Sunday, June 1, 2008

Find Your Favorite TV Sleuths

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.

Get all ten and win a set of Poe's Deadly Daughters bookmarks!

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.


Playground Monitor said...

1. Columbo
2. Steve McGarrett
3. Stewart "Mac" MacMillan (& his wife Sally, though my favorite character was Mildred. Remember the scene where she and Mac did the tango?)
4. Joe Mannix
5. Tony Baretta
6. Dave Starsky and Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson
7. Barnaby Jones
8. Robert Ironside
9. Theo Kojak
10. Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson

Marilyn - who's enjoyed this walk down TV memory lane

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I think that Playground Monitor is correct with all of her answers, save for #8, to which the accurate response should be Frank Cannon. Ironside, which of course starred Raymond Burr as former San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside, debuted in 1967--four years before the pilot film described here.


jwhit said...

1. Columbo
2. Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O
3. McMillan and Wife - Stewart "Mac" McMillan
4. Joe Mannix
5. Baretta
6. Starsky and Hutch
7. Barnaby Jones
8. Frank Cannon
9. Kojak
10. Police Woman with Angie Dickinson as Sergeant "Pepper" Anderson

I looked these all up myself. I think I had about 5 without searching, but remembered all of them except #4.

Here's an excellent source with lots detail about US and UK and Australian series:

Julia Buckley said...

Wow, Marilyn, Jeff and JWhit. You are amazing. And Marilyn, you were close enough with the Ironside answer that I think you should win bookmarks anyway.

Winners should e me at for their prizes.

Julia Buckley said...

And the DVD set available as of tomorrow, June 3rd? MANNIX!! Count your pennies, 70s tv lovers.

Playground Monitor said...

I guess I didn't think beyond the word "corpulent." I was never much of a Cannon fan but I adored Ironside. Must have been a hangover from the Perry Mason days. LOL!

And wasn't Mannix great? I just loved Peggy -- such a great female role on TV for that era. We've come a long way, baby.


Julia Buckley said...

I loved Peggy, too! Maybe we can go in together on those Mannix DVDs. :)

Bristol said...

Somewhat sadly I must admit that I REMEMBERED all these shows without having to look them up (though it took me a minute to remember Cannon-- I kept thinking, 'Wait a minute, he DID do Nero Wolfe!" (William Conrad did about six episodes of a Nero Wolfe series with Lee Horsely as Archie. I thought Mr. C was entirely too jolly as Wolfe and wished that Raymond Burr or (fantasy time) Orson Welles would have taken the role.)

And no question on Ironside? Not as good as Perry Mason, but good.


Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Jeanne--

Yes, Ironside was great. I didn't think of him in time--and there were a couple others I wished I hadn't left out.

I remember the Nero series--wasn't thrilled with Conrad, but I did like the guy who played Archie Goodwin, who later went on to play Matt Houston. Remember him?

Bristol said...

Hi, Julia,
Yes, "Archie" was Lee Horsley. He had his own short lived TV series in which he played a cop-- Matt Houston. Do you remember McCloud which rotated with MacMillan? I think I'm the only one who liked Hec Ramsey but I did. And Name of the Game with Gene Barry. Old. Feeling very old....

Stewart Sternberg said...

This was a fun quiz. Thanks for the trivia. There are certain crime fighters that are just fun to keep coming back to. Rockford. Starsky and Hutch. Columbo. Kolchak. Even Baretta.

But I doubt if any of those great minds can solve the mystery of why reruns of Matlock continue to plague the airwaves at all hours of the day and night.

Jane said...

The only one I recognized right away was Kojak. All the others are familiar to me, but I couldn't get their names out.

Julia Buckley said...

Ah, yes--Lee Horsley! I thought he was very cute. :)

Stewart, that is a mystery--he holds the same fascination that the Father Dowling Mysteries had for every senior citizen in my parish (and for all the nuns who taught at my school).

Jane, I never really watched Kojak, but I knew him anyway. As I recall, commercials for the show were all over the airwaves, and everyone in the world was saying "Who loves ya, Baby?" :)

Joyce said...

Darn. Looks like I missed all the fun today.

Fun quiz!

Julia Buckley said...

Joyce, the fun will continue well into the wee hours. We're a 24-hour establishment. :)

Terry Odell said...

This 'feeling your age thing' seems to be permeating the blogosphere. I remember all these shows (and NOT from reruns). And who can forget the opening to Matt Houston, with the shot of Lee Horsley walking toward the camera in his jeans and chaps and the camera was zeroed in at "belt buckle" level.

A Romance Bandits blog led me to my own reminiscing on my blog a few days ago. Anyone remember the Group W bench?

Julia Buckley said...

No, but now I'm curious--what's the Group W bench?

Terry Odell said...

Ah, Julia -- for the answer, check here

Julia Buckley said...

Okay, I read it--but I still don't get it. I see that it's from the Arlo song, but what does it MEAN?

Terry Odell said...

Sorry - I thought the link was in the comments, but it wasn't.

Try this