Sun 14 Apr 2013
PARIS 7000. ABC, 1970; Universal Television. Created by Richard J. Michaels and Gene L. Coon. Executive Producer: Richard Caffey. Cast: George Hamilton as Jack Brennan and Jacques Aubuchon as Lt. Jules Maurois. Theme by Michel Colombier.
The story of PARIS 7000 began with Lana Turner and Harold Robbins. In September 1969 ABC premiered a PEYTON PLACE wannabe called THE SURVIVORS on Monday at 9pm. Based on an idea by Harold Robbins and starring Lana Turner, Kevin McCartney and George Hamilton, the series had a budget of $250,000 episode. ABC had given Universal TV a commitment for 26 episodes.
The series was a failure on every level. After its premiere the ratings were bad. The reviews were negative. There were production problems including personality clashes with star Lana Turner that reportedly got three producers fired.
The November 10, 1969 issue of “Broadcasting” reported ABC’s midseason plans. THE SURVIVORS would move to Thursday at 10pm.
A week later “Broadcasting” added, “ABC, committed to full season of THE SURVIVORS from Universal TV despite weak ratings and disastrous reviews, is expected to announce drastic change in format for series starting at midseason. Reportedly key ingredient to be held over would be series co-star George Hamilton. Lana Turner and Kevin McCarthy will be dropped.”
On December 8, 1969, “Broadcasting” reported that the producers and Hamilton would move from THE SURVIVORS to a completely new program.
That new program was PARIS 7000. George Hamilton played Jack Brennan, a diplomat working at the American embassy in Paris. Any American in trouble would call the embassy’s phone number Paris 7000 and Brennan would come to their aid. The series was called an action drama but the episode I have seen (“Call Me Ellen”) was a mystery sadly burdened by its soap opera melodrama beginnings.
PARIS 7000 first aired January 22, 1970 on ABC opposite CBS THURSDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES and NBC’s DEAN MARTIN SHOW. Ratings were better than its parent THE SURVIVORS, but the show was cancelled at the end of the season.
“Call Me Ellen” was the tenth episode and was a return to an earlier episode, “Call Me Lee” (episode three that aired February 5, 1970).
TV Guide‘s Cleveland Amory review of PARIS 7000 mentioned the episode “Call Me Lee”:
The original episode had Jack fall in love with Leona (Lee), a blonde stewardess played by Barbara Anderson. Leona would die and her role in a smuggling ring would be revealed. Brennan would identify her body.
Seven episodes later and the series final episode, “Call Me Ellen” would feature a surprising twist to Leona’s story. Considering the series soap opera past I wonder if Jack’s mourning over the death of Leona had been a running subplot. Even if not this was a creative twist on the BONANZA curse, the death of a female love interest of the week so the regular character could continue to fall in love in future episodes.
“Call Me Ellen.” March 26,1970. Written by Richard Bluel; directed by Jeannot Szwarc. Produced by Harry Tatelman. Guest Cast: Barbara Anderson, Paul Henreid and Brenda Benet. *** While making his monthly visit to San Remo and the grave of the woman he still loves, Jack sees her double getting into a taxi.
Despite Jack seeing the brunette version of blonde Leona leaving a graveyard, Barbara Anderson looked too good to be a zombie, so who was she?
The acting makes one think of zombies, and to push the edge of bad acting even further there were endless flashbacks and characters silently staring off to nowhere as they were supposedly lost in memories and/or deep in thought.
But the most unforgivable flaw of PARIS 7000 was the over the top melodrama left over from its THE SURVIVORS roots. Jack stared at Leona’s headstone silently lost in his memories and/or deep in thought, a huge Christian cross loomed behind him, as we listened to Barbara Anderson voice over, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my Jack to keep. If I should die before I wake. Remember me. Remember me.”
Jack confronted the brunette who says she knows nothing about Leona. Her name was Ellen. She ran a local hotel and was a single mother of a young handicapped boy who after many expensive operations would soon be able to walk. Jack, who still hadn’t accepted Leona’s death, now had his hopes or confusion rise (it was hard to tell which). He checked into the hotel and began to seduce the beautiful widow and mom.
Meanwhile, a bad guy, who had been following Jack all the way from Paris, called his Boss and told him that Jack had found her. The Boss tells his henchman to kill the woman.
Who this woman was and what her secrets were would have made an interesting TV mystery, but the flawed script made it difficult to tell the difference between a clue (the son) and a plot hole (why was she at the graveyard). In addition, the melodrama of the romance overwhelmed the story in typical bad TV fashion. Jack and Ellen fell in love. She became upset because he was in love with Leona not her, Ellen. But of course she couldn’t resist the romantic powers of George Hamilton and sacrificed it all for him in the end.
PARIS 7000 never had much of a chance of surviving. Most likely it was considered the simplest alternative to fill the twenty-six episodes order of THE SURVIVORS (which lasted fifteen episodes). The lack of time to develop a series remains a common cause of bad TV. This May next fall’s TV series will be announced, that gives the producers around four months (plus the time spent on the pilot) to find out what works and what doesn’t. There was less than two months from when ABC’s decided not to change THE SURVIVORS but to instead create a new series with new characters and when the first episode PARIS 7000 aired. It is a wonder this wasn’t worse.
If the series had toned down the soap opera melodrama a notch to romantic suspense this series might have been watchable. But considering its past, the results are understandable.