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This is probably the only other character besides Frank Cannon that William Conrad will always be associated with (other than his portrayal of Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke). This was a good mixture of action and humor and the chemistry between William Conrad, Joe Penny and Alan Campbell was what made it so fun. Also, the best years of the show was when the locale was switched from Los Angeles to Honolulu. This seemed to add a little something to the show. Unfortunately, they had to move the show back to L.A. and that seemed to take the edge off the show. However, this show still will be one of the most underrated shows of the late-1980's.
Why was this series cancelled? With the exception of Hunter, it was probably the best detective show since William Conrad starred in Cannon. Conrad played the eccentric district attorney, J. L. McCabe, with his ever-present dog Max to the hilt, and Joe Penny played detective Jake Styles just as well. The interplay of McCabe's and Styles's personalities added much to the mix.
I agree to my previous speaker: "Jake And The Fatman" was one of the best TV crime dramas, and surely on top of the list during the late 1980's. I would say it lines up nicely with the great TV crime series like The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Petrocelli, Vega$, and Miami Vice - all quite different and individual, but all classic. By the way, I had the impression that William Conrad had his good days and less good days during the Jake And The Fatman series, especially in later episodes filmed on Hawaii. Does anyone know if William Conrad suffered from (a beginning) Parkinson's disease?
It all started during "Matlock's" first season (1986). The sixth
episode of that series featured William Conrad as District Attorney
James "Fatman" McShane. The next year the producers took this
character, changed his name slightly to Jason Lochinvar 'Fatman'
McCabe, and with Conrad created the long-running series "Jake and the
Fatman". Conrad's deep voice gave him quite a radio/television career,
much of it unseen as he played Matt Dillon on the radio version of
"Gunsmoke" and did voice-over commentary for "The Fugitive" and "Rocky
The 106 hour-long episodes of this police drama were originally broadcast on CBS from 1987 to 1992. This pending DVD set contains the first half of the 23 episodes from the first season, 21 regular episodes and a two-part pilot, which actually ran "after" the show had premiered.
In some ways the two title characters in the first season of "Jake and the Fatman" could be considered the most authentic looking of any police drama. While Conrad's character on "Cannon" was dubbed "Cannonball" by Mad Magazine, lampooning was unnecessary with the "Fatman" character and Conrad actually seemed to gain weight with each passing episode during the first season. For the second season he slimmed down a bit for their move from Los Angeles to Hawaii, everything is relative. Like "Cannon" he groans and complains but manages to get his man by the end of each episode. But while "Cannon" at least looked presentable, the "Fatman's" grooming makes him look he's been staying in a homeless shelter and staining his tie in soup kitchens.
Of course this was supposed to contrast with his suave police associate Jake Styles (Joe. E. Penny), who cruises for babes in a silver Porsche speedster. But this guy isn't like the squeaky clean detectives on "Hawaiian Eye". As Harry and Wally said: "Jake is some young, oily hotshot who works undercover to do the legwork....Jake looks like the kind of guy who would proposition your fourteen-year-old sister". He did seem slightly more wholesome once the two moved to the Islands but for DVD buyers that won't be until Season Two.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hailing from the UK i am not that familiar with niche 80's US detective
shows, so imagine my surprise whilst flicking through the various cable
channels at 4am (dont ask) that i came across Jake and the Fatman.
although other people might disagree i found myself hooked on this show which for an 80's programme (reaganite politics aside) is extremely groundbreaking in a cheesy sort of way. episodes that dealt with vigilante husbands punishing random muggers due to his wife being gang-raped (something he was made to watch)years previously to an avenging cops wife shooting her husband and his partner for the miscarriage he rather violently inflicted on her in the past.
i am aware of the censorship issues that are in operation in network American TV so it is all the more refreshing and intelligent that such a programme could have dealt with these issues in (i am assuming) its prime-time slot.
if you happen to read my rather general review on Jake and the Fatman and i have piqued your interest you would not be wasting your time if you were to give it a go, so search the stations on those cold dark nights and be entertained.
It shouldn't be much of a surprise that this show was (co?)produced by
Fred Silverman,who also created and produced the highly successful
"Matlock" on rival nets NBC and ABC. This inhabitant of the CBS midweek
scheduling(usually Tuesdays if memory serves)seems like as much a sort
of photo negative of the earlier offering starring Andy Griffith,where
instead of a defense attorney fighting to exonerate a wrongly accused
yet highly viable suspect,a sly,pro-active prosecuting attorney--in
this case,portly J.L.McCabe(the late,great William Conrad)--battles to
find who the real guilty culprit in in cases that seem cut-and-dried in
another direction. To his aid are a handsome,seemingly 'Devil may care'
private investigator(and ex-cop)named Jake Stiles(the handsome,now
'Where Are They Now?' material Joe Penny) and the loyal assistant
attorney Derek Mitchell(Alan Campbell).
While I cannot profess to be a loyal fan of the show,I watched it with some regularity through the first two seasons or so and was reasonably impressed with how the show(for its day)could deconstruct a "Now you see it,now you don't" type of murder mystery that was similar to the show about the crafty,blue suited Atlanta defense attorney. The combination of the veteran bluster of Mr. Conrad and the seemingly feckless charm of Mr.Penny was able to fill up an hour capably. Even though this show had a solid five year run(that was almost cut down after season one),it's pretty tough to find re-runs of this. If you can,and you feel like this kind of easy-to-digest,late eighties entertainment is your cup of tea,then check this out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Does anyone know which episode contained William Conrad telling the Christmas story to a bunch of Hawaiian kids in the hospital children's ward? I can't tell from the episode guide. I'd love to have a video of it as a gift for my husband. Does anyone have one they'd be willing to sell or trade? We loved the series, although have to agree that it was much better when set in Hawaii than in Los Angeles. It's a shame that it never made it to syndication. We felt that it ranked right up there with many of the best of the 80s detective shows, and the relationships between the two stars and of course, Max, were very well drawn. Jake and Max were perfect foils!
Jake & The Fatman was a great experience for me, to participate in many episodes as an extra gave me the opportunity to meet so many talented actors and make many new friends. I truly enjoyed the times that I was asked to be part of all episodes of this great show, I truly enjoyed very much and learned a lot about the TV industry...and the experience led me to more participation in other TV shows shot in Hawaii! Jake & The Fatman was an exciting and wonderful experience for many of us...meeting, socializin and just being next to so many great actors, actresses, and fellow extras were unique moments to treasure Looking forwards to more TV shows in the Future!! Thank you for the Opportunity to have been part of TV history in Hawaii Rolando Sanchez
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