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Gritty, realistic series.
"Manhunt" was a half hour TV series that appeared in first run syndication during the 1959-1961 TV seasons. Unlike most detective series of the time which were set in either New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, "Manhunt" was set in San Diego and may well have been the first TV detective series to be set there (others have subsequently followed).
Veteran character actor Victor Jory starred as Lieutenant Howard Finucane of the San Diego Police Department and Patrick McVey (who had appeared the previous season in the western series "Boots and Saddles")appeared as police reporter Ben Andrews. Victor Jory was a tall, thin, craggy actor who always appeared to be much older than he probably actually was and generally played detestable "heavies" throughout most of his long, illustrious career. "Manhunt" was a welcome change and his Howard Finucane character was a "no-nonsense", tough, leathery character much like Jory's appearance on screen. Jory's presence and portrayal lent this series a gritty, realistic feel that set it apart from the many other detective/cop shows of the time.
Dr. Simon Locke (1971)
A cheap, by the numbers syndie, but watchable.
"Police Surgeon" was in fact the second and third seasons of a syndicated half hour TV series that began life as "Dr. Simon Locke" in its' first season. Sam Groom, a likable enough actor, played as Dr. Simon Locke, a young doctor who, in the "Police Surgeon" incarnation of the series, moves from the Dixon Mills small-town physician of the first season to a surgeon with the medical unit of a big-city police department (Toronto?) for the second and third seasons. Larry Mann was also featured during the last two seasons as Lieutenant Jack Gordon of the police department. As seemed to be the norm in all hospital/doctor series of the time, Dr. Locke seemed to spend more time playing detective each week than did Lt. Gordon who would seem to show up close to the end of each weekly episode to "wrap-up" the case and take the criminal (pursued and apprehended by Dr. Locke) to jail.
Both "Dr. Simon Locke" and "Police Surgeon" were cheap, by the numbers, first run syndication TV series that ran from 1971-1974 but were watchable none the less.
Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958)
A good start to an outstanding film career.
"Wanted-Dead or Alive" was a half hour western series appearing on CBS television for three seasons from 1958-1961. The series actually got its start as an episode of another popular TV series of the time, "Trackdown", during the second half of the '57-'58 TV season. "Wanted-Dead or Alive" starred Steve McQueen as bounty hunter Josh Randall in what was a very good start to an outstanding acting career in feature films. As played by McQueen, Josh Randall was the most laconic of a broad television landscape of would-be laconic western series heroes.
Josh Randall carried a sawed-off 44/40 Winchester carbine (his "Mare's Leg", as he called it) on his hip instead of the traditional Colt 45 pistol. This of course played into the TV "cool factor" as his weapon made a much louder, more devastating sound when fired and of course had much more "stopping power" upon impact with the intended victim. Cool! Although "Wanted-Dead or Alive" was truly nothing out of the ordinary in terms of content or quality compared to other like fare of the period but Steve McQueen as Josh Randall and his unique weapon made this a "must watch" series. Only Paladin was better and "cooler" than Josh.
Have Gun - Will Travel (1957)
Simply the best!
"Have Gun, Will Travel" was a half hour adult western that ran for six very successful seasons on CBS television on Saturday evenings at 9:30 pm, immediately preceding "Gunsmoke". Richard Boone was expertly cast as Paladin, a loner who was very fast with either his gun or his fists but probably even faster with his wit and intelligence. This western was different from all the rest (and there were many) of the western series televised during the mid-to-late '50's in that the hero, Paladin, was a West Point trained, highly educated character who just happened to be quick with the gun and utilized violence only as a last resort. Paladin's services as a detective/bodyguard/courier were available to anyone who requested them and were able to pay for them. Paladin would accept these job offers but always took the moral high ground, often turning on the very person(s) who may have hired him if their cause was not just and honorable. "Gunsmoke" may have run longer but "Have Gun, Will Travel" was simply the best.
A summer replacement series.
"Tate" was a half hour western series that ran on NBC during the summer of 1960 as a summer replacement series. Summer replacement series generally ran 13 weeks and if the ratings for these replacement shows were sufficiently good they were brought back in January which was the start of the "second season" to replace series that had been canceled due to poor ratings.
"Tate" starred David McLean as the title character, a one-armed western bounty hunter who had lost the use of his left arm due to a wound suffered during the civil war. Since westerns were beginning to hit the skids in popularity gimmicks were being employed to give a new western series a unique quality that others lacked. In "Tate", the gimmick was that Tate was essentially one-armed and his useless left arm was entirely encased in black leather with the black gloved left hand protruding from a black leather sling. This gave a very ominous appearance to other characters in the series and to the audience alike. Tate was very fast on the draw and could still handle himself well in fights despite his handicap. The series was very pleasing for the most part although not very distinguished from any other western series. The two things I remember most (apart from the black leather and sling) was that this western was shot on tape rather than film and that Robert Redford appeared in two of the 13 episodes early in his distinguished career.
