TV mysteries


FOUR MORE FAILED TV PILOTS
by Michael Shonk


   As the fate of next season’s pilots are currently being decided, lets take a look at four more failed pilots of the past: PISTOL PETE, ZERO EFFECT, MR. & MRS. SMITH, and ROADBLOCK.

PISTOL PETE. Fox / Castle Rock, 1996, never aired. Writed and Executive Producer: John Swartzwelder. Directed by John Rich. Cast: Steve Kearney as Pistol Pete, Brian Doyle-Murray as the Mayor, Mark Derwin as Deputy Langley.

   The Old West town Abilene is tired of the bad guys killing their sheriffs so the Mayor writes back East and offers the job to Dime Novel hero Pistol Pete. Pistol Pete may be a true crackshot and a fast draw with the gun, but he also is no real Western hero. He is working as the star of a second-rate Wild West Show in New York. Blaming a faulty memory for not remembering his adventures, Pete believes the books stories about him are true. Pete accepts the job as the latest Sheriff in Abilene. The citizens of his new home share Pistol Pete’s belief that his adventures are all true, only the Mayor and Deputy know Pete is a clueless fraud.

   The pilot is funny if you enjoy absurdist comedy. It has never aired and was desperately sought out by comedy writers and fans until the Internet and YouTube rode to the rescue. The reason for PISTOL PETE’s status as cult comedy classic is the creator and executive producer John Swartzwelder.

   Swartzwelder is considered by many comedy writers and fans to be a comedic genius. Among his strongest fans are the writers and producers of THE SIMPSONS. Swartzwelder began writing for THE SIMPSONS in the first season (1990) and would continue until the fifteenth (2003). He would write more SIMPSONS episodes than any other writer (59 plus returning in 2007 to help write the SIMPSON MOVIE). Adding to his legendary status, Swartzwelder is an eccentric who shuns all publicity giving his fellow writers plenty of material to share with the rest of us.

   Here is a great article about the pilot and Swartzwelder. (Antenna Free TV, June 27, 2013, written by Will Harris).

   One of the reported stranger demands by Swartzwelder for the 1996 pilot (for the fall 96-97 season) was that the film crew be from the TV series GUNSMOKE (CBS, 1955-75). There was a serious attempt to honor that request. The director John Rich is remembered today as one of the greatest TV comedy directors of the 60s-70s era (DICK VAN DYKE and ALL IN THE FAMILY), but he also directed several episodes of GUNSMOKE and BONANZA. Producer Kent McCray worked on BONANZA.

   Swartzwelder wanted the feel of old TV and movie Westerns. The plan was for him and his writing friends from THE SIMPSONS to parody Westerns each week.

   Currently Swartzwelder is writing a series of absurdist comedy PI novels and short stories featuring time traveling PI Frank Burly. The self-published books began in 2004 with THE TIME MACHINE DID IT. The tenth in the series and most recent is BURLY GO HOME (2017).


ZERO EFFECT. NBC / Castle Rock / Warner Brothers, 2002, never aired. Writers and Executive Producers: Jake Kasdan and Walon Green. Directed by Jake Kasdan. Cast: Alan Cumming as Daryl Zero, David Julian Hirsh as Jeff Winslow

   The 1998 film is a cult favorite, but I preferred the TV pilot. The movie’s writer and director Jake Kasdan (FREAKS AND GEEKS) also directed and co-wrote the TV pilot. Walon Green (WILD BUNCH) helped Kasdan write and produce the TV pilot.

   The two versions are much alike in style and tone. Both make good use of Daryl Zero writing his memoirs to narrate the action. Zero calls the case in the pilot “The Case of the Billionaire Pervert With a Parking Problem.”

   My central problem with the film was the pace was too slow and at almost two hours the film was too long leaving me often bored. The pilot, seen in this YouTube thirty-eight minute version, forced Kasdan to speed things up.

   A good example is the opening scene where the genius and character of the unseen Daryl Zero is introduced. Both versions reveal exposition by telling the story of one of Zero’s most awe-inspiring cases. The movie had Zero’s assistant and anti-Watson Steve Alto (Ben Stiller) tell the story to a possible client. The scene was long, static and boring. The TV version had people of various types and locations tell excited crowds about the now World famous as well as Greatest Detective Daryl Zero. The camera rarely stopped as the story jumped from one storyteller to the next. This gave the TV version a faster pace from almost the beginning.

   Both versions focused less on the mystery of the crime and more on the mysteries of the characters. In the TV pilot the case revolves around a billionaire’s missing mistress, but the key to the mystery is not where she is but who she and the other characters are.

