HARRY O — Season 2, Part 1.

HARRY O. ABC / Warner Brothers. Season 2, Part 1. Fall 1975, Thursday at 10-11pm. Created by Howard Rodman. Cast: David Janssen as Harry Orwell, Anthony Zerbe as Lieutenant K.C. Trench, Paul Tulley as Sergeant Roberts. Recurring Cast: Farrah Fawcett-Majors as Sue Ingham, Bill Henderson as Spencer Johnson, Les Lannom as Lester Hodges, Margaret Avery as Ruby Dome (aka Ruby Lawrence), Barbara Leigh as Gina, Richard Stahl as Pathologist Dr. Samuelson, Susan Adams as Police lab tech Jean Parnell. Executive Producer: Jerry Thorpe. Producers: Robert Dozier and Alex Beaton.

   From the beginning what made Harry O special was David Janssen and how the series used his talents to explore both the dark and comedic side of his character. Howard Rodman’s dark social noirish stories from the first half of Season One had been replaced with the more typical TV melodrama. Happily, the second season continued to take advantage of the special chemistry between Janssen and Anthony Zerbe and the relationship between Harry and Police Lieutenant Trench.

“Anatomy of a Frame.” (9/11/75): Trench is framed for the murder of one of his informants. One of the best episodes of the series, it showed how important great characters and chemistry between the actors is to any TV series.

   The episode has a wonderful scene where Trench comes to Harry for help. We learn Trench is married with two young children, one boy and one girl. We enjoy watching Trench open up and reveal more about himself such as his shared interest in Harry’s unfinished boat “The Answer.” The boat was meant to be an allegory for Harry’s endless search for answers in life. The two men may have opposite views of how to work and live, but they shared the same purpose and dreams.

“One for the Road.” (9/18/75): A brilliant lawyer (Carol Rossen), who denies a drinking problem, hires Harry to find out if she was behind the wheel of a car in a hit and run accident. This episode as a weak melodrama saved by a decent mystery.

“Lester Two.” (9/25/75) features the return of Harry’s biggest fan Lester Hodges. An international jewel thief (Clifford David) hides some stolen diamonds in a bottle of cologne that the unknowing Sue brings back from Paris for Harry. It is Sue’s birthday and all she wants is some quiet time with Harry, but those plans change with the arrival of the thief who wants his diamonds (that are not in the bottle).

   The series had a fondness for having odd scenes dropped in for comic relief. In this episode, we have a scene where Trench introduces Harry to Professor Kroner (Paul Harper) a mad scientist working for the police department creating gadgets James Bond’s Q would admire. The story is full of flaws from the actions of the thief to Lester at his most annoying, but Janssen as Harry makes the episode watchable.

“Shades.” (10/2/75): Harry is hired by a rich woman (Anjanette Comer) to clear her maid (Maidie Norman) of murder. Set against the backdrop of racial prejudices of the time, Harry unites with the local bookie, Cleon (Lou Gossett) who has his own reasons for finding the true killer.

   A good episode made better by Lou Gossett and a strong mystery. One fun scene features Harry’s mechanic Spence escorting Harry through the “black” section of town.

   Trivia: Harry was born in Philadephia. After the Korean War, he looked around and found he liked San Diego. And while Harry can run with no problems, the bullet is still in his back.

“Reflections.” (10/9/75): Harry’s ex-police partner in San Diego, now a Los Angeles PI is found dead. Harry discovers the man’s client is Harry’s ex-wife Elizabeth (Felicia Farr) who is being blackmailed.

   A welcome look at Harry’s past, weakened by the lack of logic in the bad guy’s actions and Harry’s car. In the beginning the car was a symbol of Harry’s beach bum lifestyle, then it became a comedic device. But here the car breaks down and lets the killer escape. Why does Harry continue to use the car when his and others lives are on the line? And after this, how can we still find Harry’s choice in transportation funny?

“The Acolyte.” (10/16/75) Harry is hired to find a woman (Kristina Holland) who will soon inherit her family’s fortune. He finds her taken in by a religious cult. She is convinced the cult is protecting her from being charged with murder.

   The episode had a nice subplot about old movie actors, but it was wasted in this predictable mystery with some of the worse acting by guest stars in the series.

