TV mysteries


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.

BERNIE GUNTHER, P.I. STILL COMING TO HBO
by Gilbert Colon

   At Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in April to promote his twelfth Bernie Gunther private eye novel, Prussian Blue, author Philip Kerr was asked by an audience member about whether a Bernie series or movie was still in the works.

   “Like everything in film, it’s glacial,” he answered. The project (which would draw from the Berlin Noir trilogy) was at HBO in 2016 when Kerr was at the same venue while promoting his previous entry, The Other Side of Silence.

   Since then, HBO experienced a change in management, “and the new management was going to sweep it out with everything else that was old.” But to Kerr’s surprise, it turns out that it remains in “quite active development, whatever that means,” that concluding qualifier dripping with a cynicism worthy of Bernie himself.

   Maintaining a hopefulness from the jaded romantic side of Bernie, he adds, “It took Harry Bosch 20-25 years to get where he is.” Tom Hanks was connected with the Bernie project as executive producer at least as far back as 2012 when, per Kerr, “He came to my house in Wimbledon for dinner.”

   More recent industry news indicates that he likely is still involved. If that remains the case, perhaps Hanks, who directed the Raymond Chandler episode “I’ll Be Waiting” for Showtime’s superb but forgotten Fallen Angels series (1993-1995), should direct one episode. At last report, Peter Straughan, who scripted the 2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was mentioned as screenwriter.

   Bernie Gunther, for those who do not know, is an ex-SD officer who worked for Reinhard Heydrich before becoming a private investigator. Kerr has taken Bernie through three decades, five continents, and a dozen novels to date. Prussian Blue sees him in both 1939 and 1956. As Kripo’s superlative homicide detective, Bernie is assigned by Martin Bormann to the murder case of a low-ranking bureaucrat at Obersalzberg, home to an elite Nazi community and Hitler’s mountaintop retreat.

   The clock is ticking before the Führer returns to celebrate his fiftieth birthday and discovers a shocking crime has been committed on the terrace of his own residence. The past explosively collides with the present when, seventeen years later on the French Riviera, the freelance Bernie is strong-armed by East German Stasi to poison a female agent in London with a vial of thallium.

   Questioned about casting Bernie for any adaptation, Kerr rattles off the same list of names he did last time, as reported in The Strand Magazine: Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto), Arnold Schwarzenegger (“believe it or not”), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), and Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method). (Fassbender, incidentally, will be playing another series character this year, Jo Nesbø’s Detective Harry Hole, in The Snowman.)

   New names surface during this appearance though. “Jon Voight wanted to be Bernie, and Woody Harrelson said so in magazines. For all I know they’ve cast [Bernie] already.” The author is always the last to know.

   “I won’t be doing any cameos,” he assures, “the way Lee Child does in the Jack Reacher movies. Except if they offer me a scene as a really nasty Gestapo officer. I could really bring something to that.” With a smart-alecky smirk, he wisecracks, “I really just want one of those leather coats, that is the bottom line.”

   While Kerr has a wicked sense of irony, he is never flippant about the grave historical aspects of his series. When the question is raised about comparisons between Bernie Gunther and Philip Marlowe, Kerr says, “Chandler [and his L.A.] had corrupt politicians and nightclub owners, but my novels have the crime of the century – the millennium – as a backdrop.

   “I don’t think I’m exploiting the subject matter. The books are an essay in understanding.”

GILBERT COLON has written for several print and online publications, including Filmfax, Cinema Retro, Crimespree, Crime Factory, and Strand Mystery Magazine. He is a contributor-at-large for both the St. Martin’s Press newsletter Tor.com and bare•bones e-zine. You may reach him at gcolon777@gmail.com.

HOLLYWOOD OFF-BEAT
by Michael Shonk


HOLLWOOD OFF-BEAT. Syndicated, 1952; United Television Programs. Cast: Melvyn Douglas as Steve Randall. Executive Producer: Marion Parsonnet. Produced by Theodore Lewis.

   This series reminds me much of Cases of Eddie Drake as another example where DuMont gets credit when it deserves none. Eddie has been a personal crusade for me for awhile, and I have written about him here four times (here, here, here and here ) and finally at the website “Criminal Element.”

   Hollywood Off-Beat was always a syndicated series. United Television Programs (number two in TV syndication behind Ziv) had “already started a test run in some cities” before its “official opening” March 30, 1952 (Broadcasting 3/17/52). DuMont is credited with airing the series November 17, 1952 through January 30, 1953.

   Besides the episode that Steve just reviewed (“The Trial”) there is another episode available to watch on YouTube:

“The Unlucky Three.” Guest Cast: Berry Kroeger, John Griggs and Marion Brash. Original screenplay by Franz Spencer. Directed by M. Milton Schwarz. *** Did the famous actress kill herself or was she murdered?

   The script gives a nice peek at behind the scenes of Hollywood filmmaking, as well as a serviceable mystery. Fortunately Douglas doing narration in third person is limited to the opening, with the rest of the episode narration is the typical fourth wall breaking talk to the audience.

   The only place I found the series called Steve Randall was in one article in Broadcasting (12/8/52) reporting the series would air on DuMont as Steve Randall at Friday 8-8:30pm.

   The article in Broadcasting (3/17/52) named Rip Van Ronkle (Destination Moon) as writer and Marion Parsonnet (Gilda) as producer. It reported the series filmed its background shots in documentary style in Los Angeles and the rest of the series in Parsonnet Studios (according to screen credit Long Island NY).

   Both Broadcasting and Billboard always called Hollywood Offbeat a syndicated series. The ARP ratings printed in Billboard had it as a “Non-Network” TV Film Drama series. Hollywood Offbeat got honorable mention in poll for popular non-network film drama series (Billboard, 9/6/52). The press listed the series as Hollywood Offbeat but the on air screen title spelled it Hollywood Off-Beat.

   Now about the confusion over its time on CBS, the answer can be found in Billboard (9/13/52). The trade paper was reporting on the networks problems with “clearance” – number of local affiliates that would carry the network program.

   The makers of Serutan owned the CBS Saturday at 10:30 to 11 pm slot. The series CBS carried was Battle of the Ages that only 12 CBS stations aired. CBS could not find a series that Serutan wanted. Serutan decided it wanted Hollywood Offbeat. CBS TV Films, CBS syndicated side, negotiated with UTP for a temporary deal for the series to appear on the CBS network. The series had only 13 episodes and it gave CBS time to find another series that more affiliates would carry and would make advertiser Serutan happy.

   It is hard to actually know what a true DuMont series is as the network often used syndicated shows to fill its schedule. CBS TV Films’ Cases of Eddie Drake and UTP’s Hollywood Off-Beat are just two examples of series misremembered by history.

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