   Zero is basically the same in the film and TV pilot. Meant as a satire of Sherlock Holmes, Daryl Zero is a brilliant, self-centered, social inept, recluse with a fondness for disguises and music.

   Bill Pullman’s performance in the film as Zero is generally praised, but I prefer Alan Cumming’s Zero. The many faces and behavior of Zero as done by Pullman was too random. He failed to connect it all to Zero. Cumming was hyper sometimes on the edge of hysteria behavior showed Zero inability to deal with people personally. The music producer character Zero plays as he searches for the missing mistress illustrates his understanding of people but the method and over the top producer character is more an extension of Zero than a music producer.

   Zero realizing he needs an assistant, a “face man,” some one to deal with people (there is no Steve Alto in the pilot). He finds a candidate in Chicago. Jeff Winslow is an unhappy defense attorney with a strong sense of justice.

   Jeff’s girlfriend dumps him on the phone while he is in the middle of a frustrating argument with his boss. Jeff gets a phone call from a mysterious voice (Zero) convincing him to quit and go to Los Angeles for a new job.

   Jeff arrives in Los Angeles without even knowing who is hiring him. Zero then puts him through a bizarre series of job interview tests such as the lost luggage test where Zero steals Jeff’s luggage to see how Jeff would respond.

   Jeff is an idealist, with a conscience and a belief in justice. Zero is none of these and tries to teach Jeff the Zero Method, the “obs” – objectivity and observation. Zero solves the case, but it is Jeff that makes sure justice is served.


MR. AND MRS SMITH. ABC / Regency Television Dutch Oven Production, 2007, never aired. Creator and Executive Producer: Simon Kinberg. Executive Producer: David Bartis. Directer and Executive Producer: Doug Liman. Cast: Jordana Brewster as Mrs. Jane Smith, Martin Henderson as Mr. John Smith, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as Ann, and Rebecca Mader as Jordan * There were no credits on film. The above credits are from thefutoncritic.com http://www.thefutoncritic.com/devwatch/mr-and-mrs-smith/.

   This TV pilot was based on the movie MR. & MRS. SMITH (2005) that starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a married couple who work as assassins for different spy agencies. Both the film director (Doug Liman) and writer (Simon Kinberg) returned to do this TV pilot.

   Jane and John are married and living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. while they continue their careers as spies/ assassins. Both characters are one dimensional modern day clichés. She is smart, sexy, able to handle herself in a fight, and successful career woman – you know, perfect. He is an idiot, self-centered, uses excessive force and has been fired, you know, clueless.

   Now that he is unemployed John wants Jane to join him as partners in their own spy/killer agency. She is highly respected and employed at the all-woman spy agency Executive Cleaners and resists the idea of a Mr. & Mrs. Smith Spy agency.

   He is worried about their marriage and wants to have a date night. She agrees to the date night to humor him but then has to cancel twice due to work. Her assignment is to stop a terrorist who has a nuclear device. After listening to too much Dr. Phil and the neighborhood ladies gossip, John begins to suspect Jane is cheating on him. This bad sitcom plot causes problems with Jane’s plan to save the world.

   The idea of exploring the challenges of marriage through a marriage of two spies is not bad if it was not done so heavy-handedly. Women are brilliant and men are idiots belong in another type of comedy, not one about marriage that needs both characters to be admirable and both to have flaws.

   The script has its moments and some nice dialog but little action. The direction offers no help to make this pilot exciting or visually interesting. The cast was nice to look at but failed to bring their characters to life.

   The pilot hinted at a future where Mr. and Mrs. Smith are partners as spies and in marriage as they try to keep their secrets and live the normal life among their suburban neighbors. While that sounds like a bad sitcom, it would be better than to suffer through these cardboard characters with trust issues every week.


ROADBLOCK. March 29, 1958. An episode of STUDIO 57 (Dumont 1954-55; syndicate, 1955-58.

   Syndicated pilot for proposed series MOTORCYCLE COP. Teleplay by Frederic Brady. Story by John D. MacDonald. Directed by Earl Bellamy. Cast: Mike Connors as Patrolman Jeff Saunders, John McIntire as Sheriff Sternweister, and Wallace Ford as Sheriff Thomas

   Mike Connors played a special enforcement agent for the California Highway Patrol who was sent on a variety of assignments. This story finds him helping out local sheriffs investigating a deadly bank robbery where one of the robbers’ cars turns out to be the cop’s best witness.

