate and international espionage and, most commonly, murder. At their opulent Bel Air estate, they are assisted by Max (Lionel Stander), their loyal, gravel-voiced butler, cook, and chauffeur who also helps with their cases. The Harts' beloved pet dog is a Löwchen called Freeway, so named because he was a stray that they found wandering on the freeway. The Harts own a Mercedes-Benz 300 TD diesel wagon, a dark green Rolls Royce Corniche convertible (replacing the Series III Bentley custom cabriolet in the first season), and a yellow Mercedes-Benz SL roadster (1979 450 SL, replaced by a 1981 380 SL) with personalized California vanity plates 3 HARTs, 2 HARTs, and 1 HART respectively. The opening credits sequence also shows Jonathan Hart driving a red Dino 246 GTS. They also own a Grumman Gulfstream II private jet, which is featured at the start of the opening credits.
Screenwriter and novelist Sidney Sheldon had originally written a script for CBS entitled Double Twist in the early 1970s about a married couple who were also both spies. The script remained unfilmed for several years before producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg decided to update the idea for a potential television series. They offered the script to screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had by that time written several screenplays including three of the James Bond films.
Their instruction to Mankiewicz was to update the script to make it more contemporary and viable for a potential weekly series. They also told Mankiewicz that if his draft was successful, he would also be able to direct the pilot episode himself. Mankiewicz reworked Sheldon's original script and it was renamed Hart to Hart, emphasizing the romantic aspect of the couple. Mankiewicz also made his directorial debut with the pilot episode as planned, and remained a creative consultant to the series afterwards.
Spelling and Goldberg's initial choice for the role of Jonathan Hart was Cary Grant. However, Grant (who was 75 years old at the time) had effectively retired from acting some years earlier (with his last film Walk Don't Run in 1966). They then decided to find a younger actor who might embody the same style, zest and persona that Grant was famous for and offered the role to Robert Wagner. No one else was seriously considered for the role; George Hamilton had a high profile at the time and was suggested but Aaron Spelling said that if he was cast "the audience will resent him as Hart for being that rich. But no one will begrudge RJ [Wagner] a nickel."
ABC wanted Wagner's real life wife Natalie Wood to co-star with him as Jennifer Hart but Wagner didn't think it was a good idea (however, Wood makes a cameo appearance in the pilot). Initial choices for the role of Jennifer Hart included Suzanne Pleshette, Kate Jackson and Lindsay Wagner, but Wagner suggested Stefanie Powers who had previously worked with him when she made a guest appearance in an episode of his action-adventure series It Takes a Thief in 1970.
Wagner wanted Sugar Ray Robinson to portray Max but ABC-TV executives were worried about a black man playing the butler/houseman to a rich white couple. Eventually they cast Lionel Stander, who had also worked with Wagner in an episode of It Takes a Thief. In that episode ("King of Thieves"), he also played a character named Max who was a lifelong friend.
The main title theme for the series was scored by Mark Snow.
Fashion and jewelry designer Nolan Miller, who later designed the clothes for Dynasty, was the costume designer for show.
The ranch-style house used for exterior filming was previously owned by actors Dick Powell and his wife, June Allyson. Powell was an old friend of both Robert Wagner and Aaron Spelling. The actual estate, known as Amber Hills, is situated on 48 acres in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, Los Angeles. In the series, the Harts' address is given as 3100 Willow Pond Road, Bel Air: the real address of the house is 3100 Mandeville Canyon Road.Season 1 (1979–80): Not in the Top 30
Season 2 (1980–81): #23 (15.9 million viewers)
Season 3 (1981–82): #15 (17.1 million viewers)
Season 4 (1982–83): #17 (15.7 million viewers)
Season 5 (1983–84): #41
In 1993, almost a decade after the series ended, Wagner and Powers reunited for a series of Hart to Hart TV movies. Eight 90-minute telemovies were made in total between 1993-96:
Lionel Stander reprised his role as Max in five of the movies before his death (from lung cancer) November 30, 1994. His last ever screen appearance was in Secrets of the Hart, which aired in March 1995.
