Slattery's People (TV Series 1964–1965) Poster


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Crusading State Legislator
bkoganbing16 July 2008
One of the first political dramas on television that I recall is Slattery's People. The only other show I recall with a political tint to it was The People's Choice and that was anything, but serious.

Though it only lasted for a season Slattery's People attracted quite a cult following, unfortunately not big enough of a cult to keep it on the air or develop a cottage industry like Star Trek.

Previous to this show Richard Crenna had done nothing but comedy in Our Miss Brooks and The Real McCoy. I'm told Crenna embraced this show as his big attempt to have him be taken as a serious actor. Even though the show didn't last Crenna was never forced to play squeaky voiced adolescents or country bumpkins ever again. You have to credit the man with destroying his typecasting.

Bing Crosby produced this show and it is set in the state legislature of an unnamed state where Richard Crenna functions as the minority leader of an unnamed party. That Republicans and Democrats aren't used is not completely off base, a small group of states do have nonpartisan legislatures.

Crenna was an honest crusader and he was aided and abetted by Alejandro Rey as his Mexican-American administrative assistant. It was the first time that a Latino was cast in a serious role in a prime time drama.

Hopefully these shows will see the light of day again.
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Richard Crenna's finest work
Cheyenne-Bodie3 June 2007
"Slattery's People" (originally called "The Lawmaker") was a big critical success, but it never got good ratings.

Richard Crenna received two Emmy nominations as well as a Golden Globe nomination for playing Francis James Slattery, the minority leader of a state legislature. "Slattery's People" also received an Emmy nomination as Best Dramatic Series of 1965-66. One episode called "Rally 'Round Your Own Flag, Mister" was nominated for an Emmy as best single dramatic show of 1965-66. Lloyd Nolan and Warren Oates guest starred in that episode.

"Slattery's People" (1964-65) was a 60-minute dramatic series about state level politics, and was a forerunner of "The Senator" (1970-71) with Hal Holbrook and "The West Wing" (1999-2006). Each episode explored a contemporary social issue such as abortion, electronic surveillance of citizens and the trashing of political candidates' reputations. The show was distinguished each week by fine writing and fine acting by Crenna and the guest stars. Some of the guest stars included Claude Akins, Barbara Eden, Arthur Hill, Martin Milner, Paul Burke, Robert Lansing, Robert Blake, Madlyn Rhue, Ossie Davis, Larry Blyden, Sally Kellerman and Vera Miles. Virtually every episode was worthwhile. This was my favorite show when it was on.

"Slattery's People" was produced by Bing Crosby Productions, the same company that made "Ben Casey". Some of the very smart people making "Ben Casey" moved over to "Slattery's People" to make an even finer dramatic series. Directors included Lamont Johnson, Mark Rydell and Sydney Pollack. Writers included Dean Riesner ("Rich Man, Poor Man") and David Rintels ("Day One"). James Moser ("Dragnet", "Medic", "Ben Casey", "O'Hara, U.S. Treasury") was the creator and executive producer. Matthew Rapf ("Kojak") produced the twenty-six episodes of the first season, and Irving Elman produced the ten episodes of the truncated second season. The executive story editor was Fred Freiberger, who performed the same function on "The Senator".

Richard Crenna was 37 when he started playing Slattery in 1964. Up to this point, Crenna was only known for situation comedies: four years on "Our Miss Brooks" (1952-56) followed by six years on "The Real McCoys" (1957-63). Richard Crenna used "Slattery's People" to brilliantly reinvent himself as a serious dramatic actor. It was really stunning how fine he was when all you knew about him was his sitcom work. TV Guide critic Clevland Amory was a big supporter of this show. Amory said Richard Crenna was so good that he belonged in the big leagues with David Janssen, Robert Lansing and Vic Morrow.

For the second season, the producers tried to sex up the show a bit and make it little more viewer friendly. We finally found out that Slattery's first name was Jim. The theme music was jazzier. Slattery's middle-aged secretary B.J. (Maxine Stuart) was replaced by voluptuous young Francine York. Sexy Alejandro Rey became Slattery's legislative assistant. Slattery even got a girl friend (lovely Kathie Browne as a reporter.) I thought the changes were all fine, and the show remained first rate in its second season. But "Slattery" got killed in the ratings by "The Man From UNCLE" and was off the air before December.

Maybe as a last ditch effort to save the show, Slattery could have been defeated for reelection and gone back home to be a defense lawyer. With this creative team they probably could have made a compelling lawyer show. But as it was, "Slattery's People" was a noble and unique achievement.

Richard Crenna was anything but lazy. After ten seasons of combined series work on "Our Miss Brooks" and "The Real McCoys", you would think he might want to take a rest. But in the 1963-64 season, the season after "McCoys" ended, Crenna directed four series pilots, two of which sold: "No Time For Sergeants" with Sammy Jackson and "Wendy and Me" with George Burns, Connie Stevens and Ron Harper. Crenna also directed two episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show". (Crenna had directed every episode of "The Real McCoys" in its final season.) Crenna also took on a challenging character role on a "Kraft Suspense Theater" episode called "The Long, Lost Life of Edward Smalley" (Crenna was Smalley). And he made the pilot for "Slattery's People". Crenna also starred that year as John Goldfarb in the movie "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home" with Shirley MacLaine and Peter Ustinov. Crenna got "Goldfarb" and a movie contract because the film's producers were extremely impressed with Crenna's performance in the "Slattery's People" pilot. They thought it was sure to make him a big star.
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A memorable opening line
jan-kitmarlowe8 March 2007
If my memory serves--I was 12 at the time--the show opened with a voice over, maybe Crenna's, saying something to the effect that democracy was a terrible form of government: messy, wasteful, etc. BUT, all other forms of government were so much worse. As a callow, Beatle-crazed teen, this was the first time that I recall understanding irony.