   Based on a short story by John D. MacDonald (“The Homesick Buick” (ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY magazine, September 1950) ROADBLOCK was turned into just another typical TV crime drama of the 50s. Everything is in black and white, including the characters. The story is slow moving with no surprises. The cast walked through their roles in the simple slow-moving story unburdened by too many twists or much action until a dull car chase at the end.

   IMDb claims the episode (titled “Getaway Car”) originally aired as episode 19 during the fourth season of STUDIO 57 (aka HEINZ STUDIO 57) on March 29, 1958. According to Vincent Terrace “Encyclopedia of Television Pilots” (McFarland), it was meant to be a pilot for a proposed syndicated TV series to be called MOTORCYCLE COP.

   STUDIO 57 was a low budget anthology series that aired on the DuMont network from 1954 through 1955 when the series turned to syndication and lasted until 1958.


   Why pilots sell or fail has always been a mystery. Jake Kasdan (ZERO EFFECT) even did a movie called THE TV SET (2006) about the process.

CBS SUMMER PLAYHOUSE “The Saint in Manhattan.” CBS, 12 June 1987. Season 1, Episode 1. Andrew Clarke (Simon Templar), George Rose, Kevin Tighe (Insp John Fernack), Liliana Komorowska, Holland Taylor, Caitlin Clarke, Michael Lombard. Based on the character created by Lesllie Charteris. Director: James Frawley.

   One way that CBS found to get some mileage out of pilots for TV shows that failed to find a home there was to play them as an anthology series over the summer when they assumed that no one was watching anyway. The Playhouse lasted for three years, but the basis of watching only this one, I’m going to say that it may have been one of the better ones.

   I hadn’t heard of its star, Andrew Clarke, before watching, and in fact this may be one of the few times this Australian actor may have appeared on US TV. He may also have been the only actor with a mustache (a bushy one) to have played the Saint, but I could easily be wrong about that. He also had a wide brash smile with lots of teeth.

   As the title indicated, the would-be series was to have taken place in New York City, with the Saint constantly bedeviling Inspector Fernack as they clash heads while solving murder cases together (in a matter of speaking). In this one, though, it is the theft of a valuable tiara from the head of the lead ballerina during a dance recital that brings the old foes together. Someone has framed Simon Templar for the job!

   The production values are very good, and Clarke, although initially far from my idea of what the Saint looks like, gradually became easier to watch in the role.

Much of the story line is played for light comedy — to the detriment of any fair play detective work, which is hinted at but never quite delivered upon. If I’d known about it at the time, however, I’d definitely have watched this pilot. — and the series as well, if there had been one.

FOUR FAILED PILOTS
by Michael Shonk


   It’s pilot season at the major TV networks as the networks look for new shows for the 2018-19 season. Here is a link to Deadline’s “Primetime pilot panic” where you can read what each network is looking at for next season:

         http://deadline.com/category/primetime-pilot-panic/

   The creation of the pilot dates back to radio days when audition shows were used to find a sponsor or stations to support the show as a regularly appearing series. While radio used the word “audition” for the first example of the possible series, TV uses pilot from “pilot project.”

   In the summer of 1940 CBS aired FORECAST, a series of radio episodes with the hope the audience would help them become a network series. Of these auditions two would become hits and continue to be remembered today, SUSPENSE and DUFFY’S TAVERN.

   Below is DEDUCTION DELUXE, an episode from FORECAST second and final season. Despite its pleas to the radio audience DEDUCTION DELUXE did not survive for a second episode.

DEDUCTION DELUXE “Problem of the Painted Poodle.” CBS Radio, July 28, 1941, Monday at 9pm (Eastern). Cast: Adolphe Menjou as Roger Boone, Verree Teasdale as Twyla Boone. Other Voices include: Arthur Q. Bryan, Verna Telton, and Gerald Mohr. Written by Keith Fowler and Frank Galen.

   The episode sounded like a vaudeville sketch with its simple character types and non-stop patter of gags, many still funny. The mystery of who painted a rich lady’s poodle green was better than average as the writers for the most part played fair with the clues.

   Real life married couple Adolphe Menjou and Verree Teasdale certainly had the right chemistry as PI Roger Boone and his wife Twyla Boone. The fatal flaw for the show was in the character of husband Roger Boone, a man who handled “clues, blondes and horses with equal enthusiasm.” Twyla seemed resigned to her husband sleeping with other women but I doubt the 1941 radio audience was as forgiving.


RUSSELL. Paramount Television – CBS Films Production; date unknown. Fess Parker as Charles Russell, Beverly Garland as Bonnie, Jay C. Flippen as Windy, and Paul Carr as Tracey. Created and written by Borden Chase. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Executive Producer: Gordon Kay. Produced by Frank O’Connor.

