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.
TV Eyes? We need more of them!
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
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)
MANNIX! Web Page
I think the P.I. format is perfect for a television format! Particularly
if it stars Mike Connors!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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
(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)
Joe Mannix is by far the best--hands down! I wouldn't
even consider anyone else.
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.
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.