by Julia Buckley
Since I was a kid I've enjoyed reading mysteries, but I've also thrilled to watch them on film and television. Back before there was such a thing as a video tape, my father rented a reel-to-reel filmstrip copy of Suspicion from our library. We watched it in our darkened living room. I can still remember how much I wanted Cary Grant to be innocent, but how much I suspected him nonetheless. The rattle of the projector added tension to the complicated plot.
Nowadays, with elaborate home theatres, DVDs and high-definition everything, it's hard to imagine the impact that an old filmstrip could have, but those images are still imprinted in my mind: the way that Hitchcock captured Grant's changing personas by cleverly using light and shadow, creating a nuanced character in order to highlight the effectiveness of the film's title.
In the same way, I was greatly affected by a whole multitude of television detectives. The memorable ones were those with real human faults and foibles, odd hobbies, strange mannerisms. This is why people love Monk, among many others.
But I'm curious to know who else has fond memories of some of my favorite screen sleuths. Can you provide the answers to the following questions about 1970s era t.v. detectives?
1. This t.v. sleuth was modeled after Porfiry Petrovich in Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Like Porfiry, he was brilliant, but didn't look the part (he wore a wrinkled trenchcoat and always seemed a bit confused), and allowed people to think that he was a fool so that he could trap them in the end.
2. This police detective was in charge of, according to the show's website, "an elite state police unit investigating organized crime, murder, assassination attempts, foreign agents, and felonies of every type." That state, of course, was Hawaii, and his most memorable line, when the evildoers were captured, was "Book 'em, Danno."
3. This man solved mysteries with his wife. She wasn't supposed to be involved, but he was the Police Commissioner of San Francisco, and she wanted to help with his cases. I suppose that, like Cary Grant, he stayed in my memory because he was so handsome, but there were many thrills in this show, which debuted in 1971.
4. This guy could really take a beating. He was a true action figure who took on all sorts of moving vehicles, burst through windows, defused bombs, scaled buildings. He had a secretary named Peggy who made bad coffee. He had a black belt in karate, but in true hard-boiled style, he preferred to use his fists.
5. This man had a cool theme song and a pet cockatoo named Fred. His character was based on a real New Jersey police officer.
6. These guys were the toughest and most dynamic t.v. cop duo. They knew the streets of L.A. and weren't afraid to get into their red and white Gran Torino and speed toward certain danger. Their signature clothing affected the style of the 70s.
7. This man was the oldest television detective, but he was spry enough to chase down a criminal when the situation warranted it. Usually he just used his gray cells to solve the crime, then had his cousin's son, Jebediah, do the footwork.
8. This man was a sort of Nero Wolfe type--a corpulent detective who solved unsolvable crimes. The two-hour pilot debuted in 1971.
9. This guy was bald and liked lollipops.
10. And I must include a woman: this tough police detective was, according to the show's website, "an undercover agent for the criminal conspiracy department of the Los Angeles Police Department." The press made much of her sexiness, but she did a great job presenting a hard-working woman in a male-dominated profession.
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I purposely didn't include a quiz question about my all-time favorite, Jim Rockford of THE ROCKFORD FILES (now available on DVD). Also, one of the above shows is available on DVD for the first time starting tomorrow! I'll identify that one later today.