   I can find nothing about this pilot beyond the on screen credits and the copyright is unreadable. The pilot was done by Paramount. Fess Parker worked for Paramount between 1958 and 1962. The credit for CBS Films and the sales pitch epilogue probably makes this a pilot for a possible syndicated series. Since Fess Parker was starring in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in 1962 we can narrow the time for this show even further to 1958-61.

   While the story and characters were overly simple the show had a certain charm helped by a talented cast and a script that kept things moving.

   Fess Parker played Charles Russell one of the greatest artists of the Old West, and a man of many talents and experiences. He was a good man who was as good with the gun as he was with a brush. Russell wrote about his times and travels through the Old West in books such as TRAILS PLOWED UNDER. Link from Project Gutenberg Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700941h.html.

   In an interesting twist, the premise of the series was not to be just a loosely based biography but instead the stories were to be based on Charlie Russell’s artwork. The pilot episode featured the famous painting “Innocent Allies.”

   The story had Charlie partnering with a man called Windy to run a cattle drive. When Charlie and a young hothead cowboy witness a stage robbery, the young cowboy overreacts and runs off to stop the robbery. His gunfire starts a stampede. Charlie warns others of the approaching stampede and rescues the beautiful and feisty Bonnie, the new owner of the saloon. Charlie tries to help the young man grow up while he paints for Bonnie “Innocent Allies” – his eyewitness account of the stage holdup.

   RUSSELL had the makings for a successful series but Westerns were fading during the years 1958-1961 as the PI and modern detective was growing in its popularity.


GLOBAL FREQUENCY . WB, 2005 Cast: Michelle Forbes as Miranda Zero, Aimee Garcia as Aleph, Josh Hopkins as Sean Flynn and Jenni Baird as Dr. Katrina Finch. * The on-air credits were clipped from this YouTube copy of the 45-minute pilot. The series was created by Warren Ellis based on the popular award winning graphic novel series. John Rogers wrote the script, or at least he was the main writer for the pilot that was directed by Nelson McCormick. (Sources: IMdb and Wikipedia.)

   Before WB had made its decision about the fate of GLOBAL FREQUENCY the episode was leaked to the Internet. According to an email by creator Warren Ellis sent out to fans he claimed WB was so unhappy over the leak they rejected the pilot (CBR.com, July 29, 2005). It would not be the first time or the last Hollywood egos destroyed a quality program.

   Here is a YouTube clip explaining the premise.

   Global Frequency is a secret independent organization created to do the dirty jobs that threaten the world. Run by Miranda Zero, a former top spy, with the aid of Aleph, a young female computer expert who from a high tech base assists and contacts field agents.

   Global Frequency’s agents are a group of people with various talents and connections from all over the world waiting for that call that they are needed to save the world, or at least part of it. This is one of my favorite plot devices and the way it is handled would have hooked me on the series.

   The story began when disgraced ex-cop Sean finds the dead body of a Global Frequency agent. It seems San Francisco will be destroyed in 55 minutes. Sean joins in to help find the man who killed the agent and now is a threat to destroy San Francisco.

   Everything works here. The writing based on an award winning graphic novel series, the cast, the direction, the production, all are excellent. The characters are likable and developed. This even has the most elusive of all qualities, excellent chemistry between the actors.

   Every time I watch a TV thriller like GLOBAL FREQUENCY that blends technology and the human hero so entertainingly, I remember the objections that Hugh O’Brian had during SEARCH (NBC 1972) that the technology not upstage him and again I realize how better SEARCH could have been.


CALLAHAN. ABC – Carsey/Werner Company Production in association with Finnegan Associates, September 9, 1982. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis as Rachel Bartlett, Hart Bocher as Callahan, John Harkins as Marcus Vox, and Peter Maloney as Mustaf. Created by Ken Finkleman. Developed and Written by David Misch and Ken Finkleman. Directed by Harry Winer

   This funny pilot spoof of the Indiana Jones movie unfairly faced some challenges that had nothing to do with the quality of the episode entitled “Appointment In Rangoon.”

   Plucky innocent Rachel Bartlett applies for the job of assistant to the Director of Research (Callahan) at the Regis Foundation. The job interview quickly expands from Callahan’s academic office into a dangerous thrill-filled chase across the world.

   Overly focused on his work, Callahan is clueless to how unaccustomed Miss Bartlett (as Callahan calls her) is to the action. But Rachel does not let the constant dangers to her life or her torn and increasingly disappearing dress stop her from helping Callahan to recover the object, stop the villain and save the world.

