Wed 6 Mar 2013
SEARCH. NBC, 1972-73; Leslie Stevens Productions in association with Warner Brothers. Creator and Executive Producer: Leslie Stevens. Cast: Hugh O’Brian as Hugh Lockwood, Burgess Meredith as V.C.R. Cameron.
Little changed from the pilot TV Movie PROBE, which I reviewed here earlier on this blog. Inspired by the success of NAME OF THE GAME (a series Leslie Stevens produced and Tony Franciosa co-starred), SEARCH featured three agents. This post is about Hugh Lockwood. Future posts will examine the worlds of Nick Bianco (Tony Franciosa) and C.R. Grover (Doug McClure). Head of Probe Control V.C.R. Cameron (Burgess Meredith) was the only character to appear in all 23 episodes.
Hugh O’Brian played Hugh Lockwood, Probe One, the top agent of World Securities Corporation. Lockwood was a TV James Bond, cool, witty, irresistible to all women, a former astronaut with a planetary size ego. Assisting Lockwood was Probe Control, a group of computer techs of various specialties monitoring the actions and needs of the field agent. This made Probe Control the ultimate legman.
Probe Control was and remains my favorite part of SEARCH. The technology and the humans that ran it made this series different from any other TV detective show at the time. Leslie Stevens (OUTER LIMITS, GEMINI MAN, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY) had created a good premise, the hero with technology as a sidekick.
V.C.R. Cameron was in charge of Probe Control and answered to the World Securities Corporation Board of Directors lead by Dr. Barnett (played by Ford Rainey or Keith Andes). We learn more about V.C.R (or V.C.) in an episode with Doug McClure so I will take a deeper look at the character during the post about the Grover episodes.
However, the Lockwood episodes offered Cameron’s sole contribution to comedy relief. Once Lockwood solved a case with the girl of the week he usually followed James Bond’s example and ran off to enjoy some quality time with her, while Cameron would frustratingly attempt to stop him.
70s TV was run by the star. Hugh O’Brian and others objected to the important role Probe Control played in the pilot TV Movie. So the role of advance technology was reduced and the potential of the characters that made up Probe Control was basically wasted, but imagine this series done today in the era of large casts such as CSI and NCIS.
The computer and the PI had been introduced before with CBS’ MANNIX and the audience rejected the machine. It was 1972. Roger Moore had not yet become James Bond, and there was still a fear that machines would replace man. So not surprisingly Lockwood began to drift away from gadget happy James Bond and closer to Mannix and the other TV detectives of the era.
Lockwood got knocked out almost as often as he got the girl. Usually, Probe Control would helplessly watch as Lockwood was unconscious and in serious danger. Yet, some such as Hugh O’Brian thought Probe Control made the hero too powerful. The discussion about SEARCH begins around the 7:23 mark.
Sadly, instead of increasing the power of the villains and giving the episodes the Bond villain it needed, it reduced the very part of the series that made it different, Probe Control.
Produced by Robert H. Justman. Probe Control Cast: (recurring) Ron Castro as Carlos, Ginny Golden as Keach, Byron Chung as Kuroda, Albert Popwell as Griffin, Amy Farrell as Murdock, Tony DeCosta as Ramos, and Cheryl Stoppelmoor (Cheryl Ladd) as Amy Love.
One note about the series titles, they appeared on screen as:
“The Murrow Disappearance” (9/13/72) Written by Leslie Stevens Directed by Russ Mayberry Guest Cast: Capucine, Maurice Evans and David White Recurring Cast: Ford Rainey as Dr. Barnett, Angel Tompkins as Gloria Harding. *** Probe is hired to find a missing government agent who has access to top secrets. Lockwood begins his search at a private club outside Washington DC where the missing man was a member.
I enjoyed the interaction between Lockwood and Probe Control. This episode was heavy with gadgets and batter between Lockwood and sidekick Probe Control.
What I remember most from the series was the relationship between Gloria Harding and macho Lockwood. Yet despite how memorable the character of Gloria Harding was, this and “The Gold Machine” were the only series episodes Angel Tompkins appeared.
“Moonrock” (10/4/72) Written by Leslie Stevens Directed by William Wiard Guest Cast: Jo Ann Pflug, Ann Prentis, and George Pan Recurring Cast: Ford Rainey as Dr. Barnett *** While under Probe’s protection, a moon rock is stolen. Not just any moon rock but one of pure carbon (raw diamond).
