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This was one of four detective shows from Warner Brothers, four of a couple
dozen series they did for ABC, (that MADE that network), from the mid 50's
to the early 60's under the stewardship of William Orr and with the
genius of Roy Huggins, (who later came up with the best show of all time,
"The Fugitive"). Huggins had fancied himself a detective writer in the 40's
and came up with Stuart Bailey, an Ivy Leaguer with a background in World
War II intelligence who set up his own detective agency in Los Angeles.
Huggins became a story editor for Warners, it was decided to create a show
around the Bailey character, 77 Sunset Strip, which debut in 1958. They
Bailey a partner, Jeff Spencer and created the character of Kookie, the
parking lot attendant, for comic relief. It set the stage for the other
three, similar shows, each with a pair, (or three) handsome detectives
operating in glamorous or exotic locations. Warner's learned you needed a
pretty girl involved and the comic relief. they also learned from "Peter
Gunn" that a musical interlude would occasionally be welcome.
"Bourbon Street Beat", set in New Orleans, debuted in 1959. So did "Hawaiian Eye", from Honolulu and in 1960 came "Surfside Six" from Miami Beach. Each had a catchy theme tune from Mack David and Jerry Livingstone. The plots were not very inspired but serviceable, (they serviced many episodes, being frequently reused). Sometimes, Warner's would do versions of novels they owned the rights to or TV remakes of some of their classic movies of the past, such as "Strangers on a Train" or "Dial M for Murder", in the guise of episodes of these shows. Characters from one show would show up on another, either in crossover episodes or full scale transfers of characters to be new members of the casts. This was easy because the shows were not shot on location: it was all done in LA.
The real difference in the shows were the cast members themselves. "77 Sunset Strip" had the charming and talented Ephram Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith. It also had the "Fonzie" of the 50's, Edd Byrnes. But it lacked a significant female regular or the musical interludes. "Bourbon Street Beat" had the charming and talented Richard Long, who took his charm and talent to Sunset Strip after BSB folded in 1960. It also had craggy character actor Andrew Duggan, young pretty boy Van Williams and Arlene Howell, a slightly ditzy southern belle. No one here was musically inclined but a jazz combo did a turn from time to time. "Hawaiian Eye" had it all. Anthony Eisley was a competent but slightly boring lead. Young Robert Konrad had the most charisma of any of them. Connie Stevens was a cute songbird who belted out the classic tin pan alley and show tunes. Poncie Ponce was a ukulele strumming cab driver who knew every place and every one or had a cousin who did. "Surfside Six" was maybe the weakest entry. Lee Patterson had some presence and acting ability but Van Williams, (over from BSB) and Troy Donahue were attractive but talent challenged. Marguerite Sierra was a cliched Latin Spitfire songstress, (who unfortunately died young of a heart ailment). Diane McBain was attractive window dressing.
The other main difference was the setting. "77 Sunset Strip" was about glamorous people up to no good or international intrigue, (and Stu Bailey traveled a lot more than these other guys did). "Hawaiian Eye" was exotic- perhaps a little too much so with an occasional embarrassing story about witch doctors and voodoo type curses and such. Natives were played by guys from Jersey and Chicago in the grand tradition. Surfside Six had a beachboy look to it. Bourbon Street beat was darker and more mysterious. New Orleans at that time was not a tourist trap but a relic of the old south in which Miss Havisham's cake might have seemed at home.
But they were all pretty solid entertainment. If you liked one, I'm sure you'd like them all- if you could find them. They are all in black and white, so cable stations are loathe to show them It seems that the moment a younger audience sees those monotones, they turn the stations. It's too bad. They don't know what they're missing.
I grew up a child of the sixties when Warner Bros produced most of the nighttime viewing. Surfside 6 was my favorite and regardless what others might say, I found the acting strong and riveting. The scenery when viewed in black and white loses something, true, but the romance of the location comes through. And the actors can only speak what the writers pen. While I wasn't as intrigued with Troy Donahue, I especially loved the characters played by Van Williams, Diane McBain, Lee Patterson, and Marguerita Sierra. I remember how wonderful I thought Miami Beach looked, liked it so much that's where I went on my first vacation after I started working. There was actually a houseboat there, across from the Fontainebleau on Indian Creek. The boat looked a lot different than the series showed, but this was several years later, 1966. I will forever identify with this show and thanks to Goodlife TV for bringing it back to us once more.
Before Frank Sinatra as Tony Rome and Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett
lived and worked out of a houseboat as detectives, this Warner Brothers
entry in their cloned detectives series was the first show to operate
out of Miami Beach. Miami Beach as defined by the Warner Brothers back
This show featured Van Williams, Lee Patterson, and the up and coming Troy Donahue as yet another private eye firm in an American exotic location. Seeing how well Connie Stevens was scoring in Hawaiian Eye as gal pal to the detectives there, something that the original model 77 Sunset Strip lacked, Warner Brothers used another one of their starlets under contract Diane McBain. Van Williams came over from Bourbon Street Beat which lasted the shortest of any of the Warner detective series.
And as McBain was not a singer, Surfside 6 boasted Warner Brothers next generation answer to Carmen Miranda, Margarieta Sierra as Cha Cha O'Brien. She was the saddest story in the bunch, a year after Surfside Six ended, the poor woman who apparently had congenital heart problems died.
Although Van Williams later became TV's Green Hornet he was overshadowed there by the up and coming Bruce Lee as Kato. The big breakout stars were of course Donahue and McBain. Donahue was the Edd 'Kookie' Byrnes of the group and he quickly overtook Kookie in popularity and then just as quickly fell.
Of course detectives from those other shows crossed over with cases and the Surfside Six guys also went on their shows.
As Jack Warner was too cheap to shoot these things on location, Surfside 6 is not in the class of Miami Vice and never in a million years could it be. Still it was a pleasant piece of early sixties diversion.
This was a great series and I remember watching it as a teenager, along with the other detective series. According to the book Ultimate Sacrifice, by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, which details documents from many sources about the Kennedy Assination. This book asserts that the Mafia killed Kennedy and that there was a secret plot by the Kennedy's to eliminate Castro and put in place a government friendly to the US and this is why the government help cover up the assassination. They also report that the late Bobby Kennedy and Mafia Johnny Rosselli, reportedly meet on the houseboat that was the setting for this series in 1962. The houseboat would later become infamous as the place where Gianni Versce's murderer, Andrew Cunanan was captured.
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