   However quality writing and acting does not always lead a pilot to series. CALLAHAN wanted to become an ABC series for the 1982-83 season. But TV cop spoof POLICE SQUAD had just bombed on ABC during the 1981-82 season. ABC’s pilots for the 1982-83 season had contained more than one Indiana Jones inspired pilot. ABC chose the action drama TALES OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY.


   YouTube continues to be a great place to find failed pilots, so coming soon I will look at four more failed pilots from the past.

INQUIRY from Matthew Bradley:
The Case of the Missing PI’s.


   As I mentioned in my recent post about writing Richard Matheson on Screen, several of the more obscure Matheson-related television episodes continue to elude me to this day. They include “Iron Mike Benedict” (The D.A.’s Man, 2/14/59), “Act of Faith” (Buckskin, 3/23/59), “Time of Flight” (Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, 9/21/66), “No Such Thing as a Vampire” (Late Night Horror, 4/19/68), and “L’Esame” (The Test; Racconti di Fantascienza [Tales of Fantasy], 1/31/79).

   But even more frustratingly, while he recalled contributing to them in some capacity, I’ve never turned up any information regarding his involvement with two P.I. series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective and Philip Marlowe.

   So how’s about it, Mystery*File readers/writers? Anybody knowledgeable enough about them to shed some light on this real-life mystery or, by some miracle, able to provide me with copies of any of these mini-Grails? You never know, there may be a second edition!

LOVE CAN BE MURDER. Made-for-TV. NBC, 14 December 1992. Jaclyn Smith, Corbin Bernsen, Cliff De Young, Tom Bower, Anne Francis. Director: Jack Bender.

   Some viewers may rate this as the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy, but I enjoyed it, and I make no apologies about it! That it has to do with Los Angeles and private eyes may have something to do it, with a wink and a nod to the late 1940s when PI’s had to wear fedoras and be swift with the wisecracking repartee. In fact, I’m sure it does.

   In this film Jacklyn Smith, always to my mind the most beautiful member of Charlie’s Angels, plays Elizabeth Bentley, a lady lawyer who has a problem. She’s bored with both her job and her earnest but very dull fiancé. What does she do? She quits her job and decides to become a private investigator.

   Her first case? The ghost of the PI (Corbin Bernsen) who haunts her new office. It seems that he was killed in a phony automobile accident back in 1948 when he was on a case, one that was never solved. By some sort of rule or regulation that governs such matters in the hereafter, he cannot move on until the case is solved. And all of sudden Ms Bentley has a new partner, one that only she can see.

   I have to admit that the case is not all that interesting, though there is at least one decent twist to it before it is solved, and maybe two. No — and of course we are moving into present day Hallmark territory here — the fun of this film is watching a romance grow, complete with lots of humor, witty patter and a huge wardrobe for Ms Smith. A romance, mind you, that unless there is some fine print at the bottom of the page of rules and regulations that govern such matters, does not have much of a future to it.

   The TV reviewer for the Los Angeles Times liked it, saying that “The production is loaded with charming nostalgic touches…” with a “kind of Nick-and-Nora flavor,” but an anonymous reviewer for People magazine gave it a D plus. I lean far more toward the former than the latter.

   I’ve asked Ian Dickerson, the author of the following book to tell us more about it. He’s most graciously agreed:

IAN DICKERSON – Who Is The Falcon?: The Detective In Print, Movies, Radio and TV. Purview Press. softcover, December 2016.

   Back in the dim and distant past, when I was just a lad, I discovered the adventures of the Saint. (I know, I know, I’ve kept that quiet….) In those heady days I was a sucker for any new Saint-like adventure so when the BBC ran out of old black and white Saint films to show and moved onto something called ‘The Falcon.’ my place in front of the television was assured for a few more weeks.

   Those early Falcon films were remarkably Saintly, and although the later ones got a little more creative — The Falcon and the Co-Eds anyone? — they were still firmly in the gentleman detective genre and my teen -aged self was happy.

   Fast forward a few years — well, okay, quite a few years — and I discovered old time radio shows. But I soon had a problem, I had all the episodes of The Saint on tape and being greedy I wanted more. Then I discovered the Falcon had also appeared on radio! Aha, problem solved I thought! But when I listened to the tapes I discovered the Falcon — that radio Falcon — was a hard boiled 1940s PI and bore virtually no resemblance to the gentleman detective of the George Sanders and Tom Conway films. At a time when the Internet was only really just booting up, I had no way of establishing what had happened, but I rather enjoyed those hard-boiled PI adventures so quickly ordered some more.

