With his rumpled raincoat, ever-present cigar, bumbling demeanour and Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction, disarmingly polite homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo took on some of the most cunning murderers in Los Angeles, most of whom made one fatal, irrevocable mistake: underestimating his investigative genius.
Sam McCloud is a rustic country sheriff from a rural part of the United States. He travels to the big city and joins the police force, using his country ways and laid-back approach to nab the bad guys.
There were two fine drama series on during the 1970-71 season. One was "The Senator" with Hal Holbrook. The other was this show.
Roy Thinnes was excellent as psychiatrist Dr. James Whitman. The 32-year old Thinnes had already given two fine series performances: as Ben Quick in "The Long, Hot Summer" and as David Vincent in "The Invaders".
Executive producer Norman Felton ("Dr. Kildare", "The Man From UNCLE") was doing an update of his previous superb psychiatry series "The Eleventh Hour" (1962-64). Roy Thinnes had given strong support on an "Eleventh Hour" episode about family therapy, in which Angela Lansbury and Martin Balsam played his parents, Tuesday Weld was his sister and Don Grady was his younger brother.
Twenty-eight year old Jerrold Freedman was the ambitious producer of "The Psychiatrist". Freedman asked his young friend Steven Spielberg to direct two episodes. Spielberg wasn't too happy at the time as a Universal contract director, but Freedman offered him almost total freedom to do what he wanted. Spielberg obliged with two superb, adult television dramas.
One Spielberg episode was about a troubled 12-year old boy whose parents may be on the verge of divorce. Jim Hutton and Kate Woodville played the remote parents. The boy tries to escape into a dream world.
Spielberg's other episode was about a young golfer who is dying of cancer (Clu Gulager in a virtuoso performance). Joan Darling played Gulager's wife. The episode was titled "Par for the Course."
Spielberg's direction of both episodes was extraordinary. This was the point where I learned who Spielberg was and became a big fan. At 24, Spielberg was amazingly the most interesting director working in TV. When I heard Spielberg was the director of "Duel", I could hardly wait for it to air.
Joe Alves, Jr. was the art director of "The Psychiatrist". Alves went on to be art director of "The Sugarland Express" and production designer of "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".
Producer Jerrold Freedman was also a boy wonder. He had brilliantly directed an episode of "The Senator" called "Power Play", and he had written another episode of "The Senator" for which John Badham received a directing Emmy nomination. Freedman also wrote and directed the first episode of "The Psychiatrist" (with guest star Pete Duel) and received an Emmy nomination for the writing. There was a lot of ambitious young talent on the Universal lot at this point.
Jerrold Freedman now writes novels under the name J. F. Freedman.
The creators of "The Psychiatrist" were Richard Levinson and William Link ("Columbo", "Ellery Queen", "That Certain Summer").
Other talented episode directors were actor Jeff Corey (who taught acting to James Dean and Jack Nicholson, among others), Douglas Day Stewart (who wrote "An Officer and a Gentleman") and Emmy winner Daryl Duke ("The Senator", "Payday", "The Silent Partner", "The Thorn Birds").
"The Psychiatrist" was one of four shows making up "Four-in-One". The other shows were "McCloud" with Dennis Weaver, "San Francisco International Airport" with Lloyd Bridges and Rod Serling's "Night Gallery". Six hour-long episodes were produced of each series. The shows played in order: first six episodes of "McCloud", then six episodes of "San Francisco International Airport", then six episodes of "Night Gallery" and finally six episodes of "The Psychiatrist". In reruns, the shows alternated from week to week.
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