Reader's Comments

 The P.I. Poll  May 1998

The subject was:
The Best and Worst of the Television Eyes

Please remember we're talking private eyes here, a list that might stretch to include bodyguards, some lawyers, or bounty hunters. Please, no amateur sleuths or pretentious and pesky dilettantes who happen to stumble across murder every week, or cops. If you're not sure what a P.I. is, please read this first.

The questions were

1) Name your three all-time favorite television eyes

2) What was the worst television private eye show ever?

3) What overlooked show do you think could have been a contender,
if it had been allowed to develop?

4) What show would you like to see in reruns?

5) What show have you never seen, that you would like to see?

6) What private eye would you like to see adapted for television?

Readers were also invited to comment on any of the topics. Selected comments are below.


From Savanna
TV Eyes? We need more of them!

From Steve Harbin
I loved Moonlighting, the first year, after that it wasn't quite as good. I'll admit to reading more P. I. books than watching them on TV. Besides Marlowe and Falco I'd like to see Elvis Cole adapted to TV. I love this site. I think it's great and really appreciate the work that's gone into it. I just recently started rereading my Marlowe books and because of this site have now started reading Lawrence Block, Steven Saylor, and Robert Crais (Elvis Cole). Keep up the good work!

From Carrina
So many of the choices I've never seen, so it's hard to say. I really loved Magnum, P.I. Moonlighting was good although it could really aggravate me at times.

From Ted Fitzgerald
Some thoughts on my choices:

1) Favorites: Harry O-- the most believable presentation of world-weariness I've seen due to a combination of David Janssen's presence and the best use of first-person voice-over narration in television history. As I recall (it's been a few years), the scripts were generally good and the direction, especially Jerry Thorpe and Richard lang, was first rate. And, if you'd had a Best Sidekick/Police Contact category, Anthony Zerbe's Lt. Trench would have been dueling Joe Santos' Dennis Becker for first place.

Peter Gunn -- The epitome of cool. The hippest detective there ever was and a lot of fun to watch. Everyone since, who's attempted to merge music, mood and story, from Richard Diamond to Miami Vice and New York Undercover, owes a debt to Gunn, Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini. The first music video, come to think of it.

Jim Rockford -- How to do funny and do it right. A combination of the right actor and the right approach.

2) Worst -- Nice to know something came along to knock off Lorne Greene's Griff (1973) as the lowest of the low. Danny Aiello trying to be Telly Savalas in the later Kojak episodes. You can't parody a parody. Of course, there's some stuff from the '50s that's probably worse, but will any of us ever see it?

3) Contender -- A lot of show 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, Roy Huggins' plotting. It would have been interesting to see where Huggins would have gone with it.

4) See in reruns: All of 'em. I picked 77 Sunset Strip over Peter Gunn because you can at least purchase some Gunn tapes commercially. Except for Seattle, I believe, Sunset hasn't been seen in reruns in years, if not decades (It last ran in New England in the mid-1960s). A fun show that generally played it straight but didn't take itself too seriously. Oh, and did I mention Roy Huggins had a little something to do with it? Also, the Pete Rugolo-scored episodes of Richard Diamond, Private Detective. (Contrast David Janssen's Diamond with his Harry O.) Rugolo, the great jazz composer, record producer, Stan Kenton arranger, etc., scored the series third season and the music added much to the proceedings.

5) Never Seen: I picked the 1959 Philip Marlowe not because it's necessarily a lost treasure, just because it's so scarce. I never saw Brian Keith's Archer either and that sounds like an intriguing bit of casting (Speaking of casting:I recently learned that, in 1954, Blake Edwards wrote and directed an unsold Mike Hammer pilot. Playing Hammer: Brian Keith. Can you think of another actor who could play both Hammer and Archer?)

6) TV adaptation: Besides my own character, of course. Regarding Nate Heller: It'd probably cost a fortune, but imagine a long-form series that could either go chronologically through Heller's life, or like the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, hopscotch around. Done right, it could be wonderful. As for casting, tough. John Savage is probably a little long in the tooth right now. The casting possibilities for the other characters especially the real people...wow!

