[Part 1 of a series]
We’ve decided to do a series on T.V’s gumshoes, first up, five of our favorite 1970’s private eyes.
From a milk swilling geriatric P.I. who spirits crime scene evidence back to his office lab, to a rumpled, Peugeot driving, cigar chomping Lt. who befuddles his suspects into confessing, a wise ass beach bum who hates carrying a gun, a guy tough enough to withstand 17 gunshot wounds, and a smooth talking lollipop licking operator with a shiny dome, these were the guys we loved to watch solve T.V. crime.
The Rockford Files debuted in 1974 and lasted five seasons. Produced by Roy Huggins and written by Stephen J. Cannell, Rockford’s character lived in a trailer by the beach, preferred to B.S. his way out of a tight spot rather than fight and rarely carried a gun.
(When one surprised client asked why, Rockford replied, “Because I don’t want to shoot anybody.”)
According to Museum TV, Cannell decided to make Rockford, the “Jack Benny of private eyes”.
Rockford’s character served time in 1960’s for a wrongful conviction of armed robbery then received a pardon. His trailer house, which was on a parking lot near a Malibu beach, doubled as his office. He kept his gun, which he didn’t have a permit, in a cookie jar. He might of lived in a dilapidated trailer but he drove the requisite fast car, a Pontiac Trans-Am. Source – Wiki
Mannix premiered in 1967. Mike Connors played an Armenian detective who was knocked unconscious 55 times and suffered 17 gunshot wounds during the show’s eight seasons.
The first season had Mannix working for a “secretive” computer company called Intertech who had a computer called Intertech that doled out Mannix’s assignments. This confusing concept was dumped after the first season when Mannix was allowed to become a “standard” private eye.
Peggy Fair, played by Gail Fisher, was his black secretary. Peggy’s husband was a cop killed in the line of duty and her character was frequently kidnapped. Source – Wiki
Mannix drove “cool” cars.
A 1968 Toronado especially customized by George Barris for the popular TV series of the sixties. The back seat was removed and the extra space, covered with a leather tonneau, was used as a storage area for crime fighting gadgets. The armrest between the two front seats held a gun, a short-wave radio and a telephone. Source – Telus.net
The lollipop was introduced into the series after several years of Kojak’s character puffing on cigarettes. Bowing down to the television industries’ political correctness against smoking, Kojak’s character switched from cigarettes to lollipops to appease the Smoke Nazis.
Kevin Dobson, who went on to star in the soap series, Knots Landing, played Det. Bobby Cracker. Savalas’ brother played Det. Stravos.
Future stars who had guest stints on Kojak included Richard Gere, John Ritter, Lynn Redgrave, and James Woods. Source – Wiki
It was Savalas’ smooth style and demeanor, cynical wit and a tendency to bend the rules that enamored viewers.
Savalas died in 1994 but his “Who loves ya, baby” lives on.
The series Columbo, starring Peter Falk as the overly-polite, slow-witted shabbily dressed detective, Lt. Columbo, aired in 1971.
He chomped on cigars and drove an old Peugeot and was the only character in the series. No faithful side-kick or grizzly stressed out Commander. There were only 3 episodes where Columbo didn’t wear his old raincoat when his character had to wear a tuxedo. Patrick McGoohan was the only “guest” cast member, starring on the series more than three times as a murderer and the only one to inquire about Columbo’s first name, which was never revealed. Source – Columbo Trivia
Time and again, it was Colombo’s demeanor which lulled criminals into a false sense of security, misjudging the Lt.’s inherent ability to solve a case.
Columbo’s signature interrogation technique is to politely conclude an interview with a suspect and exit the scene…but to then stop in the doorway (or even return a moment later from outside) and ask the suspect “just one more thing”. The “one more thing” always brings to light the key inconsistency in the suspect’s alibi. Source – Wiki
Premiering in 1973, Epsen played the geriatric P.I. Barnaby Jones. Jones’ character comes out of retirement to track down his son’s killer with the help of his daughter-in-law, Betty (Merriweather).
Barnaby Jones was a “crossover” show, Barnaby and Betty had appeared on the detective show Cannon to track down Jones’ son killer with the help of the fat detective. The character, Cannon, played by William Conrad, appeared on Barnaby Jones. Source – IMDB
Barnaby also had his own CSI “crime lab” back at his office for not only was he a private eye but also an “expert in forensic chemistry, clinical psychology, forensic medicine, toxicology and criminology.”
His folksy charm fooled villains as did his age:
Once a female commented “A man of your age, Mr. Jones? You’re a new kind of private eye.” Barnaby replied: “It’s a nice way of saying I’m an old kind of private eye. Besides to me old age has always seemed to be 15 years older than I am.”
Barnaby had a thing for milk and his own quotes:
At this moment I’m not looking for the needle in the haystack,
I’m looking for a haystack.
Believing everything you see is nearly as badly as having
to see everything you believe.
Dead people don’t leave fingerprints.
That boy is as loose with his purse-strings as a nimbus cloud
is with rain. Source – TV Acres
Next up, more of TV’s most famous quirky detectives and private eyes.
Source – Youtube – Rockford Files
Source – Youtube – Kojak
Image – Rockford
Image – Mannix
Source – Youtube – Mannix
Image – Kojak
Image – Columbo
Source – Youtube – Columbo
Image – Barnaby Jones
Source – Youtube
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