Mon 10 Jun 2013
SHANNON. Syndicated, 1961-62. Columbia Pictures–Screen Gems Productions. Cast: George Nader as Joe Shannon, Regis Toomey as Bill Cochran. Music by Arthur Morton. Created by John Hawkins. Executive Producer: Robert Sparks. Producer: Jerry Briskin. Directed by Fred Jackman.
Joe Shannon worked as an insurance investigator for Transport Bonding & Surety Company. TB&S main office was in Denver Colorado with a branch office in Los Angeles. While TB&S was owned and run by Bill Cochran, he did have to answer to stockholders. Shannon worked out of the Denver office and received his assignments directly from Bill.
What set Shannon apart from your average syndicated PI was his car, a 1961 Buick Special with enough gadgets to please James Bond (though Bond would have be disappointed by the lack of lethal weapons/gadgets). The car’s most used features were a telephone that allowed Shannon to give exposition to his boss Bill who was at another location, and a microphone and tape recorder that popped out of the dashboard. There was also a camera mounted near the driver’s outside rear view mirror, and a film camera that with a touch of a button mechanically rose from the front middle seat.
Shannon’s toys did not stop at just the car. He also carried a small tape recorder with him to preserve anything important a suspect or witness might tell him.
Shannon was the typical first run TV Film syndicated half hour series. It suffered from poor production values, weak acting especially from the guest cast, scripts and direction flawed by a lack of production time and budget. There was no time to develop the characters to where we cared about them, and no time to develop any mystery or drama. But Shannon did have something that could have made it memorable, the car.
This was the early 60s, a PI’s car was as important as a cowboy’s horse. Joe Shannon’s car was special and all the characters should have reacted to it with amazement and curiosity. Yet everyone behaved around the gadget filled car with indifference as if every one had a car with a tape recorder that pops out of the dashboard. Due to a lack of time in these thirty-minute dramas I expect the hero to be one dimensional, but if your series has a gimmick like Shannon’s car you need to highlight it, not virtually ignore it.
EPISODE INDEX —
(Of the four episodes I have seen, there were no on screen episode titles. The titles used here came from IMdb.com and TVTango.com. The two sites had the same titles but listed the episodes in different order.)
“Zendee Report.” Written by John Hawkins. Guest Cast: Kathie Browne, Jan Arvan, and Joseph Rome. *** Zendee Truck company was having problems with hijackers. Shannon follows one trucker on a delivery run, but he was unable to stop two men from killing the driver. Shannon searched for an answer to the trucker’s little girl who asked, “Mister Shannon…Why did my daddy get shot?”
“Lady on the Rocks.” Written by Paul Schneider. Guest Cast: Leonard Stone, George Murdock and Walter Kinsella. *** Every one but Shannon believed the Captain wreaked his own ship so he could collect on the insurance.
“Professional Widower.” Teleplay by Todhunter Ballard. Story by Seymour Friedman Guest Cast: Walter Brooke, Elsie Baker and Henry Hunter. *** A con man marries lonely old ladies then kills them makes a mistake when he uses a teapot insured by TB&S as a murder weapon on his latest victim.
“Deadly Homecoming.” Written by Joseph Vogel and Lou Lantz. Guest Cast: James Griffith, Brenda Scott and Stephen Roberts. *** A truck covered by TB&S strikes a pedestrian, leading Shannon to play matchmaker for a great jazz musician just out of prison and his young daughter who refuses to see him.
In 1961 first run syndication was dying. June 2, 1961 Screen Gems announced the availability of Shannon for the fall. In Broadcasting, June 5, 1961, a spokesperson for the company claimed it had more first-run programs “waiting in the wings,” when and if there was a market.
However, Screen Gems had found more success with the networks than first run syndication. At this time Screen Gems was a major TV producer for network television. In Broadcasting (August 13, 1962) an article focused on what it called TV’s major studios, six studios that produced 40% of prime-time entertainment programs (Screen Gems, Revue, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, MGM, and Four Star Television). Screen Gems had nine series on the networks primetime schedules for the fall 1962 season.
Shannon was an average half hour TV Film syndicated series. Perhaps the other episodes (of the thirty-six total episodes) were better. Perhaps those written by Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) were magical. Perhaps those episodes paid the proper attention to the real star and attraction of the series, the 1961 Buick Special with all the gadgets inside. But based on what I watched, I doubt it.