Lew Archer, a former policeman, is a private detective who is not above bending the law when trying to solve a case. His friend, Lieutenant Brighton, helps him with information. The show was loosely based on the character Lew Archer in the Ross Macdonald novels.Written by
J.E. McKillop <email@example.com>
Brian Keith was an actor who always seemed to have greatness in him, but most of his performances were just extremely competent and professional. I liked him best in "The Parent Trap", "The Westerner", "Reflections in a Golden Eye" and the pilot for "The Fugitive".
Paul Newman had played Lew Archer in the movie "Harper". Lew Archer's name was changed to Lew Harper in the movie because Ross Macdonald refused to give the producers the rights to all his novels, just "The Moving Target". Paul Newman made a pretty good private eye, although he didn't really project much gravitas. (Newman was much better as a private detective three decades later in "Twilight", written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton.)
Peter Graves played Lew Archer in the pilot movie for this series, written by talented Douglas Heyes ("Kitten With a Whip"). Graves is a likable actor, but he made a rather bland, unmemorable Archer.
Brian Keith was probably a better actor than Graves and maybe even as good as Newman, but his Archer was as exciting to watch as paint drying. He disappointed any hopes that he would finally uncork his great performance.
Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer was an attractive, early middle-aged man working as a PI in Los Angeles. But how did that make him different from Stuart Bailey, David Ross, Joe Mannix, Harry Orwell or Jim Rockford? What was needed for a start was a unique lead performance.
I would have liked to see the balding Pernell Roberts as Archer. Roberts was extremely attractive and distinctive looking in his 40's, when he didn't wear his toupee. Roberts projected a certain pompousness and irritability with people but also moral seriousness, decency and a lack of patience with bs. All these qualities could have fit Lew Archer.
Hal Holbrook could have been another good choice for Archer. Macdonald's Lew Archer was basically the professor as private detective (or perhaps the psychotherapist as private detective), and Holbrook could have filled the bill. Holbrook never really played an action hero, and he might have given the character depth, compassion, humor and humanity.
Holbrook could have been a persuasive surrogate for the real Ross Macdonald who had a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan and was a Samuel Coleridge scholar. Macdonald was an ex-Navy officer. He grew up poor and did reckless things as a boy. Macdonald had a long, difficult marriage to another brilliant writer. And Macdonald attempted suicide at least once. It seems like there might have been a lot of Macdonald in Archer. Former child actor Tommy Nolan ("Buckskin") wrote a fine biography of Macdonald.
But perhaps a lighter route was the way to go for a TV series. Maybe Paul Newman's version (from screenwriter William Goldman) should have been the template: young, muscular, wise-cracking, flashy, cheaply cynical and prematurely world weary. Roy Thinnes made a fine TV version of Newman in "The Long Hot Summer". Thinnes might have been equally good as Archer.
Producer David Karp ("Hawkins on Murder", "The Brotherhood of the Bell", "The Defenders") was a talented guy, but he wasn't able to give this show much of a pulse.
Brian Keith wanted to move production to his beloved Hawaii if there was a second season. All in all, it was probably a fine idea to get Archer out of Southern California. This show needed something to give it a jolt of energy, even if it meant leaving the great Ross Macdonald far behind.
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