In September 2015, Deadline.com reported that NBC had made a script commitment to a Hart to Hart remake series featuring a gay male couple. Written by Christopher Fife and produced by Carol Mendelsohn and Julie Weitz, the new series is described as "a modern and sexy retelling of the classic series that focuses on by-the-book attorney Jonathan Hart and free-spirited investigator Dan Hartman, who must balance the two sides of their life: action-packed crime-solving in the midst of newly found domesticity." A similar project had been announced more than a decade earlier in 2002, with Alan Cumming attached to star in a series being developed for ABC that was being touted as a "gay Hart to Hart". Titled Mr and Mr Nash, the planned series featured a gay couple, both interior designers, who "stumble upon a murder each week", but it ultimately never went into production.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first two seasons of Hart to Hart on DVD in Regions 1 & 2 in 2005/2006.
In 2010/2011, Sony Pictures released all eight TV-Movies on DVD individually via the Warner Archive Collection. These were Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases and are available exclusively through WBShop.com and Amazon.com. On October 2, 2012, Sony released all eight TV-Movies in two volume collections entitled Hart to Hart - TV Movie Collection, Volume 1 and Hart to Hart - TV Movie Collection, Volume 2. These are also Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases, available via Amazon.com and are part of the Sony Choice Collection.
On September 4, 2014, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series for Region 1. They released Season 3 in December 2014, Season 4 in February 2015, the fifth and final season in June 2015, and The Complete Series will be released on May 30, 2017.In the United Kingdom, the show was shown on Sundays at 7.45pm nationally on the ITV Network for most of its run, though was later subject to regional variations. It was subsequently shown on Sky One, Granada Plus, The Family Channel, and Alibi.
In Norway, the show was shown on NRK as "Par i Hjerter" ("Pair of Hearts").
In Sweden, the show was shown on SVT as "Par i Hjärter" ("Pair of Hearts"); the first time in 1983.
In Denmark, the show was shown on TV3 as "Par i Hjerter" ("Pair of Hearts").
In France, the show was shown on TF1 as "Pour l'amour du risque" ("For The Love Of Risk"). It has been shown on Direct 8 since 2012.
In Germany and Austria the show was shown on ARD and later with all episodes on ProSieben, Kabel eins, Das Vierte, ZDFneo and TNT Serie Via Sky Deutschland as "Hart aber herzlich", which translates to "Hard but hearty" or "Tough but hearty" and thus mimicked the original pun. The movies were shown on ProSieben.
In Ireland, the show was shown on RTÉ One.
In Israel, the show was shown on Channel 1 as "Hart ve'Ishto" ("Hart and his wife").
In Italy the show was first shown on Rai 2 television beginning from June 1981, and then re-run many times. The new Italian title is "Cuore e batticuore", which translates to "Heart and heartbeat". Since June 2007 the show is aired on La7 television with the original title. Since June 2010 on CIELO TV channel.
In Spain, the show was shown on TVE-1 between 1982 and 1987, and then later on Antena 3 and Telecinco; as "Hart y Hart" (Hart & Hart).
In Brazil, the show was shown on Rede Globo with the title "Casal 20," which translates roughly into English as "Couple 20," meaning a perfect couple, one where both have perfect marks (i.e., twice 10, as 10 is the highest mark a very good student can obtain in most Brazilian schools). The expression was introduced into popular language at that time by the show, and over three decades later, it is still current in Brazilian Portuguese.
In Costa Rica, the show was shown on Teletica Canal 7.
In Serbia, the show was shown on TV Palma.
In Kenya, the show was shown on Voice of Kenya (VOK) TV now KBC TV.
In the Netherlands, the show was shown on TROS as "Harten Twee" ("Two of Hearts").
In Greece, the show was shown on ERT2 as "Hart ké Hart" ("Hart and Hart"), subsequently on ANT1 and finally on the regional Makedonia Channel.
In Mexico, the show was shown on Televisa as "Los Hart, investigadores" ("Hart, detectives").
In Japan, the show was shown on TBS as "Tantei Hart and Hart".
In Australia, the show was first broadcast by the Nine Network throughout its original run. In the 21st century it has been repeated on 7Two.
In Turkey, the show was shown on TRT1 as "Tehlike Çemberi" ("Wheel of Danger").
In Romania it was shown during the afternoon time slot in the mid 2000s on Antena 1