Wed 27 Jun 2012
“The Venus Microbe.” An episode of A Man Called Sloane. NBC / Woodruff Productions in association with QM Productions. Season 1, Episode 6. Saturday, 27 October 1979, 10-11pm (Eastern). Cast: Robert Conrad as Thomas Remington Sloane III, Ji-Tu Cumbuka as Torque, Dan O’Herlihy as The Director, Michele Carey as the voice of Effie. Guest Cast: Monte Markham, Morgan Fairchild, Darrell Zwerling, Rita Wilson, Karen Purcill. Created by Cliff Gould. Teleplay by Peter Allan Fields, Jack V. Fogarty and Gerald Sanford. Story by Marc Brandel. Executive producer: Philip Saltzman. Producer: Gerald Sanford. Directer: Winrich Kolbe.
Earlier, I reviewed this series’ pilot TV-movie Death Ray 2000 that starred Robert Logan as Sloane. The character Torque, who was a bad guy in the pilot, was changed to Thomas’ partner for the series. I found the pilot more fun to watch, yet the series had its over the top moments as well.
A Man Called Sloane is not good enough to be called a James Bond wannabe nor can it be called a Man from U.N.C.L.E wannabe. At best this series is a Eurospy wannabe.
The Eurospy film was a sub-genre of spy films made mainly in Europe during the 60s to take advantage of the Bond craze. Over the top plot, bad acting, a mess of a script, car chase, gadgets, beautiful women, evil villain, mad scientists, femme fatale, fights, it is all here in this single hour TV episode.
The plot of this episode features the theft of a deadly microbe brought back from the planet Venus. It is stolen by one of the scientists examining the microbe and sold to Cambro (Monte Markham) of Kartel, an evil organization out to take over the world.
In the paint-by-numbers script, Thomas and his sidekick Torque arrive to check out a tip that the microbe is about to be stolen. The two work for UNIT, an “elite counter force reporting directly to the President,” with its office hidden in a retail store called “The Toy Boutique.”
The theft happens while they are there so our heroes get to have a car chase and use some gadgets. The femme fatale (Zacki Murphy) and adulterer-traitor-scientist (Alex Henteloff) escape, while Thomas and Torque are occupied with a pursuing fake ambulance that has some gadgets of its own.
Meanwhile, two scientists are unconscious in the contaminated lab. They can keep them alive by pumping oxygen into the lab, but they have only twenty-four hours before the mix of oxygen and microbe will cause the lab to blow up. Conveniently, there is an antidote but the traitor scientist (who did not create the formula) has the only copy of the formula.
And the plot holes are just beginning as the episode continues in an unrelenting stream of formulaic scenes until Thomas finally saves the girl, escapes the death trap and foils the villain’s evil plans. In fact, the script tries to jam too much into one episode. The villain having the deadly microbe is jeopardy enough. There is no need to add the sub-plot of twenty-four hours before the scientists die or the lab goes boom.
Cambro can destroy the world. Does Thomas need to have a more personal motive to stop him than that? But they briefly mention then never explore the past history between Cambro and Thomas, when the two battled three years before and a woman Thomas cared about was killed. Why couldn’t the writers save a cliché or two for next week’s episode? Three years, Thomas? Yes, obviously the woman meant a great deal to you.
Acting, as every Eurospy film fan knows, is not the sub-genre’s strong point. While certainly an improvement over Logan from the pilot, Conrad has never played more than a version of himself. At times that can be entertaining enough, but here Conrad lacks his usual charm.
Fairchild was great as a blonde but not so much as the wannabe PI on the trail of the cheating husband aka traitor scientist. Markham’s evil madman was the standard bland TV villain.
Bad acting, formula writing and an unbelievably stupid plot and you had a way to spend a mindless hour on Saturday night, if that is your idea of a productive way to spend your Saturday nights.
The series debuted September 22, 1979. It was scheduled against two other new shows, ABC’s Hart to Hart and CBS’s Paris (which debuted September 29th). The ratings were good in the first three weeks with A Man Called Sloane winning its time slot two of those weeks and tied with Hart to Hart the other week.
Sloane and Hart both benefited from the ratings disaster of Paris. The ratings for September 29th had Sloane winning the time period with a 34 share, Hart to Hart a 33 share, and CBS’s Paris a 22 share. However, an early warning sign was the ratings were slowly dropping for Sloane.
Then ABC moved Fantasy Island to Saturday at 10pm (where it had aired the season before) and it was the beginning of the end for A Man Called Sloane. The ratings for the first matchup had Fantasy Island at a 38 share, with Sloane a 28 share and a CBS rerun special Body Human – The Sexes at 20.
For this episode, “The Venus Microbe” had a 24 share compared to Fantasy Island 38 share and Paris 25 share.
In the ratings for the period of September 17 thru November 4, 1979, A Man Called Sloane finished 51st out of 73 series.
The series had a total of 12 episodes filmed and the last original episode aired December 22, 1979.
This episode is currently (but who knows for how long) available to watch on YouTube. The series itself is available on DVD only in the collector-to-collector’s market.
SOURCES: Broadcasting magazine