All-in-all not a bad series but far from great.
Shows its Republic Pictures/Matinée Serial Origins
"Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe", was a half hour TV series that ran as a replacement series on NBC during the 1955 season. If the series looked familiar...it was! "Commando Cody..." shows its Republic Pictures/matinée serial origins as the title character appeared once under the Cody name and twice under different character names in three different Saturday matinée cliffhanger serials from the late '40's thru the early '50's. Although there were 12 TV episodes (as there were nearly always 12 chapters of a serial), none of them ended in the inevitable cliffhanger ending. All episodes were complete in themselves yet there was a definite continuing story arc week-to-week. The 12 episodes were first shown in theatres in 1953 but by this point in time movie serials were fast becoming extinct due to the growing popularity of network television. Republic Pictures, along with Columbia Pictures, were the last two studios to produce theatrical serials. The "Commando Cody..." series was, along with most of the last of Republic's serial output, very cheaply and quickly produced so as to include tons of stock footage at Republic's disposal from nearly 20 years of serial production. Judd Holdren, who had played the Cody character (under a different name) in the second of the "Rocketman/Commando Cody" theatrical serials, starred as Commando Cody. Aline Towne played his assistant Joan, William Shallert played his assistant Ted for the first half of the series and Richard Crane replaced Shallert as assistant Dick during the second half. The Cody group was battling Gregory Gay as the Ruler who was attempting to destroy the Earth from his base on the Moon. The Ruler was assisted on Earth by Baylor (portrayed by veteran actor Lyle Talbot) and assorted other Earth gangsters looking to "clean up" after Earth's overthrow.
Sci-Fi that seems "hokey" by today's standards but entertaining for its' time in the much simpler '50's.
Stories of the Century (1954)
The first western TV series to win an Emmy award
"Stories of the Century" was a half hour series and appeared in first run syndication during the '54-'55 television season. It was also the first western TV series to win an Emmy award. Starring veteran western actor Jim Davis as railroad detective Matt Clark, the series set Clark and his fellow railroad detective partners (Mary Castle as Frankie Adams for the first half of the season and Kristine Miller as "Jonesy" during the second half)against historic western outlaws of various periods ranging from the mid-1860's to the early 1900's. The series was very satisfying, easy to watch, and fairly realistic due mainly to the easygoing charm of Jim Davis in the lead role. He seemed like an actual western character. One other note. When Matt Clark would arrive in town after a long ride he actually looked like he had been on a long horse ride as he would be covered in dust.
A very good early adult western.
Hotel de Paree (1959)
"Hotel De Paree" was a half hour western that ran on CBS during the '59-'60 television season. It was another of the "gimmick" westerns running during that time as westerns were slowly but surely fading from the television landscape and relying on gimmicks to keep audience interest. This one had one of the strangest gimmicks of all as the gimmick was a hatband!!! worn by the hero, Sundance, made up of a series of brightly polished metal discs and used to temporarily blind an opponent during a gunfight as the bright sun reflected off the hatband. Honestly, this is too strange to make up! Played by Earl Holliman, Sundance is an ex-convict who inherits partnership in the hotel of the title and shares ownership (and perhaps more?) with the co-owner, Mrs. Devereaux (played by Jeannette Nolan), and her beautiful young niece Monique. Veteran character actor Strother Martin portrayed storekeeper Aaron, Sundance's best friend.
Everything about this series was slightly strange. Beginning with the unlikely title of the program, to the gimmicky shiny hatband, right down to Sundance's strange (almost bizarre) relationship with BOTH Mrs. Devereaux AND Mrs. Deveraux's niece. Despite it all, this was a strangely watchable series and should have merited a second season.
Better than the rest .
In 1971, the FCC ordered the networks to give back the 7:30 pm (EST) Monday-Friday time slot to the local stations so that they could provide original programming to their local areas. To fill this new time slot a spate of low budget, derivative half hour TV series were churned out for first run syndication and picked up by the local TV stations as their "original" and educational programming. During the initial season ('71-'72) for this programming the underwater adventure series "Primus" was probably the one series of a largely sorry group to slightly stand out. It was certainly better than the rest. Produced by Ivan Tors, who had had previous success in this genre with the superior "Sea Hunt" (of which this series more than slightly resembled) and "Flipper", and with the popular Robert Brown ("Here Come the Brides") in the lead as oceanographer Carter Primus, this series belied its low budget in many ways as more underwater gadgets such as "Big Kate" and "Pegasus" were utilized in various weekly episodes. For the record, former model Eva Renzi played assistant Toni Hyden and Will Kaluva played assistant Charlie Kingman.
Not a bad little series but a few fathoms below "Sea Hunt" in quality.