Nash Bridges stars Don Johnson as the eponymous Nash Bridges, an inspector (and later captain) with the San Francisco Police Department's elite "Special Investigations Unit". The show begins with Bridges in his 40s, twice-divorced, and dealing with his feisty teenage daughter Cassidy (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). Nash convinces recently retired Inspector Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin), to return to the force and partner with him. Nash and Joe cruise the streets of San Francisco in Nash's 1971 Plymouth Barracuda convertible, a gift from Nash's brother Bobby just before Bobby left for the Vietnam War. The car was originally to be painted Curious Yellow, but was switched to factory Caterpillar Yellow, due to lighting and camera appearances. The car is a replica of the infamous 1971 Hemi 'Cuda convertible.
Bobby Bridges was reported as MIA, but turns up in the season 3 episode "Revelations", played by Jan-Michael Vincent. Nash's father, Nick (James Gammon), suffers from mild dementia and has a habit of getting kicked out of nursing homes. He eventually moves in with Nash, and is often involved in comic subplots that are intertwined with some of the show's dark humor themes.
Aiding Nash in his police work is the technically savvy Harvey Leek (Jeff Perry), a middle-aged "Deadhead" (a die hard Grateful Dead fan). Another is the young, hotheaded Evan Cortez (Jaime P. Gomez), who has an off-and-on relationship with Cassidy. In later seasons, other inspectors and supporting characters were added or removed from the cast.
For the first sixteen episodes, the commander of the SIU was Lieutenant A. J. Shimamura (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a character who was said to have returned to his native Hawaii after failing to be promoted to captain. Shimamura's departure opened the door for Bridges to be promoted to captain and given command of the SIU.
Don Johnson as Inspector/Acting Lieutenant/Captain Nash Bridges: Nash is a seasoned police Inspector in his 40s, with a lifelong devotion to the SFPD. He's got a photographic memory and a tendency to call everyone "Bubba" or "Sister." His personal life isn't as balanced as his professional one, starting with his two divorces and a strained relationship with both his aged father and a daughter. An amateur magician with a talent for handcuff tricks, Don Johnson is the only member of the cast to appear in all 122 episodes of the series.
Cheech Marin as Inspector/Lieutenant Joe Dominguez: At the start of the series, Insp. Dominguez is talked out of retirement to partner with Nash. He is married to a statuesque Swedish woman, Inger, and together they have a daughter, Lucia, and a son, JJ. Dominguez's character is light-hearted, often making witty, off-the-cuff observations at crime scenes. He has a penchant for getting involved in get-rich quick schemes, often having to be rescued by Nash. The details of Nash & Dominguez's relationship (and why they are such close friends) is revealed during the course of the series: As a young cop with a bright future, Dominguez ruined his reputation by being busted for a DUI. The only person to stand by him was his partner at the time, later revealed to be Nash. In later seasons, Nash & Joe form a private detective agency to make extra money.
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as Cassidy Bridges: Nash's daughter who originally aspired to be an actress. Cassidy had a tough relationship with Evan that had them eventually reconciling and about to marry, before Evan was killed. This inspired Cassidy to join the SFPD after his death. She was then assigned to the SIU as a plain-clothes officer, under her father's command. By the end of the series, Cassidy relocated to Paris to be with her mother.
Jeff Perry as Inspector Harvey Leek: A die-hard Grateful Dead fan with a technical background. His wife left him after 5 1/2 years of marriage because of his commitment to police work. Best friend to Evan and one of Nash's team, and very passionate about his '72 Ford Ranchero. The Ranchero is seen in the series almost as often as Nash's Barracuda until the car was irreparably damaged in a shootout near the end of the fifth season.
Jaime P. Gomez as Inspector Evan Cortez (seasons 1–5): Best friend to Harvey and the youngest partner of Nash, who suggested he rejoin working with Joe at the beginning of the series. Evan reminded Nash of what he used to be long ago. He had a stormy relationship with Cassidy, which after many ups and downs, ended when he was killed in the line of duty. Evan had reconciled with Cassidy at the time and was engaged to her for a Las Vegas wedding. Previous to that, Evan went through a painful period during the fifth season after his breakup with Cassidy (after he'd cheated on her on the eve of their wedding) and the loss of his job as a drunk on a downward spiral. With Joe's intervention and his own participation in a 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program, the character became a Christian and recovering alcoholic. Jaime Gomez appeared in all but six episodes of the series' first five seasons.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Lieutenant A. J. Shimamura (seasons 1 & 2): A former police superior who worked closely with Nash and the SIU as both co-worker and friend. A. J. held true to a promise that if he wasn't promoted to captain, he would leave the force and move back to his native Hawaii, which occurred during the second season.
Serena Scott Thomas as Kelly Bridges (seasons 1 & 2; guest season 3): A socialite and former drug addict, and Nash's second ex-wife.
