The May 1998
P.I. Poll Results

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

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,
which are posted here.

Well, the results are in. Thirty-six of you voted, although not everyone lvoted in all categories, and, as usual, some of your nominations were too much of a stretch, even for me, to be considered private eyes. A vote is a vote. No extra points for first place. Of course, this is not really a listing of the best or the worst; it's a popularity contest. You don't have to tell me that.

According to your votes,
your All-time Favorite Television Eyes are:

Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files (25 votes)

Peter Gunn in Peter Gunn (21)

Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I. (20)

Joe Mannix in Mannix (17)

Harry Orwell in Harry O (12)

Stuart Bailey and Jeff Spencer in 77 Sunset Strip (9)

Frank Cannon in Cannon (7)

Don Corey, Jed Sills and Carl Hyatt in Checkmate (6)

Philip Marlowe in Philip Marlowe, Private Eye (5)
(with Powers Boothe)

Thomas Banacek in Banacek (5)

Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (5)
(with Stacy Keach)


Spenser and Hawk in Spenser For Hire

Laura Holt and Remington Steele in Remington Steele

Others Shows Nominated

The Singing Detective

Paladin (Have Gun, Will Travel)

City of Angels

Surfside Six

Nero Wolfe


Barnaby Jones

Jon Sable


Black Tie Affair


Sweating Bullets

Simon and Simon

All-time Worst Television Private Eye Shows

 Dellaventura (20)

Charlie's Angels (9)

Magnum, P.I. (7)

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (with Stacy Keach) (6)

Turkey Shoot: Others Nominated For Worst Show

Simon & Simon


Hardcastle & McCormick


Faraday and Co.

One Waikiki

San Pedro something?

My Mother the Detective


Sweating Bullets

They Coulda Been Contenders:
Most Overlooked Shows
(Voting was so close that these are just listed in alphabetical order) 

Beverly Hills Buntz

Black Tie Affair

City of Angels

Eye To Eye


Nero Wolfe

Peter Gunn (1989 remake with Peter Strauss)

Private Eye

Richie Rockelman, Private Eye


Tenspeed and Brownshoe

Veronica Clare (Lifetime TV, 1991)

Once More With Feeling:
Shows we'd like to see again in reruns
(no's an honour just to be nominated)

77 Sunset Strip


Harry O

Peter Gunn


Richard Diamond, Private Eye

The Rockford Files

Leg Work

Sweating Bullets

Surfside Six


Magnum, P.I.

Simon and Simon


Heard It Through The Grapevine:
Shows we've never seen, that we'd would like to see
(if that All-Mystery Network ever gets on the air, they should take note...)

Bourbon Street Beat

Richard Diamond, Private Eye

Peter Gunn

The Outsider

City of Angels


Philip Marlowe (the 1959 series with Phil Carey)


The Rockford Files

Magnum, P.I.

Nero Wolfe

I Want My P.I. TV!
Private eyes we'd like to see adapted for television

Elvis Cole by Robert Crais (9)

Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald (7)

Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller (6)


Nate Heller by Max Allan Collins

Dan Fortune by Michael Collins

John Francis Cuddy by Jeremiah Healy

Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler (maybe third time's the charm)

Dan Kearney and Associates by Joe Gores

Falco by Lindsey Davis

Easy Rawlins by Walter Mosley

Harry Stoner by Jonathan Valin

Saul Panzer by Rex Stout

Pepe Carvhalo by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro by Dennis Lehane

Evan Horn by Bill Moody

Dirk Gently by Douglas Adams

My Comments

Well, I'm not surprised that The Rockford Files won (although not by much). It's that rare show that's a favorite of critics and the fans. I am a bit surprised, but quite pleased, that Peter Gunn, which is forty years old, placed so high. Of course, people's ages, and their location, affect what they've seen, and therefore how they voted. Which may partially explain Magnum's high placing (I confess I always dismissed this show as a rather cloying Rockford clone-maybe I should check it out again). Still, several older shows did make it to the top of the list of favorites, including Mannix, Banacek, Harry O, Cannon and 77 Sunset Strip.

The only clearcut winner (if you can call it that) in any category was Dellaventura in the Worst TV Eye category. Almost universally despised, outranking other stinkeroos by a large margin. Perhaps part of the reason is the fact that it's the most recent P.I. show voted on, and also that the premise sounded promising. Top ten finishers Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Magnum P.I. also place high in this category, showing you can't please everybody all the time, and let me know I'm not alone in being ambivalent about either of these popular shows.

It's interesting to note how many of what readers felt were unjustly overlooked shows date from the last decade or so. With the market fragmenting, and networks growing more and more conservative, it's disheartening to see so many shows cancelled before they're even given a chance. Beverly Hills Buntz, Black Tie Affair and Legwork, were all cancelled before even running a full season (in fact, Black Tie Affair, a mini-series, never even had all its episodes aired, leaving the conclusion in television limbo. So much for closure). Perhaps tellingly, most of the shows in this category tried to rise above the limitations of the standard P.I. show, offering unique perspectives, a different approach or at least a slight spin on the formula.

The shows people wanted to see in reruns, or had heard of, but never seen, perhaps explained some of the choices in other categories. If you've never seen Tenspeed and Brownshoe, for example, Simon and Simon might seem pretty witty. Likewise, Spenser For Hire might seem quite the action-packed thrillfest if you've never seen Mannix.

And the choice of literary eyes people would like to see adapted for the small screen is quite wide and varied, reflecting the continuing popularity of the genre, at least in print. Yet, given the dismal showing of private eye shows in the ratings in the last decade or so, and the almost-always disappointing way adaptations have been handled, the chances of any of these shows ever actually being produced, let alone being given a chance to develop and find an audience, seems slight.

For Reader's Comments

Not satisfied? Disagree?
Then, next time,

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