GABRIEL’S FIRE “Pilot.” ABC, 12 September 1990. James Earl Jones, Laila Robins, Madge Sinclair. Director: Robert Lieberman. Currently available for viewing on YouTube here.

   Gabriel Bird is a former cop who has spent the last twenty years in prison. The details remain fuzzy in this first episode, but it seems as though he killed a fellow officer during a botched raid. When his best friend in prison is killed, Victoria Heller, that friend’s lawyer (Laila Robins), comes calling on him for help, but he refuses.

   Ms Heller, a do-gooder who insists on doing good, manages to get him out of prison, which alienates him even more. It takes a while to persuade the cranky old man to help her solve the case, but he does and even more, by the end of the show, ends up agreeing to become her chief investigator, but only, he warns, “one case at a time.”

   Critics loved the show (well, liked it a lot) but audiences didn’t. It lasted one season (22 episodes) and resurfaced the next year under a new name, Pros and Cons, and lasted 13 more episodes before being cancelled at mid-season.

   Speaking personally, but who better, I found this, the pilot, not particularly easy to like. It’s burdened with a premise that’s confusing (why does this guy want to stay in jail, anyway), and the story line too dark. I have read that in the second season they tried to lighten things up, but there’s no way to independently verify that. Only this, the pilot of the first season seems to exist, and no one seems ready to pick up the rest of the series for streaming or release on DVD.