Jack Cleary
Created by Anthony Yerkovitch

After the success of Miami Vice and Crime Story, NBC tried for a hat-trick with another stylish, snazzy crime show.

Alas, Private Eye just never caught on. In some ways, it probably makes sense that its title was so generic. Because this was really just a standard P.I. show, straight out of the box. But man, did it look good!

It was done with so much style one could almost overlook the fact nothing much else was going on, but it didn't really break any new ground and was built on some pretty sturdy, reliable cliches. Call it "eye candy."

It's 1956. Moody, scruffy JACK CLEARY's an honest, but rebellious cop booted out of the LAPD on a bum rap (bribery). Unemployed, with his reputation in tatters, it doesn't help Jack feel any better to know his big brother Nick is a successful, big shot private eye.

And then Nick gets a bad case of the deads. The cops say it was an accident, but Jack's got this gut feeling. Hmmm. Sound familiar? So, anyway, Jack reluctantly teams up with his brother's sidekick, smartass rockabilly cat Johnny Betts, to find Nick's killers. Johnny's a real piece of work, a wouldbe rock'n'roller with a JD rep, an attitude, and a real gift for hotwiring. Well, suffice it to say that Jack and Betts eventually nab the bad guys and decide to continue as a team, keeping Nick's agency going. Rouding out the gang was Charlie Fontana, Jack's former partner and current police contact, and Dottie Dworski, the agency's gum-popping, starstruck secretary.

Jack and Johnny made an odd couple, to be sure, but it wouldn't be the first, that's for sure. But the rock'n'roll backdrop added an extra dimension and the whole thing just looked and sounded so good, I figured the recycled plots wouldn't matter. Guess I was wrong. The show was canned after a dozen shows. But who knows how far it would have gone if it had been allowed to develop?

UNDER OATH

  • John Leonard, noted television critic, had this to say, about the Private Eye television show in particular, and private eye television shows in general:
    .
    "Private Eye should have worked. It lasted four months. The public hated it. Especially, the public hated Michael Woods as Jack Cleary, so stiff he could have been a '57 Chevy. By blaming an actor instead of questioning the concept, TV would waste another decade trying to confect a private eye, any private eye, the masses might like: priests (Tom Bosley in Father Dowling), bounty hunters (John Schneider and Paul Rodriguez in Grand Slam), ex-cons (James Earl Jones in Gabriel's Fire and D. W. Moffatt in Palace Guard). . . .''

    Leonard's checklist goes on to take in 12 more examples, then concludes with. ''Perhaps, and this is my usual stretch, we no longer credit an individual's capacity to rectify so much that's so radically wrong with reality.''
    .
    Then again, Mr. Leonard considers Murder She Wrote ''a smash-success private-eye series."

TELEVISION

  • PRIVATE EYE
    (1987-1988, NBC)
    One 120-minute episode, 11 60-minute episodes
    Writers: Anthony Yerkovitch, Ron Hansen, John Leekley, Alfonse Ruggeriero, Jr.,
    Directors: Mark Tinker
    Music: Joe Jackson
    Producers: John Leekley, Fred Lyle
    Executive Producer: Anthony Yerkovitch
    A Universal Television Production
    Starring Michael Woods as JACK CLEARY
    with
    Josh Brolin as Johnny Betts
    Also starring
    Bill Sadler, Lisa Jane Persky, Anthony Charnota, Gary Lee Davis, Hugh Gillin, Faye Grant, William Sadler, Jay O. Sanders
  • "Private Eye"
  • "Nicky the Rose" (September 18,1987)
  • "War Buddy" (September 25, 1987)
  • "Blue Movie" (October 2, 1987)
  • "Blue Hotel, Part One" (October 16, 1987)
  • "Blue Hotel, Part Two" (October 16, 1987)
  • "Barrio Nights" (November 6, 1987)
  • "Nobody Dies in Chinatown" (November 13, 1987)
  • "Both Sides of the Coin" (November 20, 1987)
  • "Light and Shadows" (December 4, 1987)
  • "High Heels and Silver Wings" (December 11, 1987)
  • "Hollywood Confidential" (Janiary 8, 1988)

NOVELIZATIONS

  • Private Eye #1 (1988, by T.N. Robb)
  • Private Eye #2: Blue Movie (1988, by David Elliot)
  • Private Eye #3: Flip Side (1988, by T.N. Robb)
  • Private Eye #4: Nobody Dies in Chinatown (1988, by Max Lockhart)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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