That's the way retro 1930's Tinseltown peeper JAKE AXMINSTER sees it, in this 1976 mid-season replacement television series that was part private eye homage and part post-Watergate morality tale, by Rockford Files co-creators Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins.
Jake works out of his office in the Bradbury Building, a sort of PI touchstone, featured often in private eye flicks and TV shows, including Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and that other retro PI show, Banyon. He posesses a set of rather flexible ethics, one that stretched to allow for lying, cheating, stealing, suppressing evidence and fighting dirty, but this was tempered by his fierce sense of loyalty for his clients and friends, not that he's bursting at the seams with either. He's your traditional loner private eye. His only pals seem to be his not-quite-ditsy secretary, Marsha, who also runs an answering service for hookers, and his attorney, Michael Brimm, whose chief occupation seems to be getting Jake released from jail. One reason Jake seems to land in jail with alarming frequency is LAPD Lieutenant Quint. Nobody will ever accuse Jake of being an angel, but compared to Quint, he's a saint. Quint is a fat, sweaty, greasy slimeball of a cop, as corrupt an officer of the law as you'll ever see, always sniffing around for an easy handout or a score. He'll do anything to crack a case, up to and including torture and kidnapping--if the price is right, of course.
The show was dismissed as a Chinatown clone (was Jake's name a nod to Jake Gittes?) , and audiences couldn't seem to adjust to seeing Wayne Rogers, recently departed from M*A*S*H*, in a dramatic role. Rogers himself wasn't fond of the show, and made several public remarks to that effect. Co-creator Huggins, in turn, felt Rogers was miscast. And it's true that the theme of corruption in high places ran through both of them. Jake was constantly running into it. And the writing was erratic, veering from finely-detailed period piece morality plays to flippant, run-of-the-mill PI plots that look like Rockford File rejects done up in thirties drag. But City of Angels does have its merits, and its defenders, including Max Allan Collins, who championed it in his The Best of Crime and Detective TV.
Still, who knows? If it had had more of a chance, Huggins and Cannell might have had another Rockford on their hands.
FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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