Bill Gillespie is a police chief in a small town in the American South, and later becomes sheriff of the county. As Bill tries to solve crimes and catch criminals, aided by his capable investigator Virgil Tibbs and police lieutenant Bubba Skinner, he must navigate tricky small-town politics. Racial tensions often run high in the South and this theme is frequently explored. Bill's personal life is often portrayed in this TV drama, as well. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The 1989 season was played slightly out of order. The previous season ended with a cliffhanger. However, Carroll O'Connor, who also served as executive producer, wanted to begin the next season with the episode in which Althea Tibbs is raped because he felt that that particular episode had a strong message and that it should be the season opener. The continuation to the cliffhanger was shown a few episodes into that season with Gillespie recapping the events of what happened when he was kidnapped and the events surrounding that period. See more »
I want to like you people; and I want you people to like me. But there can't be liking without respect, and until there is that respect you will call me MISTER TIBBS!
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Though most will forever remember O'Conner for his Emmy-winning turn as "Archie Bunker" in the classic "All in the Family," his last television role on the long-running "In the Heat of the Night" was still equally as memorable. Inspired by the Oscar-winning film, starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, the show dealt with the police force of the mythical town of Sparta, Missisippi, headed by Chief Bill Gillespie with transplanted Philedelphian Virgil Tibbs, new and black to a force that was unprepared for such a high-ranking black. Though the first couple of episodes dealt with the adjustments that had to made with the new man on the force, the racial tension in the department was soon eliminated as both The Chief and Tibbs, along with other policemen (the superb Alan Artry as "Bubba," David Hart as the down-home, tea-drinking "Parker," Geoffrey Horne" and Hugh O'Conner as the young cops, "Sweet" and "Lonnie Jameson," respectively) came to respect and trust each other.
Many of the shows dealt with timely topics as A.I.D.S., spousal abuse, rape, and corrupt politicians. One of the series' most powerful episodes is "A Trip Upstate," wherein Chief Gillespie is asked to attend the execution of a criminal (guest star Paul Benjamin) that he caught years before. The riveting execution is quite detailed and the dialog-less performances by O'Conner and Benjamin are Emmy-worthy. The eye contact between the two actors is unbelievably intense. Whether one is pro or con on the topic of capital punishment, this particular installment should have some effect, one way or the other.
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