Annette O'Toole as Lisa Bridges (seasons 1 & 2; guest season 4): A caterer by trade, she is Nash's ex-wife and mother of Cassidy. She moved to Paris after she and Nash revealed their true feelings to each other.
James Gammon as Nick Bridges (seasons 2–6; recurring season 1): Nash's retired longshoreman father who lives with him. He sometimes gets into some minor trouble which leaves Nash to save him. He also tends to get involved in Joe Dominguez's get rich quick schemes. Nick suffers from light dementia and that affliction was dealt with thoughtfully throughout the series. A source of conflict between him and his son was the character's preference for his older son, Bobby Bridges, over Nash.
Mary Mara as Inspector Bryn Carson (season 2; guest seasons 1 & 3): The only female member of the SIU at the beginning of the series, she was often used to go undercover when a woman's role was needed. She was not known to have a very successful romantic life. She transferred out of the SIU at the start of the third season.
Kelly Hu as Inspector Michelle Chan (season 3; guest season 4): An aggressive inspector whom Nash took under his wing as a protégé. She was killed in cold blood early in the fourth season by the Prowler, a killer seeking media glory whom Nash killed out of revenge and claimed it as self-defense.
Yasmine Bleeth as Inspector Caitlin Cross (seasons 4 & 5): She had a tense relationship with Nash bordering on the unprofessional. Caitlin originally came to the SIU as an MCD Inspector investigating them, but eventually joined them. She had a brief romance with Nash, which ended when she left at the end of the fifth season to help her sister in Washington, D.C.
Wendy Moniz as Inspector Rachel McCabe (season 6): Cassidy's senior partner and a new addition to the SIU in the final season. Rachel was a police officer originally working undercover for a corrupt Internal Affairs official. She eventually fell in love with Nash and later sacrificed her career to save Nash when she realized he was being framed.
Cress Williams as Inspector Antwon Babcock (season 6): Evan's replacement in the final season. Antwon rescued the SIU from an explosion when he drove a car off a pier on his first day. He preferred to stay out of personal situations, but was very active in the force. He became close friends with Harvey, particularly when Harvey convinced him to reconcile with his father, a dying criminal. He occasionally suffered from epileptic seizures.
Daniel Roebuck as Inspector Rick Bettina: A crooked SIU police officer turned criminal and a frequent headache to the SIU. In the beginning of the series, he considers Nash (who dislikes Rick) his best friend and at one point was Nash's boss as Rick's mother married the chief of police and gave him a job. Towards the end of the series, he tries to kill Nash and Joe, to cover-up his attempted rip-off of the police retirement fund.
Patrick Fischler as Pepe: Joe and Nash's gay friend, and secretary of their detective agency.
Caroline Lagerfelt as Inger Dominguez (seasons 2–6): Joe's spouse from Sweden and mother of their infant child, and mother of Joe's adult son. A kind woman and loving wife, also the one really in charge of their household.
Tracey Walter as Angel (seasons 2–6): A wise spiritual figure who often appears when dispensing advice to Nash as his guardian angel. Dressed as an angel, complete with wings, he wanders the streets of San Francisco.
Ronald Russell II as Sergeant Ronnie (seasons 2–6): He's the all around handyman and muscle of the SIU.
Christian J. Meoli as Boz Bishop (seasons 3–6): A young rap music inspired employee of Nash and Joe's private investigation agency. A fast talking young man with aspirations to be a private investigator. In reality, Boz is loaded with money and comes from a well-to-do English family. Boz's family lives in the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland.
Suki Kaiser as Lynette Summers (season 3): The sister of Nash's first ex-wife. While Lisa is in Paris, studying French cookery, Cassidy stays with her aunt in San Francisco.
Donna W. Scott as Tamara Van Zant (seasons 3–4 & 6): A con-woman and sometimes Nash's lover. In season 6, she's stabbed and thrown overboard by mobster Vinnie Corell (Costas Mandylor) in the episode "Something Borrowed".
Stone Cold Steve Austin as Inspector Jake Cage (seasons 4–5): A former protégé of Bridges now working in Fugitive Retrieval, who occasionally aids the SIU.
Alie Ward as Miranda (seasons 4–6): Cassidy's roommate.
The show was produced and filmed on location in the San Francisco Bay Area. The show shot on the streets of San Francisco including The Embarcadero and Piers 30 through 32. Neighboring Treasure Island was used as the headquarters for the show. Hangar 2 on Treasure Island was the location of permanent sets including Nash's apartment The show employed several hundred local workers including production crews and staff members, carpenters, electricians, set designers, grips, set dressers, props, scenic artists, location managers, costumers, drivers, cameramen, special effects, soundmen, makeup and hair stylists and production assistants. Episode production was nearly $2 million per episode.
