Tue 29 May 2012
DEAR DETECTIVE. Made for TV movie. CBS, 28 March 1979. Two hours. Roland Kibbee & Dean Hargrove Production in association with Viacom. Cast: Brenda Vaccaro, Arlen Dean Snyder, Jack Gingas, M. Emmett Walsh, Michael McRae, Jet Yardum, Corinne Conley, Lesley Woods, Ron Silver, John Dennis Johnston. Music by Dick & Dean DeBenedictis. Written and produced by Roland Kibbee & Dean Hargrove. Director: Dean Hargrove.
Dear Detective is a television cozy. Detective Kate Hudson is brilliant at her job, wonderful as a mother, yet now faces a real challenge – a new boyfriend. Brenda Vaccaro is delightful as the likeable detective.
The mystery features a serial killer who stabs Councilmen to death while they are standing in the middle of a crowd. The mystery is the most interesting part of the TV-movie, but its overwhelmed by the need to establish all the characters in the three separate worlds of Kate Hudson.
It’s 1979, and a female detective is not always welcomed, but this is not Prime Suspect. Kate ignores the negative comments, lets the detectives she commands pamper her, accepts she can answer more of the questions on the Commander’s test than her cowardly Captain (M. Emmett Walsh), and is always one step ahead of everyone else.
The romance and personal sides of the story are too often unbearably cute. Kate and her new boyfriend, College Professor of Greek Literature Richard Weyland (Arlen Dean Snyder) meet when he is riding his Moped and she knocks him down with her car.
Home life features a daughter in fourth grade at a Catholic school (Jet Yardum), an understanding mother (Lesley Woods), and a wacky aunt (Corinne Conley). Kate has to phone her ex-husband so he could tell his daughter why he won’t be at her birthday party.
The cozy mystery has no suspects, only a trail of victims with one thing in common until Kate discovers another link. Clues are few and ultimately only lead to where the killer can be found. We learn who done it only when the killer attacks idiot and Kate’s rival, Detective Brock (Michael McRae). Of course, Kate knows there is trouble and arrives to save the day in a stupid-funny car chase that predates OJ.
A very short clip from one of the one-hour episodes:
Writers and producers Roland Kibbee and Dean Hargrove (who also directed) are familiar names to NBC Mystery of the Week fans for their work in Madigan (1972), Columbo (1973-75), and McCoy (1975) as well as TV Movies The Big Rip-Off (1975) and Return of the World’s Greatest Detective (1976). Kibbee died in 1984, while Hargrove continued with such series as Matlock and the Hallmark Channel mysteries, Jane Doe, McBride, and Murder 101.
The show was based on the French film Dear Inspector, aka Dear Detective (1978), starring Annie Girardot and Philippe Noiret and directed by Philippe DeBroca. Oddly, the movie was not mentioned in the credits, instead the closing credits had: “suggested by characters created by Jean Paul Rouland and Claude Oliver” and “based on a story by Philipe DeBroca and Michel Audiard”.
This TV-Movie was not the entire pilot for the series. Networks have been trying to find better ways to find the next hit series since television networks began. After the success of the mini-series Dallas in April 1978 lead to the hit weekly series, CBS decided to try again with four mini-series pilots, Married: First Year (four episodes), Miss Winslow & Son (six episodes), Time Express (four episodes) and Dear Detective (one TV Movie and three hour-long episode).
From Broadcasting (April 9, 1979): “We think it’s a good idea to test shows in the spring for possible fall airing.” Mr. Grant (Bud Grant, CBS Vice President of Programming) said, “We may pay more per episode in a limited run, but this way we give the public an opportunity to participate in the show’s development.”
Despite a weak lead in from Miss Winslow & Son (24 share), this TV Movie had a 32 share, but still fell behind ABC reruns Charlie’s Angels (43 share) and Vegas (37 share) (Broadcasting, April 9, 1979).
The next week Dear Detective first hour-long episode would drop to a 26 share. (Broadcasting, April 16, 1979). The mini-series pilot finished in the season’s (September 11, 1978 through April 15, 1979) final ratings 44th out of 114 series with a 30 share (tied with Incredible Hulk and Hawaii Five-O) (Broadcasting, June 18, 1979).
According to TVTango.com, the hour-long episodes were opposite ABC’s first run series Mackenzies of Paradise Cove and NBC’s rerun of Wheels.
I actually enjoyed Dear Detective, mainly because of Vaccaro and her character. But like most cozy mysteries, there was too much cute romance and character comedy, and not enough mystery in this two-hour movie. I remain curious about the three one-hour episodes and if any of the mysteries were able to overcome the clutter of Kate Hudson’s life.
While this TV-Movie is available on pre-recorded VHS and in collector-to-collector format, the three one-hour episodes appear to be lost and forgotten.