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45 Years ago on Network TV

Dave Randall

Posted on August 20, 2017 21:25

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Once there was a Private Eye...

1972. It's tough to wrap your brain around the many ways home viewing has changed since then. What is vital to our amusement, today, was the stuff of science fiction, 45 years ago: smart phones, the internet, social media, streaming services, High-Def. There was no cable, not as we know it. There may be similarities to 1972 at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., but that's a topic for another essay. What we currently watch, political or otherwise, and how we watch it, has undergone mind-boggling changes.

In '72, the traditional new TV season began the same week as public schools did -- the week after Labor Day. You sat in front of a cathode-ray tube set with a 27 or 13-inch screen, situated mainly in the living room or bedroom, and beheld a televised landscape, populated mostly by private detectives. They were there by the score. In real life, the P.I. is the guy who gets the goods on wayward spouses. On TV in '72, they came in all shapes and sizes, all ages and predicaments, solving all manner of crimes--misdeeds that would routinely flummox the wide-tied, flared-trousered, coffee-saturated cops that served as supporting characters.

Because these all-seeing, all-purpose private eyes had at least one unique characteristic about them, writers had to find imaginative ways to allow them to physically catch the good guys in the final minutes of each episode. Looking back, it all seems so improbable. Here's a capsule glimpse at just a few from '72:

Longstreet, ABC-James Franciscus portrayed a sightless detective. Blindness made pursuing bad guys a real problem, so the penultimate task was left to his guide-dog Pax, who, if viewers were fortunate, would seek out the soft, fleshy regions of a villain, and sink his fangs in. Prison and rabies shots on Longstreet; crime did not pay.

Ironside, NBC- Raymond Burr was the legitimate, former Chief of Detectives, confined to a wheelchair and a starchy diet. His tires barely rotated, so he couldn't realistically give chase. Apprehending suspects was left to the poor, hernia-suffering assistant, who pushed the bulky Chief around.

Barnaby Jones, CBS - Buddy Ebsen, fresh out of Jed Clampett's cee-ment pond, was the elderly detective. Criminals in flight may well have been fired upon by a moist set of dentures, rather than a gun. But more often than not, 'Ol Barnaby would head after them at a trot that resembled an aristocrat, hurriedly but discretely, making his way to a country club restroom.

Cannon, CBS - William Conrad played the stentorian-voiced, well-fed, gourmet detective. Running was out of the question, so pursuit of crooks consisted of a backwards fall, then a heavy slide forward, the sheer force of which would bowl over bad guys like ten pins.

 

That was 1972. Don't laugh too hard, though. 45 years from now, those who look back on TV will find no idiosyncratic detectives, just Kardashians and Big Brother Houses!

Dave Randall

Posted on August 20, 2017 21:25

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Source: SF Gate

Twenty-nine discs in four DVD cases; 24-page illustrated booklet on the history of this popular British TV series by its...

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