In the Heat of the Night: Season 1, Episode 1

Pilot: Part 1 (6 Mar. 1988)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama, Crime, Mystery
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Virgil Tibbs permanently joins the Sparta police department in time to investigate the murder of a young woman.


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Chief of Detectives Virgil Tibbs (as Howard Rollins)
David Hart ...
Officer Junior Abernathy (as Christian Le Blanc)
Willie Jones
Jill Carroll ...
Gillespie's Girlfriend (as Maggie Blye)
Harold LaPierre
Anne Strictland
Peter Gabb ...


Philadelphia police lieutenant Virgil Tibbs and his wife Althea have returned to Sparta to attend the funeral of Virgil's mother. While in town and unknown to Chief Bill Gillespie, Virgil is offered the position of Chief of Detectives. At the same time, a white girl is found murdered in the Bottoms, which allows Virgil the opportunity to begin work. The police force is rife with racism and devoid of proper police procedures. An African-American man, Willie Jones, is brought in on flimsy evidence. Before Virgil can investigate, Jones is found hanged in his cell. Gillespie and Tibbs are at complete loggerheads over how to proceed with the investigation and institute measures to clean up the department. Written by richardann

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Crime | Mystery





Release Date:

6 March 1988 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode, and the next one, In the Heat of the Night: Pilot: Part 2 (1988), originally aired as a TV movie. The producers of the series later edited the film into episodes of the show. See more »


Chief of Detectives Virgil Tibbs: I want to like you people; and I want you people to like me. But there can be no liking without respect, and until there is that respect you will call me *Mister* Tibbs!
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Take My Hand Precious Lord
Words and Music by Thomas A. Dorsey (uncredited)
Portion performed by church soloist at funeral
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