This episode with its over the top macguffin needed an equally over the top villain. Instead too much time was devoted to the chase and not enough time establishing the villain. The episode was worth watching just for the delightful stylish scenes where Lockwood charters a 747 with full crew so he and the gratuitous girl of the week can continue to chase the killer who now has the rock.
“The Bullet” (11/1/72) Written by Judy Burns Directed by William Wiard Guest Cast: Ina Balin, Malachi Throne and Alan Bergman *** Lockwood is sent in to help a scientist, who had invented a poison bullet, defect to our side.
The story makes for an above average spy drama until it all falls apart in the last act. Once Lockwood is shot with a poison bullet the action turns stupid, highlighted by a near death Lockwood making it through four miles of an Eastern Europe city with the state police chasing him, so he can get to the unguarded section of “The Wall.” MISSION IMPOSSIBLE fans laughed at the naive simplicity.
“The Adonis Files” (11/15/72) Written by Jack Turley Directed by Joseph Pevney Guest Cast: Bill Bixby, Deanna Lund Matheson, and Victoria George *** Private secretary to a famous celebrity is kidnapped for $5 million. A secretive private foundation that hopes to make the celebrity an US Senator hires Probe to act as go-between.
Average 70s action episode but with a better than average twist at the end.
“Flight To Nowhere” (11/22/72) Written by Brad Radnitz Directed by Paul Stanley Guest Cast: Linda Cristal, Anna Cameron, and Don Dubbins *** When a search for a missing cargo plane flown by an old friend of Lockwood fails to find the pilot, Lockwood demands Probe continue the search.
I called this the MANNIX episode. When Cameron refuses to take the case, Lockwood loses it and screams at Cameron that he is becoming like the machines. Our hero races off on his own to find his friend. For no reason, someone tries to kill him. Probe joins in but used sparely. As a viewer who likes the characters at Probe Control more than Lockwood, I found little to like about this episode other than Anna Cameron, who played the girl of the week.
“The Gold Machine” (12/20/73) Written by Leslie Stevens Directed by Russ Mayberry Guest Cast: Marian McCargo, Kurt Kasznar, and Mark Lenard Recurring Cast: Angel Tompkins as Gloria Harding *** Lockwood needs to find a lost gold mine. Gloria has managed to be in the right place at the right time to be Lockwood’s girl of the week.
The search for the gold mine is entertaining and more important than it sounds, but it was the relationship between Lockwood and Gloria that made this episode fun to watch. While Gloria is less than thrilled with the dangers of being around a field agent, she does enjoy the typical Lockwood’s romantic escape with the girl of the week after the case is solved.
“Suffer My Child” (3/8/73) Written by Norman Hudis. Directed by Russ Mayberry Guest Cast: Mel Ferrer, Dianne Hull, and Dabney Coleman *** A young daughter of one of Wall Street’s most powerful men is kidnapped.
This episode is a good action mystery with plenty of suspects to supply a twist or three. Probe Control and the computers are more heavily involved than usual. Lockwood’s dislike for computers is expressed more here, even after the computer saved his life, that ungrateful human.
After fifteen episodes were filmed, Leslie Stevens and Robert H. Justman (STAR TREK, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN) were replaced. Executive story consultant Anthony Spinner (DAN AUGUST, CANNON) took over as showrunner and producer. The change was visually noticeable. Since O’Brian did only one episode in the Spinner’s period, I’ll wait to examine these changes in my next post that will look at the Tony Franciosa episodes.
Produced by Anthony Spinner. Probe Control Cast: Tom Hallick as Harris and Pamela Jones as Miss James.
“Countdown To Panic” (2/7/73) Written by Judy Burns Directed by Jerry Jameson Guest Cast: Ed Nelson, Anne Francis, and Howard Duff. Recurring Cast: Keith Andes as Dr. Barnett *** A scientific experiment conducted by World Securities for the US Navy goes wrong. One of the victims with a fatal contagious virus escapes. Lockwood is assigned to find the man, an old friend from his days in the astronaut program.
The episode itself was entertaining for 70s action drama with an overused plot, but humorless and more like an episode from the Quinn Martin factory than the escapism fun of the Stevens’ episodes.
NEXT: SEARCH – The TONY FRANCIOSA Episodes.
Recommended reading: TV Obscurities: http://www.tvobscurities.com/articles/search
The Rap Sheet: http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2009/06/search-me.html
Warner Bros. Press Releases: http://probecontrol.artshost.com/publicity.html