Jake Axminster
Created by
Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins

"They call LA the City of Angels; well, let me tell you something...all the angels left this burg about twenty years ago. It's crooked and corrupt and it suits me fine."

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

  • "A Definite Contender! A lot of shows could fill this category -- The Outsider, Longstreet, Banyon, Archer, LegWork, possibly even Big Shamus, Little Shamus, and several others that don't come to mind right now. City of Angels was a bit of a compromise choice but it had a great period setting, a neat emphasis on corruption, great byplay among the leads, and Roy Huggins' plotting. It would have been interesting to see where Huggins would have gone with it."
    -- Ted Fitzgerald, in voting in the May 1998 P.I. Poll on overlooked TV series
    .
  • "The greatest of all P.I. series."
    -- Max Allan Collins

QUOTE:

  • Cops: "Don't shoot! We're cops!"
    Jake: "Give me a better reason!"

TELEVISION

  • CITY OF ANGELS
    (1976, NBC)
    13 60-minute episodes
    Created by: Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins
    Writers: Stephen J. Cannell, John Thomas James, Gloryette Clark, Philip DeGuere, Stephen & Elinor Karpf, Mervin Gerard, Douglas Heyes
    Executive Story Consultant: Philip DeGuere
    Directors: Barry Shear, Douglas Heyes, Jerry London, Don Medford, Robert Douglas, Sigmund Neufield, Jr., Allen Reisner
    Producer: Roy Huggins
    Executive Producer: Jo Swerling, Jr.
    Music: Nelson Riddle
    Starring Wayne Rogers as JAKE AXMINSTER
    With
    Elaine Joyce as Marsha
    Clifton James as Lieutenant Quint
    Philip Sterling as Michael Brimm .
  • "The November Plan, Part 1" (February 3, 1976)
  • "The November Plan, Part II" (February 10, 1976)
  • "The November Plan, Part III" (February 17, 1976)
  • "The Parting Shot" (February 24, 1976)
  • "A Lonely Way To Die" (March 2, 1976)
  • "The House On On Orange Grove Avenue" (March 16, 1976)
  • "Palm Springs Answer" (March 23, 1976)
  • "The Losers" (April 6, 1976)
  • "A Sudden Silence" (April13, 1976)
  • "The Castle Of Dreams" (April 20, 1976)
  • "Say Goodbye To Yesterday" (May 4, 1976)
  • "The Blood Shot Eye" (May 11, 1976)
  • "Match Point" (May 18, 1976)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.