REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


GAVILAN. NBC/Mandy Films Inc in association with MGM Television. October 26 1982 – December 28, 1982, and March 18, 1983. Cast: Robert Urich as Robert Gavilan, Patrick Macnee as Milo Bentley and Kate Reid as Marion Jaworski. Created by Tom Mankiewicz – Executive Producer:Leonard Goldberg.

   Only ten of the thirteen episodes of GAVILAN aired. The series was a ratings failure from the beginning, finishing last in its Tuesday night timeslot against the CBS Tuesday Movie and ABC’s hits THREE’S COMPANY and 9 TO 5. NBC aired one episode on Friday opposite ABC’s TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY and CBS’s DALLAS where it finished last in that timeslot.

   YouTube has two episodes available for view. Watch the linked episodes below quick, while I was writing this a third episode “By the Sword” was pulled off YouTube. These episodes are from the syndicated (edited for time) version aired on TNT.

   The series featured Robert Urich as Gavilan, an ex-spy now consultant for the Dewitt Institute of Oceanography. Stories usually featured Gavilan working with a gorgeous brilliant woman who was working with the Institute on some project or a beautiful female spy pulling him back into life working for “the Company.”

   The series had its good moments, but it also had many of the flaws of 1980’s television. The plots were better than average but had to really stretch to connect to the Institute. In “By the Sword” the brilliant beautiful woman was a scientist working on a project to study the krill as a food source, but the plot was about an ancient samurai sword she stole from the Yakuza to regain her family honor.

   The stories were entertaining but mindless, predictable and too willing to sacrifice story and character for a joke or twist. In “By the Sword” the female scientist is trained in the martial art and had done something her entire family had not done in over a hundred years, got her family’s ancient honored Japanese sword back from the Yakuza. So in the final confrontation for the sword it is Gavilan – as she watched – who sword fights to the death for the sword and her family honor. Of course Gavilan out duels the unbeatable Master Samurai.

   The series has the sexist outlook that was mainstream thinking in the 80s. Much like Indiana Jones, Gavilan taught a college-level class, and like Indiana many of Gavilan’s students were gorgeous young women with a crush on him.

   There were equal amounts of eye candy – female, male and location. The brilliant independent female beauties would wear string bikinis and revealing gowns while Urich had skintight swim trunks and showed off his bare chest.

   GAVILAN stories didn’t lock him into the overused beachfront scenery of his home in Malibu but would travel the world to exotic locales. Yet while Gavilan might have traveled the world, the filming never convinced us he left Los Angeles or the MGM lot.

   Robert Urich is best known as Dan Tanna (VEGA$) or Spenser (SPENSER FOR HIRE), but he could hold the record as star for the most TV series failures. This fifteen-minute video strings together the theme opening to each of his twelve starring TV series.

   As usual Urich played the bland likable predictable hero, a character without much depth and a few quirks that came and went depending on the episode. In episode “By the Sword” machines hated him. Gavilan would argue, beg, and plead with machines such as his computer and jeep, and they would respond by breaking down when he needed them most (the computer he programmed called him a dummy) and returned to working when the problem passed. Gavilan’s conflict with machines was not mention in either of the other two episodes I have seen.


PIRATES. (11/9/82) Teleplay by Mark Frost.Story by Nicholas Corea.Directed by Clifford Bole. Supervising Produced by David Levinson. Produced by John Cutts. GUEST CAST: Michael Billington, Heather Menzies and Paul Koslo. *** A young naïve beautiful scientist hires the Institute to help her find the long lost treasure of the ship King Midas. A ruthless pirate and his crew learn of their mission and take over.

   Ah, 1980s action TV. The beautiful female scientist (played by Urich’s wife Heather Menzies) has spent years researching the history of the ship King Midas and its treasure of gold. She has a new theory of where the gold may be and she is paying the Institute to help her in her search. Gavilan is there for the Institute and has a “hunch” the gold is elsewhere on the ship. They argue cute. They hate each other cute. Guess how they feel about each other at the end.

   One quick dive and they find the gold where Gavilan’s hunch said it would be. Soon after, the pirates arrive. The highly educated bookworm is wearing a string bikini and yells at the pirates:

   “You can’t do this to us, we’re scientists.”

   The pirate leader responds, “Oh yes we can, we’re pirates,” and he blows up the living area and all the treasure hunting equipment. It didn’t make sense but it made a great break to commercial.

   The story continues exactly as expected. Characters do as the plot demands, things blow up, and there is a chase. The chase is especially 80s.

   Gavilan only has a knife while the bad guys all have guns, but when Gavilan defeats any of them, does he grab their gun? Of course not, Gavilan is outnumbered and all he has is a knife, why would he want their guns?


DESTINATION HERO. (12/14/82) Written and Supervising Produced by Nicholas Corea – Directed by Charles Picerni -Produced by Stephen P. Caldwell – CAST: Michael Ansara, Laura Johnson, and Paul Picerni*** A gorgeous female spy from his past convinces Gavilan to get back in the spy business when his best friend from the spy days – the one who had saved Gavilan’s life – is about to be executed in a Turkish prison.

   The corrupt government official, who belonged in an episode of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, was wasted here as the majority of time featured Gavilan outsmarting the bad guy’s idiot lackeys.

   The beautiful sexy female spy, who Gavilan does not like, wears sexy clothes and can’t make up her mind if she is a femme fatale or on the side of good.

   The script was weak. Just by chance Gavilan bumps into some lovable Greek terrorists and makes the comic relief characters an important part of the plan.

   There was a great twist near the end of the episode that was wasted. It should have ended the third act, with the final act dealing with the fallout and reasons for the twist.

   The direction was also flawed with several reaction shots that made no sense in the situation or with the character.


   Former James Bond writer Tom Mankiewicz (LIVE AND LET DIE) created the series. He and executive producer Leonard Goldberg had recently had success with HART TO HART.

   Reportedly Fernando Lamas was to play the part Patrick Macnee would take over after Lamas death. Milo was a family friend, conman and visitor that would never leave. Milo like any sidekick tried to help but usually got in the way. Macnee played Milo as a well-meaning loyal friend who was also a bumbling conman loser.

   Kate Reid was burdened with the part of Gavilan’s boss. There wasn’t much for her to do beyond remind the audience Gavilan was brilliant, was not a PI, and had a real job when he wasn’t dropping everything to go off on some adventure.

   GAVILAN never stood a chance opposite ABC hit series THREE’S COMPANY on Tuesday or CBS hit series DALLAS on Friday. There was nothing special or original about the series. There are moments that make you think of Magnum P.I. and every other TV action hero of the late 20thcentury, but that was not necessarily a bad thing for GAVILAN. There is a nostalgic charm to GAVILAN. It was supposed to be mindless fun, and for that it succeed more than it failed, but GAVILAN also lacked the substance and originality for it to be missed.