   Fast forward a few more years and with the help of the now mature Internet, I discovered that not only had the Falcon also appeared in books, magazines and on TV, but that the radio show had run for over a decade and there had been over four hundred and eighty episodes.

   I wanted to learn things; to find out why there were two different characters and how they’d come to be changed, to find out more about the Falcon’s TV adventures and see if I could find copies of them, I also wanted to know more about his stint on radio — who played him? Who wrote the stories? What were they about? And for the geek in me … had I listened to all the ones that were available? (I certainly have now!)

   And I wanted to celebrate a character that had survived sixteen films, a handful of books, thirty-nine episodes of television and that long run on radio.

   So I wrote a book.

   Who is the Falcon? tells the story of all the Falcon’s adventures in print, on radio, in film and television. And there’s even a Falcon short story from the 1940s thrown in for good measure.

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


MARLOWE. ABC / Touchstone, TV Movie/pilot, 2007. Jason O’Mara (Philip Marlowe), Adam Goldberg, Clayton Rohner, Jamie Ray Newman, Amanda Righetti, Lisa LoCicero, Marcus A. Ferraz. Teleplay by Greg Pruss & Carol Wolper, based on the character created by Raymond Chandler. Directed by Rob Bowman.

   “Let her go, she’s trouble.”
   “Trouble is my business.”

   Slick pilot for a series that never developed, Marlowe features Jason O’Mara (Agents of SHIELD) as Raymond Chandler’s metaphor-and-simile-laden private eye, a good man in the mean streets of 21rst Century Los Angeles, and O’Mara’s tough, human, wounded Marlowe is easily the best thing about this well-intentioned updating of the classic character.

   Marlowe is following a playboy his client suspects is having an affair with his wife when he hears a scream and Traci Faye (Jamie Ray Newman) comes running from the man’s home. Inside Marlowe finds the man he is following dead.

   When the police arrive, in the person of Marlowe’s cop pal Frank Olmer (Adam Goldberg), they arrest Tracy for the murder, and when they have to let her go, she comes to Marlowe for help, thus the little dialogue above between Marlowe and his sexy mothering secretary Jessica (Amanda Righetti).

   The tricky thing about LA is the lies can feel like the truth, and the truth feel like a lie.

   Before long Marlowe has stumbled on a crooked real estate development deal, taken a dive into that famous “black pool” thanks to psychotic Zack Battas (Marcus A. Ferraz), and ended up locked in his car with no way out in the middle of oncoming freeway traffic. He also resists seduction by his client’s wife (Lisa LoCicero) and does not resist Tracy before he uncovers the lies and deceptions leading to the real killer.

   There are some good lines that show the people involved at least know their Chandler:

    “You think she’s not my type? What is it, the clothes?” Marlowe asks a bar owner friend about one of Traci’s girlfriends.
    “That and your general disdain for women who can’t start a sentence without using the word ‘I’.”

   I’m divided on this one. On the one hand O’Mara makes for an attractive and human Marlowe — there is one very good scene between he and the actress playing his client where he loses his temper and in doing so sees the frightened little girl under the seductive exterior — and the plot is actually much more complex than usual for television in keeping with Chandler.

   On the other Marlowe is very much a fish out of water in 21st Century LA, and no one but O’Mara seems to be doing much more than going through the motions, though Newman has that one good scene, and Adam Goldberg is good as his world weary cop buddy. At times everything seems too bright and fresh and new to be classic Marlowe (his office is more 77 Sunset Strip than the Bradbury Building and his secretary more Velda from Mike Hammer than anything in Chandler).

   Over all I recommend it with reservations, if only for O’Mara’s humane Marlowe, it is one of those what might have been situations, where you can see it being very good or going very wrong fast.

   The awful thing about the truth is having to tell it to somebody.

   That’s not half bad, which is pretty much what you can say for this pilot, and considering, that is more of a recommendation than it may sound.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


HIGH TIDE. Syndicated, 1994-1997. ACI -Franklin/Waterman 2. Cast: Rick Springfield as Mick Barrett and Yannick Bisson as Joey Barrett. Supporting Cast: Season One: George Segal as Gordon, and Diana Frank or Cay Helmich as Fritz. Season Two: Julie Cialini as Annie. Season Three: Deborah Shelton as Grace Warner and David Graf as Jay Cassidy. Created by Jeff Franklin and Steve Waterman.