“Mayday.” (10/23/75) A Senator (Geoffrey Lewis) is nearly killed when his private plane crashes. Harry gets involved because the plane’s pilot, who died in the crash, was a buddy from his time in Korea. When the dead pilot’s wife (Maggie Blye) returns from the funeral to find her home trashed, Harry suspects the crash may not have been an accident.

   Highlights of the episode include the choice of murder weapon and the scenes between Harry and Trench. Harry’s love life has a setback as he spends time protecting his female client rather than with his girlfriend, DMV contact and neighbor Gina. Gina is less forgiving than Sue.

“Tender Killing Care.” (10/30/75): Spence asks Harry for help as his father (Jester Hairston) had escaped from a senior care center and broke into a small convenience store. Meanwhile, Sue asks Harry to find the missing father of three Korean children.

   Cheap melodrama at its worst. You have a white doctor (Kenneth Mars) with a thick Southern accent mistreating seniors such as Spencer’s father (who is black). Meanwhile, the story of the missing daddy was a pointless waste of time. Then we have an important part of Harry’s character (he has no family except his friends) ignored for a condescending ending.

“APB Harry Orwell.” (11/6/75) Its Harry’s turn to be framed for murder. Trench is forced to balance his sense of duty as a policeman with his friendship to Harry. Harry escapes from jail, an innocent man on the run for a murder he did not commit. This time we know the one-armed man didn’t do it.

   Harry is fun to watch again. This is the episode that won Anthony Zerbe the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor. The humor is typical for the series, such as the reason Harry gives Trench to why he is innocent, “As an ex-cop charged with murder is bad enough, but to leave clues as big as billboards is down right embarrassing.”

“Group Terror.” (11/13/75) Lady psychiatrist (Joanna Pettet) thinks one of her group therapy patients killed another member of the group. Trench is pleased to learn Harry has joined the group (he goes undercover). Harry’s love life gets some attention as he beds the client.

   A weak attempt at a locked room murder, as the only way the killer could have gotten out is through a small window in a third floor apartment. As with too many of this season’s episodes, the story fails to take us anywhere unexpected. Fortunately, because of Harry and Trench (with Roberts), we enjoy the ride.

“Portrait of a Murder.” (11/20/75) Harry is hired by the parents (Lou Frizzell and Katherine Helmond) of a mentally challenged 19-year old boy (Adam Arkin) to find out where the boy had snuck out to the night before. Harry makes friends with the boy who becomes a suspect in the murders of three young women.

   This episode handles the issue of the mentally challenged with sensitivity, though some of the language and attitudes are dated.

“Exercise in Fatality.” (12/4/75) Hotheaded cop (Ralph Meeker) hires Harry to find his runaway teenaged daughter (Nora Heflin) who is also a pregnant junkie. Before Harry finds her, his client is framed for the murder of the daughter’s boyfriend. The daughter believes her father did it but had seen the two real killers leave the scene of the crime. Harry tries to find the girl before the real killers can. Meanwhile, an ex-lover of Harry shows up and asks to stay while she hides from her mobster boyfriend.

   Two separate plots for one episode was rarely used in the series and never worked. None of the characters were developed enough for us to care about them and the use of the pregnant junkies is too over the top melodramatic. But watch Janssen, he makes you care about what happens to Harry.

“The Madonna Legacy.” (12/11/75) An eight-year old murder is the key to the death of an alcoholic ex-cop turn PI, and friend of Harry. Harry is driven by guilt as he realizes he was the last of four people the PI tried to call before he was killed. The names of the other three are from the same family, each is in danger from someone who wants them dead. This episode was the best mystery of the season so far.

   ABC made major changes in its midseason schedule with seven new shows, six cancelled and three moved. Harry O would remain behind the successful Streets of San Francisco on ABC’s Thursday night schedule. But CBS and NBC changed its Thursday schedules with CBS dropping CBS Thursday Night Movies for Hawaii Five-O followed by Barnaby Jones, and NBC moving Ellery Queen and dropping Medical Story for NBC Thursday Night Movie. The year 1976 would bring major changes to the TV network world, changes that would not be good for Harry O.


NEXT: HARRY O: Season 2, Part 2 (Midseason, 1976).