Fri 20 Jul 2012
HARRY O — Season 1, Part 2.
HARRY O. ABC / Warner Brothers. Season 1, Part 2. (January-March 1975). Cast: David Janssen as Harry Orwell, Anthony Zerbe as Lieutenant K.C. Trench, Paul Tulley as Sergeant Roberts. Created and executive consultant: Howard Rodman. Executive Producer: Jerry Thorpe. Producers: Buck Houghton and Robert Dozier. Associate Producer: Rita Dillon. Executive story consultant: Robert Dozier. Theme: Billy Goldenberg.
The first half of the season was over and Harry O faced some changes. In Television Chronicles #10, executive producer Jerry Thorpe discussed the changes. To please ABC, the series tone was changed to more melodramatic. But Thorpe made a deal. He wanted the show to follow the path set by the first episode “Gertrude.” That meant more humor between the characters. Thorpe wanted to take advantage of Janssen’s untapped talent for humor.
In “The Last Heir,” we still have the same opening theme, but we soon see a hint of the changes to come. Harry is driving his car through the empty vast California desert … and the car makes it without a tow truck.
Harry is hired (he charges $100 a day plus expenses) by Jeff Mays (Clifford David), the nephew of rich, ill-tempered Letty (Jeanette Nolan) who lives alone in the middle of the desert. The nephew is worried she is crazy and will kill someone at the annual family meeting.
Once the entire family is there, their cars are disabled, stranding all in the desert waiting for the supply truck to make its weekly visit in six days. Then one by one, family members begins to die.
Next, “For Love Of Money” features a new musical arrangement of the series theme song with a more action feel. The visuals and graphics for the opening have been changed significantly. Gone are shots of Harry on the bus, walking, and sitting on his stranded boat. Now Harry is running, moving in chase scenes on foot, by boat and by car.
Harry travels to Los Angeles. A woman (Mariclare Costello) in Los Angeles needs help. Her family in San Diego hires Harry to act as go-between for her and her employer (Joe Silver).
Her boyfriend (Fred Beir) had convinced her to “borrow” $25,000 in bonds from her boss’ safe. She wants to return them but Harry finds the boyfriend and the bonds are gone. When the employer discovers half a million dollars of bonds are missing instead of just $25,000 he calls the cops.
While working on this case Harry rents an apartment in Santa Monica near the beach. His neighbor is a young beautiful stewardess Betsy (Katherine Baumann). Harry’s manners have not changed and he is blunt and grumpy around Betsy who mothers him. Betsy has a boyfriend Walter we will never see but enjoy Harry’s fear-inspired descriptions of him.
The mystery, as with most of this group of episodes, is unremarkable with more attention paid to action and characters than clues. The bullet in Harry’s back disappears allowing for more fights and chases.
This episode also introduces Harry (and us) to Lieutenant K.C. Trench and his quiet sidekick Sergeant Roberts (Paul Tulley). There is an on air chemistry between Janssen and Zerbe that is magic from the very beginning. The two feed off the other, not only as actors, but the characters do as well. It is obvious both respect, like and trust the other.
San Diego’s Lieutenant Manny Quinlain was played well by the talented Henry Darrow, but both the character and the actor’s style were too similar to Harry and Janssen. The conflict between Harry and Trench gave the series its humor and made the series more entertaining to watch.
Quinlain played straight man to Harry, while Trench had his own sense of humor. Trench was given this quality due to the underrated character of Sergeant Roberts. Roberts existed as a straight man for Harry and Trench, anchoring the scene as the PI and cop playfully had at it to the delight of the viewers.
In “Confetti People,” we watch Jack (John Rubinstein) shoot and kill his drunken artist brother (Scott McKay) who was beating his wife (Diana Hyland). Betsy finds Jack wandering on the beach and brings him to Harry, who is still in Santa Monica for some unknown reason, and convinces Harry to help Jack.
Harry calls the cops and takes Jack back to the murder scene only to find Jack’s sister –in-law and still alive brother denying anything happened. Jack had just been released from a mental hospital, so everyone writes it off except Harry who is worried about his client.
It is interesting to compare how this melodrama handled mental illness when compared to the nourish drama of the San Diego episode “Shadows At Noon.”
Trench learns as we have, “Orwell, you have a way of getting involved with some pretty bizarre people.”
