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Mike Longstreet was an insurance investigator who was blinded in an explosion. His wife was killed by the same blast. With the aid of braille teacher Nikki and guide dog Pax, Longstreet tracked down the jewel thieves who murdered his wife, and continued his career as a detective. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
I remember that for the fall of 1971 NBC moved "Ironside" from its longtime Thursday slot to Tuesday, and ABC decided that another show about a physically-challenged detective could fill the Thursday slot. As it turned out, "Ironside" ran into ratings problems against "Mod Squad," also on ABC, while "Longstreet" got as high as fifth in the Nielsen ratings. NBC quickly put "Ironside" back on Thursdays. Maybe Raymond Burr's snarling, intimidating personality made more of an impression than the more laid-back James Franciscus, best known at the time as English teacher Mr. Novak.
But that doesn't change the fact that "Longstreet" was a good show that happened to meet an early end; not only did we get to see the hero, who was blind, at work, but also learning how to cope with his new handicap. Maybe people didn't tune in week after week to get lessons on how to cope with blindness but I think it added a dimension to the show. And add to that the great supporting cast: Marlyn Mason as Longstreet's Braille teacher and assistant; Peter Mark Richman as his co-worker at the insurance company; Bruce Lee on the few occasions he appeared; and one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen--Pax, Longstreet's German shepherd guide dog. The characters on this show are likable, the violence is held to a minimum, and it's a shame ABC didn't give it a second season, maybe on a different night.
And just how does a sighted actor play a sightless character? Franciscus once said he had to learn to unfocus his eyes, and I remember an article in the Atlanta Constitution shortly after the series ended that said he suffered from real vision problems for a time because of this.
The only question I've always had is how Longstreet, even with the use of an electronic cane, always knew when to tell Pax to make a left or right turn.
Definitely well-written, well-acted, and a winner no matter if ABC didn't give it a second chance.
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