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"Gideon Oliver" was part of a rotating group of series on ABC's Monday
Mystery Movie, along with a "Columbo" revival and Burt Reynolds' star
vehicle "B.L. Stryker" (and perhaps another show that I don't recall).
The Monday Mystery Movie was based on the NBC Mystery Movie format from
the '70s. Alas, "Gideon" was the shortest-lived of the three series,
lasting only five episodes. "Stryker" coasted on Reynolds' wisecracks,
attitude and fisticuffs, but it couldn't last more than twelve
episodes, either. Only longtime stalwart "Columbo" survived longer,
outlasting the Monday Mystery Movie franchise, although it was no
longer as fresh and original as it was during its NBC Sunday Mystery
Gideon Oliver, as portrayed by Louis Gossett, Jr., was an excellent role model for African- Americans. Inquisitive, intelligent, caring, committed to justice. Able to hold his own in a fight, but preferring to outwit his opponents. It was one of Gossett's best characters. It was also much better than a later try at a brilliant black crime-solver, 1995's "Cosby Mysteries."
Whole episodes were often filmed in NYC with exterior location shots because Professor Oliver taught at Columbia University. This made it better in that respect than "McCloud," which, while set in NYC, relied on an obviously fake, backlot New York street for many of its shots.
While I'm not African-American, I was taken by this series. After not seeing it since the 1989 network run, I suggested it to the only cable channel I thought might be interested in picking it up, Superstation WGN. After all, they often filled prime time with their own Mystery Movie weeks, showing "McCloud" and "McMillan and Wife" episodes. And the five-episode size of this series would make it easier to buy the rights and fit into their schedule. Luckily, they seemed to take my suggestion, although they may have been doing it or planning it all along. In the past three years, WGN has run a Mystery Movie week featuring "Gideon Oliver" at least once a year. It's worth catching if you haven't seen it before.
...and what they want is the same thing this country's politicians want - people who aren't interested in the world around them and will just accept what's shoved at them. Gideon Oliver was not just smart, it was intelligent. I'd been somewhat familiar with Aaron Elkins' work when this series debuted, and the biggest surprise I had was seeing Professor Oliver played by Louis Gossett, Jr. It's not that this was a problem, it's just that his ethnic background had never been a part of the books (at least the couple I had read), so I had never thought of picturing him as Black. Mr. Gossett played his part admirably and with flair, but the best part of this series was the fact that it engaged the viewer intellectually, not just as a piece of mindless entertainment. That's why it failed: it encouraged viewers to think and there was even the shocking possibility that something interesting and worthwhile could actually be learned from it - Egad, what a horrifying notion! Fortunately, at least one episode, the two-part "Sleep Well, Professor Oliver", shows up on cable as a movie from time to time.
From the first episode to the last I was glued to the TV during the entire series. I had taped the series on VHS but in the process of moving the tapes are now lost I only wish they had it out on DVD. Being an avid Crime Movie and Mystery Series fan this series was one of the best and Mr. Gossett was at his best in this role. Just when you thought you had it figured out they threw a curve at you and the endings were always a surprise. I only wish he made more episodes of this. The books written of this are equally as good as the series .If you missed it you missed something spectacular. Lets get this series out on DVD I need my Gideon fix :)
I remember some good things about it, but also some bad, and part of it
had come from author Aaron Elkins' disowning of the show.
He didn't have a problem with Oliver being made black (Elkins had never specified Oliver's ethnicity in the books), but two things Elkins always refused to include in his books were Satanism and violence against children.
And the premiere episode was about a Satanic cult sacrificing children.
Elkins and his fans were horrified. And personally, I had no problem with Gossett, and thought he did a good job, but after reading some of the books, I found the series a turnoff. They had the smartness but none of the wry humor and light touches. I gave up on it after two shows; may have been unfair of me, but I found the show's dismissal of the author's work to be too much of a turnoff.
Gideon Oliver, as far as I am aware, was never broadcast in the United Kingdom. However I did manage to see the pilot, "Sleep Well, Professor Oliver" on VHS at the time. This is surely one of those "too good for TV" series that was unfairly overlooked and cast into obscurity. A rather cerebral hero, Gideon Oliver was Louis Gossett Jr. at the peak of his powers. The pilot episode saw the crusading scholar take on a cult of Satanists, including Near Dark's Jenny Wright (another reason to search out this neglected gem). A sophisticated storyline, fine character acting and a palpable sense of menace made this a great TV movie in its own right. A shame it never became a cult of its own, unlike many other less-deserving titles. See it if you can!
Somehow I seemed to have missed this TV Series starring Louis Gossett,Jr. In this particular TV Series, Louis Gossett(Gideon Oliver),"Deceived",'02, is called to a small town by an old time Kennonite friend who needs his help in solving a murder. The Kennonite family lives like the AMISH or Mennonite people and are not into violence and are being accused of murdering a nearby neighbor. Gideon has to fight the local town people and the sheriff who is controlled by the powerful local politicians. The story gets quite involved with a Kennonite young lady who managed to go to college and learned computers and is struggling with her life in the Kennonite CLAN! If you are a big fan of Louis Gossett, Jr., this is a great TV Series to enjoy viewing.
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