THE SNOOP SISTERS: “THE FEMALE INSTINCT.” NBC. Pilot for TV series, 18 December 1972. Two hours. Helen Hayes (Ernesta Snoop), Mildred Natwick (Gwendolyn Snoop Nicholson), Paulette Godddard, Jill Clayburgh, Lawrence Pressman, Bill Dana, Kurt Kazner, Edward Platt, Craig Stevens, Fritz Weaver, Art Carney. Teleplay: Leonard Stern & Hugh Wheeler, based on a story by Leonard Stern, who also directed.

   The series that followed this pilot episode began a year and day later, but as part of NBC’s Wednesday Mystery Movie, there were only four additional 90-minute episodes that ever aired. Other segments in the monthly rotation were Banacek, Tenafly, and Faraday and Company. Of these, the only one I remember watching on a regular basis was Banacek, which is also, I’m sure – without looking it up – the one that lasted the longest.


   The entire season of The Snoop Sisters has been released on DVD, but this is the only one I’ve watched, so far. As a mystery, it is not very successful, but it was intended to be as much of a comedy as it was a detective series, and even at that, the pilot, at least, was not as funny as I think was intended. Amusing, yes, and enjoyable, but not out-and-out funny.

   One thing I did not know before watching is that the Snoop Sisters were actually named Snoop, although Gwendolyn was widowed. The premise is that they are elderly and less than conventional in their approach to life, but still very sharp and far from dotty. Ernesta, as it happens, is a writer of detective novels, while her sister transcribes them and types them out.

   Their nephew (Lawrence Pressman) is a lieutenant on the police force, which enables them to interfere (the right word, I think) in his cases. To keep them out of trouble (good luck with that) Lt. Ostrowski has assigned an ex-policeman named Barney (Art Carney) to chauffeur them around in an ancient Lincoln touring car.


   You may have noticed Paulette Goddard’s name in the credits. This is the last time she ever appeared in either the movies or on TV. It’s a short role, unfortunately. She plays an old time movie actress who’s in the process of writing her memoirs, and “hot” is the understatement of the year if you had to describe them in only one word. And “dead” is the word that comes next, as there are any number of people who would do anything to keep the book from being published.

   You may have also noticed Jill Clayburgh’s name in the credits. She was very young when she made this movie but also very beautiful, and you can tell from every moment she’s on the screen that she was going to be a star. (Hindsight, of course, is valuable, too, but I will stand on the previous statement as being 100% correct.)

   The problem with so many suspects is that the writers of the screenplay (one of the them being half of the “Patrick Quentin” pen name) had a very easy task of it. Pick one out of a hat, and he’s it. There is a long scene in which explanations are made, but with it taking place with the two Snoop sisters in the back of their car during a long chase after the killer across one of New York City’s many bridges, it is very difficult to make out many of the details.

   One nice touch is the use of some footage from The Ghost Breakers (1940), and one of the props in that film, to help solve the case. Paulette Goddard was a knockout then, but she still had a fine stage presence in this, her last appearance, as well, at the age of 62. It was good to see her again, one last time.