Nash Bridges premiered on March 29, 1996, at 10:00pm on CBS.
The show used three different main theme songs during its initial run. Season 1 used primarily an instrumental piece written by Elia Cmíral. Seasons 2–5 used the theme "I Got a Friend In You" written by Eddie Jobson" and sung by Gigi MacKenzie and is by far the most well known of the show's opening themes. Season 6 changed the theme again, using another primarily instrumental piece with a bit of a techno beat to it, this time written by Velton Ray Bunch. A fourth song, also written by Cmíral which was Johnson's original choice, sometimes replaces the first season song in syndication.
The sixth season of Nash Bridges would be its last; however, the show was obtaining fair ratings from Nielsen. Following its Friday night ratings battle (which it was losing to NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), the show was canceled.Paramount Network Television, which was producing the show, felt that its $2 million per episode production cost was just too much. CBS was hoping to get a seventh season out of Nash Bridges, but that failed because Paramount wasn't willing to pay, even though at the time, Viacom owned both CBS and Paramount.
"Don was already exploring other opportunities. Doing a TV series five days a week for as long as he did is an exhausting task. Don was ready to move on."
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) released the first three seasons of Nash Bridges on DVD in Region 1 in 2008/2009. As of September 2014, these releases have been discontinued and are now out of print.
On September 10, 2014, it was announced that Visual Entertainment (VEI) has sub-licensed the rights to the series from CBS in Region 1 and would release a complete series collection in early 2015. It was subsequently released on November 18, 2014. The 27-disc set contains all 122 episodes of the series. The complete series was reissued by VEI as a 22-disc set in November 2016 to coincide with the anticipated blu-ray release.
VEI released the complete series on Blu-ray in November 2016 as a 16-disc set.
On February 10, 2015, VEI released season 4 on DVD as a separate season set. They also re-released the first three seasons on DVD on March 3, 2015.
On July 18, 2019, it was reported that USA Network was working with Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, which controlled the Rysher Entertainmentintellectual property, to revive Nash Bridges. The show would reportedly have series star Don Johnson reprising the titular role and serving as one of the showrunners for the project. It was reported to be a two-hour special which, if successful, could serve as a backdoor pilot for a revival of the series. This revival would follow Nash, still running the SFPD's SIU and working to adjust to a new boss and to the changes of San Francisco in the 2020s. In May 2021, further casting for the television film was announced, with series stars Cheech Marin and Jeff Perry reported to return for the film along with Johnson.
In 1997 an episode called "Wild Card" guest starred Philip Michael Thomas (who had been Johnson's co-star in Miami Vice) reuniting Johnson for the first time on television together since Miami Vice, and Tommy Chong (who had been Marin's longtime partner in the Cheech and Chong comedy team) reuniting with Marin. The "Wild Card" episode also contains a nod to Cheech & Chong's iconic "Dave" from their 1972 self-titled debut album. Philip Michael Thomas also guest-starred on an episode called "Out of Miami". It also featured Steven Bauer, the ex-husband of Johnson's ex-wife, Melanie Griffith. He played a Miami drug lord, which is a reference to his main role in the film Scarface. A version of the Miami Vice theme is heard playing in the background. In an early interview, Johnson compared Bridges to his Miami Vice character Sonny Crockett, saying Nash was "the same guy, just... ten years older."
In the 1997 season 2 episode, "The Counterfeiters", another one of Johnson's co-stars from Miami Vice, John Diehl, guest stars as a criminal posing as an S.I.U. officer.
Aaron Spelling was so eager to cast Yasmine Bleeth in the role of Heather Lane-Williams on NBC's Titans in 2000 that his company convinced CBS to grant her an early release from her Nash Bridges contract.
The first script was written by neighbors Don Johnson and Hunter S. Thompson as a TV movie about a drug-addicted cop, Nash, who dated a known mobster's daughter, and his Latino partner. Thompson appears as a piano player in the pilot.
There were six different Barracudas made up to resemble the 1971 Hemi Cuda convertible that Nash drove. Five of these were built from 1970 and 1971 Cuda and Barracuda convertibles and the fifth FX car was made from a 1973 coupe converted into a convertible. The fifth FX car and the sixth 440 4-speed Cuda were built and added in the fifth season so most people think there were only four since earlier promo photos only show four of the six used in filming. None of these actually had Hemi engines, but rather 318–440 engines including new Mopar Performance crate motors. Four cars were automatic transmissions and two were 440 4-speed cars. The color of the car as depicted resembles the factory's "Curious Yellow" option (an allusion by the factory to the movie I Am Curious, Yellow) but, in fact, screen tests proved the factory color did not read well on camera. All show cars were painted an off-the-shelf color from paint distributor Sherwin-Williams.