Reviewed by David Vineyard:
Two Annoying TV Detectives at Work


THE CASE OF THE THE DANGEROUS ROBIN.  “Zippered Notebook.” Syndicated, Ziv Productions. 20 December 1960 (Season 1, Episode 10).  Rick Jason, (Robin Scott), Jean Blake. Guest Cast: Susan Cummings, Walter Klemperer. Directed by James Goldstone.

THE CHEVY MYSTERY SHOW. “Enough Rope.”  NBC, 31 July 1960 (Season 1, Episode 10).  Host: Walter Slezak. Cast: Richard Carlson, Joan O’Brian, Bert Freed. Teleplay:  William Link and Richard Levinson. Director: Don Richardson.

   Following the success of Richard Diamond and Peter Gunn a number of cool detectives tried their wares on the small screen, a few interesting like Johnny Staccato and most missing the boat all around like The Case of the Dangerous Robin (that title is moronic).

   The dangerous Robin is international insurance investigator Robin Scott (Rick Jason), a slick buttoned-down sleuth with a regular girl friend (unlike Lola Albright she can’t sing and the byplay is about as sexy as spending Saturday night home with your family).

   Seems Robin’s girl plans to cook him a nice meal, but he has been called out of town, to Belgium, where scientific notebooks his company insures have been stolen from a scientist working for Werner Klemperer and trying to evade his bosses man-eating wife.

   We get a few stock shots of Antwerp, but the footage Jason is in is strictly Southern California architecture and fauna. They do throw a few foreign cars in though and a couple of accents and a phony name on a hotel front.

   Jason, who did his best work as a regular on Combat, is flat here, delivering his lines in what I am sure everyone thought was Craig Stevens Peter Gunn style cool, but which seems almost zombie like even when Robin is being shot at. (I was rooting for the assassin by this point.)

   You know you are in trouble when you wish it was Ray Danton starring instead.

   Nice score by David Rose, but that and the titles are the only highlights.

   It looks, sounds, and feels like amateur night at the dinner theater.

   Robin’s technique is unique though. He just accuses everyone and annoys them until someone confesses. Which will bring us shortly to our next annoying sleuth.

   “Enough Rope” appeared on The Chevy Mystery Show, hosted by Walter Slezak, and appears to have been done live on film, meaning it is pretty set bound and there is little sign of second takes, but it doesn’t quite have the same cachet as real live television. It’s done in color too, which also takes away from the effect.

   You will quickly recognize “Enough Rope” as “Prescription Murder,” the pilot film for Columbo with Gene Barry a psychologist who commits the perfect murder, only to find it investigated by Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo, the greatest annoying sleuth of all time.

   Here Richard Carlson is Dr. Ryan Fleming who murders his wife with the help of his secretary mistress (Joan O’Brian mostly semi comatose) and Columbo is veteran character actor Bert Freed. Freed was always good, and often played frustrated cops (The Gazebo), but smart as his take on Columbo proves he is just another cop despite delivering some of the exact same dialogue that will shine in the hands of Peter Falk.

   “Enough Rope” wasn’t brand new even then. It was originally written as a vehicle for Bing Crosby (likely inspired by his laid back private detective in Top O’ the Morning), but played on stage by Thomas Mitchell. I’m not even sure this was its first outing on television as it showed up later as a black and white episode of another anthology with Lou Jacobi as Columbo.

   It’s hard to keep a good plot down, but until the magic of Peter Falk it pretty much managed to fail in every medium it appeared in.

   For now these are available on YouTube if you want to see them. I can’t really say much for the Jason entry other than it is only twenty five minutes long and quickly over.

   “Rope”, despite the flaws of the format, is fairly good. Carlson was a capable actor, and like Gene Barry able to be sympathetic, arrogant, and evil all in the same take. Freed is pretty much himself as he was in most roles, but like good character actors that is what you want from them.

   Once in a while in the episode, the plot crammed into fifty minutes, you get a little glimpse of Columbo, though you can’t help but see and hear Falk while watching, missing the cadences and quirks of his performance that made the character into what it became.

   Unlike other Columbo episodes how he traps the killer in this one might even hold up in court if the defense wasn’t very good.

   There is no real tie to these two save they are old television programs and I watched them the same day and thought it unusual both featured such annoying detective characters, both of whose success was blatantly based as much on their ability to annoy suspects as detect crime.

   And to think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Thorndyke wasted all that time on science and detection when they could just have accused everyone until someone breaks and tries to kill them.