Matt Houston (1982–1985)
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A Deadly Parlay 

After Houston's friend Winston Fowler's top jockey Cindy Gaines breaches her contract with him to move to England, she is fatally pitch-forked in a stable. Houston is found standing over ... See full summary »


(as Charles Picerni)


(creator), (teleplay) | 2 more credits »


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Episode credited cast:
Lee Horsley ...
Matt Houston
C.J. Parsons
Lt. Vince Novelli
Penny Santon ...
Mama Rosa Novelli
Winston Fowler
Edward Grover ...
Captain Kerrigan (as Ed Grover)
Peter Isacksen ...
Midge Moran
Cindy Gaines (as Lynn Holly Johnson)
Victor Macey
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Burt Marshall ...
Maureen O'Connor ...
Detective Wilkinson
Leigh Walsh ...


After Houston's friend Winston Fowler's top jockey Cindy Gaines breaches her contract with him to move to England, she is fatally pitch-forked in a stable. Houston is found standing over her remains and subsequently arrested for her murder. Written by Maisie Fleckum

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Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

10 April 1983 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Less Horse Pockey Here Than Most First Season Episodes
12 August 2011 | by See all my reviews

Houston heads out to the racetrack to meet his friend Winston Fowler (Ron Ely) who has a stable of competitive thoroughbred horses. He enlists Houston to try to persuade Cindy Gaines (Lynn Holly Johnson), Fowler's top jockey and one who has a schoolgirl crush on Houston to reconsider leaving and joining a stable in England.

Houston is framed for her murder after he finds Cindy dead in a stable killed by a pitchfork, is arrested and investigated by police Captain Kerrigan. Houston's cop friend Novelli, who has fully recovered from having been shot in "Fear For Tomorrow" is obviously too personally involved to maintain impartiality and take on the traditional police stratagem in cases i.e. working on the assumption that the accused really is guilty.

The dead girl's father Victor Macy, security head at the track has hated Houston for years and helps the police. On top of being implicated in murder Houston is targeted as the next victim and seemingly everybody around the victim might be guilty for one reason or another.

Houston takes two plausible points of entry into this mystery. The first is his friendship with a stable owner and jockey. The second is that he is a rich dude and it is a setting with horseback riding something we already know Houston, a ranch owner, likes.

We get a setting in which the socialite sleuth looks like he belongs. We get a mystery that he has to be involved in because he himself is a suspect with a strong incentive for Houston to solve it himself. We also get police who act the way they are supposed to i.e. not overly friendly with the hero of the show.

This doesn't look like an episode from the generally satiric first season and is very much in line with a more serious approach being taken to the narrative as it had been picked up for the remainder of the 1982-83 TV season and looked to mount an unexpected second season. Rather than the recycled Burke's Law episodes that had been prevalent we now see teleplays that look as though they were actually written for, rather than around the title character.

My criticisms are minor as I regard this as one of the better (Less dumb) episodes of the debut season. The first one is that Houston is nearly hit by a car a few times that tries to run him down. My guess would be that Lee Horsley's stand-in specialized in that kind of stunt but they just done it to death on this show. Horsley's stand-in is also clearly visible during the lariat capture of the baddie at the end.

The next criticism is the theme of an identical twin i.e. Lynn Holly Johnson as both Lori Gaines and Cindy Gaines. It is rather a big leap in credibility to introduce an identical twin for the payoff of bringing back a very appealing guest star twice in the same episode for all of two scenes totalling a few minutes.

While Lynn Holly Johnson was one of about a thousand different crushes I had growing up this was a show that constantly had beautiful women on it. What it lacked were believable narratives on top of the overall implausibility of the series premise. Other shows could have gotten away with that. This one not so much.

Ed Grover (a solid actor who had appeared in films like Serpico and Death Wish) reprises his role as police Captain Kerrigan having played him in the episode before this one - Season 1, Episode 20 - "Fear For Tomorrow". Presumably he is being offered up as a surrogate for Novelli.

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