From Mark Troy
The worst? I can't remember the name, but it was one of the CBS Crime-time after Prime time shows, starred a ditzy redhead and a ponytailed airhead in a tropical setting.

From Henry Monk
I am pleased to see Magnium moving down and Gunn taking the second spot! I may have to go to my neighbor's house and "vote for him" again in the Chicago tradition. Well, someone's got to do it. By the way, was there ever a PI show which took place in San Diego, CA?

(Not so fast, there, Henry. But don't get too excited, Henry, it's still too close to call. In fact, I'm amazed at how varied the votes have been, and how some shows can be in both the best and the worst lists.And Harry O originally was set in San Diego, before he packed up and moved to Santa Monica-editor)

From Kathleen
URL: The MANNIX! Web Page

I think the P.I. format is perfect for a television format! Particularly if it stars Mike Connors!

From Gerald So
Just stopped by Thrilling Detective and saw the new question. My choice for a TV series would be Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. There would be good chemistry in each episode. I would also like to see Elvis Cole on the big or small screen, but Robert Crais says it's never going to happen. He believes--and I'd have to agree--that any attempt at a TV show would be bad. Crais really enjoys the images of Elvis and Joe Pike created in cooperation between himself and his readers.

From Finch
I'd love to see Harry Stoner adapted, but they'd make a mess of it, I guess. (Actually, there was a Stoner made-for-television movie a few years back-editor)
Half hour shows (24 minutes) had a whole different feel to them than the hour-long (49 minute) stuff we see today. With the shortening of America's attention span, maybe they ought to go back to half-hour dramas. I wish one of the many cable channels would buy up the rights to some of those great shows (like Surfside Six and the others I voted for) and show them day time or late at night or some time. I'd set the VCR.

From Andy Hughes
Black Tie Affair was easily the best new show of its year. Cancellation was a crime.
(I agree, especially since the weasels at the network never even aired the concluding episodes!)

From Sinai Megibow
I really like Nick Slaughter and Sweating Bullets, primarily for its camp value (much the way some people like "Xena," I guess). I've always thought that Magnum was one of the best action/adventure/detective shows onTV, with well-rounded characters and a good sense of humor. I very much enjoyed the comic Jon Sable, Freelance by Mike Grell, which the show "Sable" was based on, and I feel that the t.v. adaptation totally ripped apart all the character's interesting elements and was badly miscast. I still feel that Sable has incredible potential as a character and a TV or film series; it's a shame he's been stuck in limbo for years now.

From Darwin Chismar
95% of them are worse than lame. I had to really stretch to come up with a #3. I may have misunderstood the "shows we'd like to see, but haven't" part of May's poll. I thought you wanted shows featuring our favorite detective(s) that have yet to be optioned. I think Jeremiah Healy's Cuddy would make an excellent series if done right (fat chance). I've never seen M Squad, but wasn't that a cop show? Anyway, I like Lee Marvin.

(Actually, Darwin's suggestion (mistake?) is a good one. I'added a new question to the poll: What private eye would you like to see adapted for television?-Kevin)

From Nancy
Joe Mannix is by far the best--hands down! I wouldn't even consider anyone else.

From Gerald
I think TV gumshoes are generally too goody two-shoes. Due to a number of factors, TV is too concerned with defining the lines between good and evil. Some P.I.s don't even use guns; moreover, those that do often go through mandatory periods of mourning. Maybe, with today's TV standards, someone will come up with a really convincing, no-nonsense P.I.

From Rick Robinson
Only three choices, huh? Mannix probably would have been my fourth. I also really liked the Ellery Queen show with Timothy Hutton, but that doesn't really meet the definition of P.I. Funny, I don't watch cop or detective shows on tv anymore - they're too slick and the writers all seem to have a need to deal with social issues. Not sure when I stopped, but it was before Hill Street Blues.



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