Friday, February 6.

NERO WOLFE. “Wolfe at the Door.” NBC, 60m. Season 1, Episode 4. Cast: William Conrad as Nero Wolfe, Lee Horsley as Archie Goodwin, George Voskovec as Fritz Brenner, Robert Coote as Theodore Horstmann, George Wyner as Saul Panzer, Allan Miller as Inspector Cramer. Guest Cast: Richard Schaal, Mary Frann, Eugene Peterson. Based on characters created by Rex Stout. Teleplay: Lee Sheldon. Director: Herbert Hirschman.

   I’m a little surprised to find myself saying this, but the people chosen to play Rex Stout’s famous characters are starting to grow on me, miscast as much as some of them are. Archie is too young, Wolfe too short, Panzer too silly-looking, and Cramer??

   But Archie has the smirks, Wolfe has the orchids and the yellow pajamas, Panzer is not the wimp he was in the first episode, and Cramer???

   Obviously the show will never appeal to Wolfian purists, nor to those who have never heard of Nero Wolfe, but — there is a lot of middle ground in between, and maybe, just maybe, the show will catch on.

   Last week I thought the third episode [“Before I Die”] had been the best, the most enjoyable so far, and after tonight, I have no reason to change my mind. I don’t recall the story, entitled “Wolfe at the Door,” as being one of Stout’s, but then, I’m not the expert in the crowd [I was right. It wasn’t.]

   It seems that both Archie and Wolfe are being impersonated in order to fool some prospective clients, the purpose being to obtain possession of a certain green lacquer box. Right now I don’t think that any of the rest of the plot made any sense, but it did make for good television, if that makes any sense. (All right, I’ll explain. Don’t ask questions, turn your mind off, and sit back and relax.)

[UPDATE]   There were only 14 episodes in the run, the last being shown on June 2, 1981. About half of them were based on Rex Stout’s novels and short stories. The series is available on DVD. Released as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe: The Complete Series, it includes all 14 episodes and the 1977 pilot starring Thayer David.