“Sound Of Trumpets” gives Harry a reason to stay in Los Angeles. Harry learns they have torn down his San Diego home to put up a high-rise. He likes the people and the area so he follows Betsy and Walter and moves to a beach house in Santa Monica. Harry’s unfinished boat, “The Answer” joins him at the beach house. Harry finds a new mechanic, Clarence (Hal Williams) for his car.
Lovers of Jazz music will enjoy this story of a former great horn man Art Sully (Julius Harris) just out of prison with a secret someone doesn’t want him to live to tell.
Harry saves his life when Art falls off the pier. When Art disappears with Harry’s car, Harry is back using the bus and not happy about it. Some great jazz and R&B music highlight the episode that has a more active Harry fighting and chasing bad guys.
“Silent Kill” was an “issue” episode, but the heavy-handed new style of the series weakened the message. Harry agreed to help a deaf woman (Kathy Lloyd) clear her deaf mute husband (James Wainwright) of setting a fire that killed three people. Despite a script drowning in pathos, director Richard Lang effectively illustrated the struggles of the deaf by turning off the sound and forcing the viewer to see through the deaf mute’s eyes.
“Double Jeopardy” is another “issue” episode that would have worked better without the melodrama. Harry witnesses a murder and sees a young man, Tom (Kurt Russell) leaving the scene. Tom is arrested, but let go for lack of evidence.
In an ironic twist the female victim’s father (Will Kuluva) is an ex-mobster who was successful in San Diego for over twenty years before retiring to Los Angeles. The justice system he had manipulated to stay out of prison seems unfair to him now as he watches the man he believes killed his daughter go free. So he hires some men to kill Tom.
Harry believes Tom is innocent and tries to keep him alive long enough to find the real killer.
Exit Betsy and Walter to Hawaii as a married couple. Enter Harry’s most remembered neighbor, Sue Ingram (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) and her large dog Grover (who hates Harry).
“Lester” features our first meeting of Lester Hodges, wannabe criminologist and Harry Orwell fan boy, who would return in the second season. College student Lester notifies the police about a missing woman. His rich family learns of it and sends a lawyer to protect Lester.
The lawyer hires Harry. Every clue Harry finds points to Lester as the killer of the woman. The lawyer is not pleased, but Lester can’t stop smiling. The last scene between Harry and Lester is a Harry O classic.
In “Elegy For A Cop,” Manny travels to Los Angeles in secret to retrieve his niece (Kathy Lloyd) who is a drug addict. What happens next has Harry going after a drug broker (Sal Mineo) in one of the most dramatic stories of the entire first season.
Howard Rodman’s script and David Janssen’s talent were the reasons this episode worked despite the fact it was created for budget reasons and recycled several scenes from the original pilot Such Dust As Dreams Are Made On.
In this episode we learn both of Harry’s parents were dead and he has no brothers or sisters. All he has left is his friends.
WARNING: SPOILERS. FEEL FREE TO SKIP DOWN TO EPISODE “STREET GAMES.”
The new local drug broker uses Manny’s niece to set him up as a dirty cop that gets killed in a payoff. The broker shoots Manny and leaves him for dead with “bribe” money in Manny’s pocket. Before he dies, Manny is able to mail the money to Harry.
According to the article in Television Chronicles #10, this episode was one of the first times a regular character on a TV series was killed off. The series Nichols (NBC, 71-72) had done it, and a month after this episode aired, Henry Blake would die in M*A*S*H.
Poor Manny, he had to die to get a backstory. He was 37 and married with children. Both of his parents were alive, as well as his brother Jesus, unknown number of sisters, and his niece.
END OF SPOILERS.
In “Street Games,” a waitress (Claudette Nevins) at a place Harry eats hires him to find her sixteen-year-old daughter (Maureen McCormick). Mom has reason to worry, as her daughter is a junkie and now on the run after witnessing the local dealer gun down her boyfriend. What follows is the expected twists and turns until we reach a happy ending.
Harry O’s first season offered a wide range of quality programs, from the comedy mystery of “Gertrude” to the nourish drama of “Eyewitness” to the character comedy of “Lester” to the emotional drama of “Elegy For A Cop.”
Yet it would be the relationship between PI Harry Orwell and Santa Monica cop Lieutenant Trench that elevated this series to one of television’s most fondly remember shows.
The ratings for the second half increased from the first half of the season. Harry O ending the season tied for 38th place (out of 70).
So next: Season Two.
NOTE: Thanks to Randy Cox for a copy of Television Chronicles #10 and the article by Ed Robertson.