I remember that my father watched the show religiously every week. I'm still grateful that he did. I think "Slattery's People" helped to develop my political conscience.

Why aren't these kinds of shows released to DVD?

Why are there 14,000 episodes of "Friends"?
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Slattery's People - good example of drama
theturtlehouse18 July 2006
I was a teenager in high school when Slattery's people aired. I remembered the show and that Richard Crenna was the star, but I did not remember that Ed Asner was on the show also. I remembered that I liked the show and that it was very well-written. I would not have watched it if it had not been. (not a typical air-head teen.) But I could not remember the subject of any of the episodes until I read the synopsis of the show in which a man fought city hall to build the kind of house he wanted instead of the one the zoning board wanted. It then clicked in the dusty recesses of my ancient (grandmother of eight) brain, and I actually did remember the episode. I wish that some cable station would show the great dramas of TV's history instead of constant repeats of inane comedies over and over again.
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Lead the Way to Good Political Drama on TV
lmmatt21 October 2005
I, too, remember this excellent program, when I, too, was in high school. It paved the way for other political drama on television, most notably the excellent but short-lived The Senator with Hal Holbrook in the lead the role and then fast forward to Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing. I also recall that, for some reason, I found myself talking with Mr. Moser on the phone, and surprised that I had reached him. What I don't recall is for what purpose I called him - except that I have, from time to time over the years, reached out and called somebody "famous" just to say hello. I was probably asking him for a job.

Boy, I really don't understand this 10-line minimum. Anyhow - I once went to work for a pot-boiling radio station in the San Gabriel Valley, in hopes of getting on the air. It was run out of a house on a large field, and I was once asked to clear the path to the towers with a lawnmower. I was also asked to type and re- type letters. Neither task was particularly satisfying, of course, and I never once got anything close to any real radio experience. I remember the news guy doing a rip-and-read and then sitting on the back steps of the house, listening to a tape of himself and smoking a cigarette. That was one dead-end job.
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First prime time drama to feature Mexican Americans
Joseph Harder24 September 2003
Since I was six at the time,and since it has NEVER BEEN RERUN(note that, TVLand and Trio),I only have vague memories of this show. However, it was one of the first "cult" TV shows.One remarkable thing about Slattery's People:(aside from the fact that it Ed Asners first TV series)is that it was the first serious show ( Idont count The Cisco Kid!)to feature Mexican Americans. Not only were both of Slattery's assistants,Hispanic, it was also the first program to have an episode built around a Hispanic.It was called "Whatever Became of the White Tortilla?(All of the first seasons titles were in the form of questions),and starred Ricardo Montalban as a stubborn Hispanic legislator who tries to pass a bill without any co-sponsors.The director was Sydney Pollack. You know, this might sound crazy, but why doesnt C-Span rerun the show? Every episode was a civics lesson.
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Maybe I was the only other person to see it....
Actors27 February 2002
And I loved it. Fourteen at the time and still grieving my hero JFK, this program was wonderful. Crenna was perfect and the weekly issue-oriented scripts were decades ahead of their time. I will always remember Slattery's People
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Some details
mavery-26 November 2001
The pilot was shot in the Capitol Building in Sacramento, and a full size replica of the California Assembly Chamber was the set for the first season. (a smaller set was used the second season). On the flight back from Sacramento the plane was delayed a few hours going around thunderstorms, and there was a real concern the plane might have gone down with the whole cast aboard. This drama had a strong following, and a letter writing campaign saved it from cancelation after season 1, but the ratings would not allow a season 3. For many years this show was made avalible overseas, I saw it regularly in Singapore during the early 70's. I guess USIS used it as a civics lesson.
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Hey, I saw it, too.
ozman9 September 2001
I saw it, too. I watched it regularly during its brief run (my senior year in high school). I, too, was a political junkie-to-be. I remember enjoying the show and being sorry when it was canceled. The show seemed to be modeled on the California Assembly and I lived in southern California.
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A memorable show
pat.allen3 November 2000
Like gmr-4, I too remember "Slattery's People." Being interested in politics, it was, and still is, one of my favorite television shows. I am glad to know at least one other person remembers it.

I recall one show in particular. It involved a person who wanted to build a house in a style which violated local design restrictions or what his neighbors wanted. It was a battle between an individual's right to build the house he wanted and government rules and regulations/neighbors. While I do not remember how the show turned out (though I think the individual was able to build what he wanted), the memory of that show has made me skeptical of unnecessary rules on house design, etc.

I doubt there is any way of getting any copies of old shows, but it there is, I would love to know about it.
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Was I the only one to watch this programme?
gmr-420 September 2000
By the mid-'60s I was a young "political junkie," so SLATTERY'S PEOPLE appealed to me. The grandeur of it all, you know.

Slattery was a legislative minority leader in an un-named state, and his "people" were the various sorts such a man would encounter, including -- a precocious note -- his girlfriend, a TV anchorwoman. There was nothing spectacular about this series, nor could any of its characters achieve a "following," all of which no doubt contributed to its quiet demise. To be fair, however, every episode involved a bona fide public issue important then and even now. One story was about wiretapping, another was cancellation of commuter train service.

In an interview a few years later, Crenna opined that SLATTERY'S may have been ahead of its time. Things would have to wait until the late 1960s and the blooming of "social conscience" and "getting involved." The fate of this programme probably influenced another proposal's stillbirth, I believe called THE POWER. Raymond Burr was to be a state governor, but he soon found gainful employment regardless.

In its humble way, SLATTERY'S PEOPLE foreshadowed the much celebrated WEST WING: Important people with the subliminal civics lesson. It is too bad the viewing audience was not ready for some low-key political drama.
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