By Terry Kelleher
November 18, 2002 12:00 PM

“My daughter was born the month we shot the Hunter pilot,” Fred Dryer says of the hit cop show that he starred in from 1984 to 1991. Now his daughter Caitlin, his only child with Tracy Vaccaro (they divorced in the late ’80s), “is 18, going to college and saying, ‘Dad, you need a girlfriend.’ ”

That’s tough love from the daughter of a TV tough guy. As unorthodox L.A. detective Rick Hunter, Dryer, along with partner Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer, 46), is making a comeback in the first of two new NBC movies, Hunter: Return to Justice, airing Nov. 16. “Nothing has changed,” says Dryer of reuniting with his sidekick. “She’s one of the guys. She can take a joke and a punch.”

So can Dryer, who at 56 still insists on doing most of his own stunts. “It’s all about athleticism,” says the actor, a defensive end for the L.A. Rams in the ’70s. When he’s not working in TV (besides the second Hunter movie, due next year, he’s helping create a pilot for NBC in which he’d star as a private eye), Dryer is putting some energy toward finding Ms. Right. “I’d like to have children,” he says. “But I’d have to marry someone in their 30s, wouldn’t I? I think I need to wear a sandwich board that says, ‘I’m available.’ ”