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There had never been a show quite like "Coronet Blue"; the 'hero' (Frank
Converse) emerges, half-dead, from a watery 'grave', with no recollection of
his past, and only the phrase 'Coronet Blue' to guide him. Soon it becomes
obvious that some very mysterious and powerful people would prefer him dead,
and his life, much as Jason Bourne, in THE BOURNE IDENTITY, becomes a race
to pick up clues about himself, while trying to stay alive. Each week would
introduce a new piece to the jigsaw puzzle, offering a glimpse of a possible
past, while asking even more questions...Who does "Michael Alden" (a name
created when he could not remember his own) work for? Is he a hero or a
criminal? And why is it so important to silence him?
CBS thought the premise was worth taking a chance on, and had green-lighted 13 episodes, but then decided it was too 'intellectual' (this WAS the network of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Gilligan's Island"), and condemned the series to a summer run, when TV viewing plummeted, and the regular series were 'between seasons'. Many 'failed' programs debuted during the summer, giving the networks a chance to recoup production costs by advertising revenue, and to brag that they were offering more than just endless reruns to TV viewers.
Then something remarkable happened; TV critics, previewing the first episode, were universally in praise of the quirky drama, making the show's debut an 'event'. And viewers, tuning in, were introduced to the Robert Redford-like charisma of blond, 29-year old Converse, making him an instant sex symbol. CBS was astonished and pleased by the response, but unprepared for the word-of-mouth that soon made the series a 'Must See' for fans. Hastily, the network attempted to revive the program for the fall season, but Plautus Productions, who created the series, had folded after CBS axed the show, and Converse had signed as a regular on "N.Y.P.D." (the ground-breaking cop show that would pave the way for "N.Y.P.D. Blue", and "Law and Order"). The 13 episodes would become the legacy of a show that would have been a long-running hit, had CBS been willing to gamble on viewers' intelligence!
Only about a dozen episodes of Coronet Blue were made and it wasn't chosen for broadcast during the regular season. Someone had the idea to show it during the summer - and it was a ratings sensation. Everyone wondered what the mysterious words "coronet blue" really meant, and hope that the show would go into production again so we'd find out. But no more episodes were ever made, and no writer stepped forward to give viewers the answer to the mystery!
This show made the summer of 1967. Frank Converse was out of this world. I followed everything he ever did after that, but he didn't do much. Brian Bedford went on to Broadway. We tuned in just to see how much, if anything, he would learn that week. If only they would re-run it. Today it would be a cult classic (even if it was in black and white) I am sure. Or maybe they could remake it. I would certainly watch.
This was, to me, my first exposure to the possibility of "good
television." This show was SOOOO special because it was a 30-year
precursor of the ALIAS/LOST/PRISON BREAK intricate continuing series.
In today's entertainment marketing environment, this show would have been through the roof in ratings and been short-listed right into production.
Back then, I think the network was stunned by the audience reaction. By the time they realized what it hit it had on its hands, it was too late to do anything about it. What a shame.
I see this on SuperChannel, which is a Japanese cable channel that's
basically a graveyard for short-lived American TV shows. (Shaft,
Serpico, Funny Face,...etc.) I got into it quickly.
This is obviously the inspiration for Matt Damon's 'Bourne' films.
The amnesia angle was played very well. Watching Frank Converse do what he felt he needed to do without knowing WHY was eerie.
You really felt for the guy. I'm surprised this show wasn't a hit and Converse wasn't a bigger star.
It was apparent that the cold war was the 'hidden' secret. But since the show never made it...we never really found out until Larry Cohen told us himself.
Haven't thought of this fine series in ages. Then, suddenly that phrase that so haunted Frank Converse jumped into my head and I did a search. What do I get? The answer to the mystery. Thanks IMDb and like-minded fans. "Coronet Blue" was shot several years earlier than it's summer '67 airing. I remember this from a TV Guide article and I think we knew we'd never know the outcome. Is that possible? Was there a hope it's summer airing with less than a season of episodes might lead to its revival? I prayed so and caught every episode. Strong premise, Converse's intensity plus humanity, was convincing. And I have always recalled the camaraderie of Converse's running man and two other characters. I think one ran a coffee shop or bar and the third might have been black. Sadly, I've never heard of it resurfacing, which means it's probably rotting in some leaky vault. Please, how about a DVD set with at least an interview with Larry Cohen. "Coronet Blue" and my romance with Debbie Fink were the highlights of the summer of 1967.
I never missed a show I thought Frank Converse was dreamy and very well cast. Every show made you think the next one was for sure going to reveal the secret that would unravel Michaels life. I can still hear the theme song in my head. I wish someone would have picked and the ball and ran with it! It's a shame a hit show just fell to the wayside..:(
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just finished watching the 13 episode run (11 broadcast episodes and
two work-prints). Coronet Blue had, with the exception of a couple of
episodes, very good writing with great dialog -- so much so that you
have to pay attention not to miss something said. The show also had
wonderful guest stars -- Dick Clark, Susan Hampshire, Alan Alda, John
Voight, David Carradine, Candace Bergen, Richard Kiley (the last four
in one episode!) and others. Also the semi-regulars, Joe Silver as Max
and Brian Bedford as Anthony, are very good, and have great acting
chemistry with star Frank Converse, who puts in a moving performance.
The series plays with how memory and reality don't always match, and
also with the larger questions of identity and what does makes us who
we are? There are word plays such as the club Max owns is called "The
Searching I" -- which is exactly what Alden is doing -- searching for
his Identity -- it also taken from "the Hungry I" - a legendary 1960s
club in San Francisco. By the way, the New York locations are fun, 5th
Avenue, Central Park, Hofstra University, and others. I believe I saw a
handful of episodes in 1967 as a ten year old, the same summer that The
Prisoner -- another series about identity -- came out.
It is interesting to watch Coronet Blue and then see Unknown White Male (2003), a documentary about a man in New York who completely lost his memory/identity and found himself on a subway.
Some people write Coronet Blue off because we never discover who Michael Alden (Converse) really is. After watching the series, I can say that it really doesn't matter that we don't find out. The stories are about Michael Alden finding himself through the journey, not the destination. In the 13th and final episode Alden says that he learned that he finds who he really is within himself, not through information from other people. Although the series didn't know it was ending, this last episode ends with Michael Alden sounding more at peace with himself than he ever had been. In that sense, it seems to me that it ended in a complete way. Bravo Mr. Converse & cast!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was a shame the show wasn't picked up, because it would have gone on
for years and been a classic. Sure it was one of many shows inspired by
"The Fugitive" back in the 1960s, but there were so many original
touches, it didn't matter. I guessed "Michael" was an agent, but I
never would have guessed he was a Russian. If they made it today, he'd
probably turn out to be a CIA agent being hounded by his own agency
because he was going to expose some nefarious right-wing plot.
It was also a shame that Frank Converse was denied the role that would have made him a major TV and perhaps film star. "NYPD" didn't last long and he never found the right role to give him the recognition and stardom he deserved.
I have read various accounts of the premise of Coronet Blue and how the pilot episode opens. There are two details I vividly remember differently and was wondering if anyone else noted them as I did. Most interesting is the origin of the series title. Some websites state Frank Converse's character climbs out of the water himself and mumbles only two words: "Coronet Blue" - hence, the title. I watched the pilot episode the night it first aired on television. Specifically, he was pulled from the water by other people, and unconscious at that. The people go through his pockets looking for identification, but the only thing he has on him is a matchbook with a design of a blue coronet (crown) on the outside of it. Doesn't anyone else remember that detail?
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