   With the increasing popularity of cable in the 1990s, there was a growing number of syndicated programs to fill the content needs of the new cable stations. The cheesy action comedy was one of the more common genres. This type of series often featured beautiful locations and gorgeous half-naked men and women, action but limited violence, and scripts filled with endless TV tropes.

   High Tide was such a series. It survived three seasons with a slightly different premise and location each season.

   Season One was filmed in New Zealand. Mick is an ex-cop who blames himself for his partner’s death. He and his not too bright, impulsive younger brother Joey live the life of surf bums.

   Interrupting the brothers’ life of bikini watching and surfing was Gordon, an ex-CIA agent now L.A. restaurateur who constantly gets the boys involved in helping one of his many gorgeous young goddaughters. Conveniently the young ladies usually get in trouble where there is surfing nearby. As to be expected with a TV series devoted to using as many TV tropes as possible, Gordon’s assistant is the young beautiful Fritz (played by Diana Frank or Cay Helmich).

   A note about the cast. Both Rick Springfield and George Segal are well enough known stars of TV and films without listing their credits. However it should be mentioned that Yannick Bisson played Joey the younger brother. Today Bisson can be seen as the star of the long running Canadian hit series Murdoch Mysteries.

   Some may notice the name of Tim Minear in the behind the line credits such as writer, story editor, or co-producer. Minear has become one of Hollywood’s top critically acclaimed TV producers today with series such as Terriers (2010), American Horror Show (2012-17) and Feud (2017-18).


REVENGE IS SWEET. November 26, 1994. Written by Martin Cutler and Tim Minear. Directed by Catherine Millar. Guest Cast: Kenneth McGregor and John Dybuig. *** Someone from Mick’s past wants him dead.

   A break from Mick and Joey’s weekly rescue of a beautiful woman in trouble, this episode focuses on Mick’s backstory. Rarely rising above clichés, it lacks suspense and fails to make us care. As a typical syndicated series of the time, it is a mindless, but not the worst, way to kill an hour of your life.

   Mick’s beloved Mustang is impounded for failure to pay parking tickets. A cop with a grudge against Mick since Mick’s police academy days arrests Mick. Revealed to be a computer glitch, Mick is let go only to be unable to find his car.

   Mysteriously his car is returned, but it has a warning from someone who threatens to kill Mick. Mick is then framed for murder. Mick finds himself on the run from the cops while trying to find out who wants him dead.


   Season Two had the production company leave New Zealand for San Diego. Story-wise the brothers leave Los Angeles and Gordon and Fritz behind to open a surf shop in San Diego called High Tide. There, Mick and Joey spend more time rescuing old friends and strangers than actually running the shop.

   Annie the High Tide employee was played by Playboy Playmate of 1995 Julie Cialini. During the second season the series hired Playboy models for minor roles and background.

   The second season aired in 80% of the country or 90 markets including all Top 25 markets. The ratings in United States were low but better overseas (Broadcasting, July 17, 1995).


CODE NAME: SCORPION. March 4, 1996. Written by Chris Baena. Directed by John Grant Weil. Guest Cast: Chip Mayer, Josie Davis, and Donna D’Errico. *** Mick reunites with his goddaughter whose ex-CIA agent father died years ago. She is a champion Pro beach volleyball player on tour. She is staying with the brothers when she is kidnapped.

   The second season increases the close-ups of female butts and boobs. Predictable with clumsy writing and weak acting, the series continues to rely on visual scenery and the brothers’ relationship to keep the viewers from changing channels.


   In Season Three the production moves again, this time to Ventura CA. Mick and Joey have sold their failed surf shop High Tide. Mick wishes to live the life of the surf bum, but Joey wants to find a paying job of adventure.

   Continuing its theme of teen male wish fulfillment, the third and final season has Grace, a gorgeous rich woman offering the brothers her luxurious guest beach house in Santa Barbara as a place to stay rent free.

   Mick and Joey decide to become full time PIs. Jay, an ex-cop friend of Mick’s who sells real estate and is a bails bondsman, offers the brothers assignments to track down bail jumpers.

STARTING OVER. September 22, 1996: Written by Chris Baena. Directed by Chris O’Neil. Guest Cast: Rob Farrior and Lyman Ward. *** A rich powerful man’s spoiled son beats a man to death. When he skips bail the brothers are hired to find him and bring him back.



   High Tide was an average harmless syndicated action series meant to appeal to teen boys and those viewers seeking to abandon their brains for sixty minutes. Nice to look at and at times fun to watch, the series never rose above cotton candy for the eyes.


