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I used to watch this as a kid and I mean kid: I was five when it went on the air and I don't believe I ever missed an episode. Maybe because my father was a detective, but I would beg to be allowed to stay up and and watch Rocky King. Roscoe Karns was as real as any detective I knew and I knew all of them at the local police department. They all looked just like average men and Karns fit in perfectly. I am sure by today's standards this show looked hokey but back then it was as real as walking in the detective offices where my dad worked. Interesting how some shows just stick in the memory. Recently I found an old episode on the Internet and as I watched it I waited for that trademark ending wherein Karns would be on the phone with his wife and after hanging up would say, "Wonderful girl that Mabel." Wonderful show that Rocky King.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ON FIRST GLANCE, this must certainly be the worst case of miscasting in
the History of Motion Pictures, Radio Drama and the then fledgling
medium of Televisioin. I mean, how can anyone with any sense create a
Police Drama about an Inspector in charge of a Detective Unit charged
with the investigation, arrest and prosecution of hard core felons such
as Murderors and Stick Up Men; then casually treat the casting of said
Lead of the Series by putting Mr. Roscoe Karns in the role?
WE WERE ALL aware of his talents as a character actor; best seen in humorous parts, which he performed so well in. One only need view his portrayal of traveling salesman and would be philanderer Oscar Shapely in Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Columbia, 1934) or the 'Peeping Tom' Newspaper Reporter McCue in Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL Friday (Columbia, 1940)to observe his best work. He had a great ability in taking a small part and making it bigger and enjoyable to the audience; all the while appearing to do it with such ease.
SO WITH A Resume that is full of such parts, how could we be expected to buy his portrayal in a Genre dominated by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Alan Ladd and Sterling Hayden? We had grown to expect our Detectives to be 'hard boiled', 'gritty' and 'tough as nails'. Operating out in the asphalt jungles that are Big City U.S.A. would certainly take someone who was himself somewhat of a roughneck in order to survive, let alone succeed. Tough physically-being able to take it, rough in being able to dish it out and proficient with .38 calibre revolvers and .45 cal semi-automatics would certainly be three prime requisites of this gumshoe that we expect.
BUT THERE ARE other considerations to consider in constructing this FICTIONAL Drama with MAKE BELIEVE Characters; considerations that may not come directly to the surface immediately.
ADDITIONALLY A PRODUCTION Team must consider what makes up a human being whose job it happens to be man hunting. It is, after all, a job, means of livelihood performed by otherwise ordinary guys, not much different from the butcher, baker candlestick maker, etc. Contrary to many reports and surveys done by the academic community; there is no one "Police Type." We've seen dissertations by members of "the Stupidgencia"(Our Term for these Pseudo-Intellectuals)that were published over the years and can only react (at best) with mild amusement.
SO WHAT WE see in ROCKY KING, DETECTIVE (INSIDE DETECTIVE) is another Cop and Robber Show that tried for a slightly altered point of view on "the Fuzz." Remembering all of the characteristics that go into making an individual, they saw and projected both the strong points, as well as the foibles of the Inspector King.
HENCE, JUST BECAUSE there is an awful Burglary Pattern centering on Jewelry Companies in full swing doesn't mean that Junior at home isn't having trouble in school. The conducting of a High Profile Homicide doesn't forestall the payment of the mortgage or the monthly installment to the Department Store or the Automobile Company.
THE VERY TONE and domestic situational happenings that are an integral part of a ROCKY KING Episode serve to make the character just a trifle more Three Dimensional and hence real in relating to the viewing public. The mentioning of a Mrs. King as 'Mabel', made for a very vivid character, even if she was seldom (if ever) actually seen. The last episode that we screened had Rocky sitting at home and having a very active conversation with an unseen but definitely heard 'Mabel' before going to work that day. Even a Hard Boiled Copper can be nagged by his better half.
CAST IN SUPPORT of Roscoe Karns was his own son, Todd Karns, himself an accomplished Stage and Film Actor; having been prominently featured in DESTINATION TOKYO (Warner Brothers, 1944) and in Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Liberty/RKO RADIO, 1946) as Harry Bailey. The younger Mr. Karns was cast as a Detective Sergeant, Rocky's right hand man in the last two seasons of the series run.
BEING ONE OF those little trademarks of a series that gives it its own sense of originality was a typical closing, which always followed a particular format. In an episode which was drawing to a conclusion, with the investigation, the baddies caught, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner placated and the public saved, Inspector Rocky King would be seen at his desk, sitting in trench coat, hat on head and talking on the telephone. The conversation done in the trademark Karns high pitched,nasal tones would go something like: ".....well,okay Mabel, yes Mabrel! No Mabel, I won't! What's that, Mabel-a gallon of milk! Yeah? And a loaf of bread? Is that all, Mabel? Okay, Mabel! Good bye, Mabel!" Then he would hang up and look right into the camera and say to his audience: "Nice Girl, that Mabel!"
HE DID IT every time but once. When Roscoe Karns was absent for some reason, the episode was done without him. Todd Karns took the spot at center stage and when the show was ending, it was he at the desk talking to Rocky on the phone in similar fashion. He concluded with, "Nice Guy, that Rocky!"
OH YES, they definitely don't make 'em like that anymore!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The DuMont Television Network. A cheap, low-budget but fun network, whose cheaply produced shows kick the ass of many "Big budget" programs made years later. "Rocky King, Detective", also known as "Inside Detective", is a true DuMont Network classic, airing from 1950 to 1954. DuMont ceased broadcasting in 1956. I have recently seen kinescopes of 4 episodes, three with Roscoe Karns, one with his son as Roscoe was sick. These were treasures are among the finest examples I have ever seen of early television. Episode starts: Rocky walks down long hall-way, lights up a cigarette, to which the announcer says "Rocky King, Detective. An Exciting fight against crime!". However, the show was never sponsored by a tobacco company. Scene starts: Rocky is talking to his wife, when he hears the phone ring. A man claims that a guy recently put on death row is innocent, and that he (the guy on the phone) is the REAL murderer! OK, a cliché plot for an episode, but the writing is good, and the cast is strong. Plus, the critics at the time liked it, and it did run for 5 seasons. What's really remarkable, though, is how the series combines gritty crime drama with comedic scenes at home, which at the time was an unusual technique. Overall, a DuMont Network classic.
I must have seen a different television series than the three previous reviewers. I have seen several early 50s t.v. shows and this one was the only real stinker in the bunch. I've seen a couple of episodes, most recently Murder Scores a Knockout. First of all, the music has to be the absolute worse ever heard on a show - melodramatic organ music that is so bad it's laughable. The sets are flimsy, the supporting actors give pathetic performances and production values are sub- standard in every way. I watched this because of Roscoe Karns and his performance was passable except that he kept flubbing his lines, at one point calling one of the characters by the name of another character (and then quickly correcting himself) and then when asking the coroner about the poison used says "Does it have any special smell or odor?" His actor partner tries to cover up the mistake and they just move on with the dialog. No retakes in this show. It is a nice touch hearing Inspector King's conversation with his unseen wife Mabel (wonderful girl, that Mabel) but this is hardly enough to save this abysmal production. Even though I enjoyed the story of the one reviewer who so fondly remembered the series from when he was a young boy, I doubt if I could suffer through any more of these episodes.
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