Frank Dain
Created by Robert E. Thompson

A plainclothes detective with the California State Police Missing Persons Bureau, FRANK DAIN is a compassionate rough-hewn man whose cases take him all over the map and confront him with a variety of evil. When his lady friend vanishes and he's suspected in her murder, Dain is cashiered from the force. He proves his innocence but instead of returning to the force, he sets up shop as a private eye -- for one episode.

As a private eye series, Jigsaw is a curiosity. The 1972 pilot film (not to be confused with the 1968 Harry Guardino film of the same name which was also produced for television but was released to theatres instead) was written by Robert E. Thompson, a respected writer/producer whose credits included Mission: Impossible and The Man from UNCLE and was well-received critically.

A lot of the praise may stemmed from the casting of James Wainwright, heretofore best known for playing unsavory villains, as Dain. Wainwright was one of those hard-looking actors, like Neville Brand or Claude Akins, who was equally, sometimes surprisingly, credible as a sympathetic character. In the role of Dain, Wainwright projected a quiet empathy and a solid reliability; not flashy, just dependable. Might have been interesting to see what Wainwright would have done with Lew Archer.

A Universal Studios production, Jigsaw was originally broadcast as part of The Men, ABC's rotating wheel of action series and later aired as a stand-alone series. It initially focused on Dainís work as a plainclothes detective. Eight episodes were planned. After six episodes were produced, the studio or the network brought in Roy Huggins to punch things up. Huggins began by jettisoning the cop format. The vehicle for the change was Howard Brown's oft-filmed novel Thin Air (which would later be the basis of episodes of The Rockford Files and Simon & Simon, among others) in which a man is suspected of murder after his lady friend walks into a restaurant and vanishes into . . . you guessed it. Stephen Cannell wrote the script which ended with Dain clearing his name and getting his private ticket. Huggins plotted the next episode, then the network ran the final unaired cop episode and the show vanished. My memory of the series in general and the PI episodes in particular was that it was well-done and played straight; no Rockford-style humor. Huggins and Cannell undoubtedly would have done a good job with a low-key lone-wolf character and the missing persons hook, but ABC gave them Toma to do instead. And, of course, a year later NBC provided them the Rockford opportunity. In the larger scheme of things, as promising as the still-born Jigsaw might have been, The Rockford Files was, to say the least, the better path for Huggins and Cannell to follow.

TELEVISION

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Contributed by Ted Fitzgerald


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