   This review by Mike Doran first appeared on this blog as Comment #28 to my review of “Legend of Crystal Dark,” an earlier episode of 77 Sunset Strip, one from season two. Thinking that his comments deserved a wider audience, I asked Mike if I might post it here as well. He most graciously agreed:


REVIEWED BY MIKE DORAN:


77 SUNSET STRIP “The Target.” ABC, 24 January 1964 (Season 6, Episode 18.) Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stuart Bailey), Keith Andes, Jeanne Cooper, Joan Staley, Lyle Talbot, Les Tremayne, Forrest Lewis, Shirley Mitchell, Lawrence Dobkin, James Lydon, Tony Barrett, William Conrad. Producer: William Conrad. Associate producer: James Lydon. Executive producer: Jack Webb. Writer: Lawrence Dobkin. Director: Tony Barrett.

   As of last week, MeTV completed the 6th season of 77 Sunset Strip, which means it is no longer “lost.”

   I suppose someone will be writing up the whole season for you, someone far more knowledgeable than I.

   That said, I’d like to talk about “The Target,” which was third from last to run on ABC (the rerun season went back to the Version Originale).

   “The Target” was about an ex-reporter (Keith Andes), just out of prison on a bum rap, who gets shot at just as he arrives home.

   It seems that Andes has been writing The Book that will blow the lid off some racketeers old and older; these make up Stu Bailey’s suspect pool.

   On a hunch, I held off watching this one until the end, after seeing all the others — the majority of which, in my view, could have easily been done on the old show in the old style.

   I’m talking about the plots; the main difference between old-style and new-style was amputating Efrem Zimbalist’s manners; the suave, well-spoken Bailey of old-style became a snarling wiseacre who was grubbing for a buck, insulting everybody along the way.

   This approach didn’t last long; as season 6 progressed, Bailey became less gratuitously nasty. (He’d suddenly developed a ferocious hatred for police, which would have definitely shocked Lt. Roy Gilmore; this was the first characteristic of nu-Bailey to go.)

   About midway through the cycle, Bailey’s unseen stenographer Hannah suddenly became seen, in the person of the above-average-looking Joan Staley; her presence turned Old Stu into a major flirt (and don’t think that certain recent headlines about a Major Hollywood Figure didn’t occur to me while I was watching).

   I might also mention that the 77SS opening titles were changed about the same time; Zimbalist’s mournful ascent within the Bradbury Building gave way to a long tracking shot of Old Stu walking the Mean Streets at night.

   I digress; back to “The Target.”

   I mentioned above that I saved watching this to last. Beforehand, I learned something about it that led me to believe that “The Target” was intended to be the Final Episode of 77.

   It was the casting of three of the to-be-exposed mob types:

       Bill Conrad (Producer) as a semi-crooked fight promoter.

       Lawrence Dobkin (Director) as a publisher who started out in nudie books.

       Tony Barrett (Writer) as a retired procurer.

   … And as a Bonus for the dweebs in the crowd: James Lydon (Associate Producer) as a convict who starts Stu Bailey out in his investigation.

   About this last:

   During this time, one of our local Chicago stations was running a well-known series of comedy features from the ’40s, which my family watched faithfully every Saturday afternoon.We’d stopped watching 77 by this point, but now I wish we hadn’t.

   Thinking back, my brother, sisters, and I might have gotten a charge out of our Dad telling us all:

   “Look at that, guys – Henry Aldrich is in the clink!”

   Anyhow, this sort-of group appearance by the 77 Sunset Strip front office seems to be to be a grand gesture of a kind from Old Hollywood Pros who knew the end was near and decided to have a little fun on the way out.

   * … unless, of course, I’m wrong …

POLICE STATION. Syndicated. Official Films / Paramount-Sunset Television Productions, 1959-? Untitled episode (Season 1, #8?). Baynes Barron, Larry Kerr, Henry Beckman, Roy Wright. Guest Cast: Ron Masak, Michael Vandever. Produced, written & directed by Sandy Howard.

   A Dragnet wanna-be that lasted one season of 39 syndicated episodes, of which only one, perhaps two, have managed to survive. It’s not very good, and I’m covering it here only because.

   There are two cases the cops are working on throughout this episode. The first is that of two 16-years-olds who have been killed in a gang war, city not specified. The second, not nearly as serious, is that of a aged female con artist who gratefully promises to quit the racket. Does she? Wait for the ending to see.

   As for the gang war deaths, the cops have two possible suspects, and they play them off each other until they can be sure which one is the one who pulled the trigger. It’s competently done, but not by late 1950s standards, done in by the cheap sets (furnished from a local second-hand furniture store), uninspired camera work, and the mediocre acting by one of the participants.

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