Monday, February 4, 2013

Mannix Intro CBS 1969

From the Thrilling Detective Web Site:
Joe MannixCreated by William Link and Richard Levinson
Developed for Television by Bruce Geller

"If you're not gonna pull that trigger immediately,
mind if I have a cigarette?"

-- from the episode. "To the Swiftest Death"

Your classic American hard-boiled private eye, television division. And I mean classic in every sense of the word. Accept no substitutes.

Oh, there were flashier dicks, and smarter dicks, and certainly better written dicks. But if there was a Mount Rushmore for TV eyes, JOE MANNIX would be front and center.

Formerly the dubious pride of Intertect, a high-tech detective firm, Joe left after his first season to start his own detective agency where he relied less on sophisticated gadgetry and more on his own wits and a wicked right hook. This Korean War veteran is remarkably even-tempered and seems to take fist fights, high-speed car chases and bullet wounds in stride. Although his rugged good looks, snazzy convertible -- with a car phone!-- and dizzying array of loud sports jackets attract an endless stream of beautiful women, he seems intent on remaining a bachelor. The only woman who's a constant presence in his life is his ever-faithful (and much-kidnapped) secretary, Peggy Fair. But she didn't even come along until the second season.

To tell the truth, it was the first season that really shined. Originally Joe was a hotshot op for Intertect, a high-tech, ultra-modern Pinkerton-like high-tech detective agency headed by Lew Wickersham. Where Lew was a white-collar, straight company man, Mannix was a rough-and-tumble loner with his heart on his sleeve and a loaded gat.

The tension between the two was milked for all it was worth, and gave the show an edge most P.I. shows could only dream of, as Wickersham rattled on and on about databases, company reputations and computer analysis, while Mannix's M.O. seemed to consist solely of hunches, fistfights, and an occasional gun battle.

In "You Can Get Killed Out There", an episode near the end of the first season, Joe and Lew's differences boil over and Joe leaves Intertect rather than accept an assignment. The following episode, "Another Final Exit" had Joe cutting all ties with Intertect. And yet, not many viewers seems to remember the first season. Perhaps because that first season was never included in the syndication package.

By the second episode of the second season, "The Silent Cry," the Mannix most of us remember was firmly in place. The one-man agency wit Gail Fisher in her regular role as faithful secretary Peggy Fair, the widow of a police officer killed in the line of duty, and the mother of one son, Toby. One of the first blacks to be cast in an American drama, Peggy made quite an impression. In a recent chat online, several folks were convinced that in fact, Joe and Peggy were "doing it", and that CBS didn't reveal the relationship due to the "racial sensitivities" of the time. Me? I've always suspected they were getting it on during commercials...

But whatever. There was certainly affection and respect there, and Peggy was an integral part of the agency, more than simply a secretary, running background checks, brainstorming with Joe and frequently rescuing Joe from the local jail or hospital. And she could be counted on to be threatened or kidnapped once or twice a season, just to keep things rolling.
Not that Joe had completely turned his back on technology, mind you. He did have a car phone -- something extrememly rare at the time. And the fans loved it. And Joe. During its long run it was always a popular show.

But eventually CBS, possibly corncerned about ongoing complaints about the show's violence, did what various hoods and thugs never quite managed. They cancelled Joe's ticket.
Mannix ground to a halt in the mid-seventies. By then, the airwaves were alive with a new, slightly hipper or at least more colourful breed of TV dicks. Blind dicks (Longstreet), fat dicks (Cannon), con artist dicks (Rockford), grumpy ex-cop dicks (Harry O), even old dicks (Barnaby Jones).

Suddenly, Joe Mannix seemed a little bit like a dinosaur. All he did was solve cases. And for eight glorious seasons, that would be enough.
The idea of a hard-boiled private eye like Joe suddenly seemed old-fashioned, even quaint. And so Joe, like a two-fisted Puff the Magic Dragon, quietly slipped into his cave...
* * * * *
In a few short years, producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts would return, helping to create bimbo dicks (Charlie's Angels).
But ironically, it was Mannix's very success that had revived the genre in the first place. Before Mannix, the genre has more or less run itself into the ground, tripping over its own gimmicks (77BourbonStreetEye, anyone?) and regurgitated copies of copies.
By humanizing and subtly updating the private eye, bringing him unapologetically into the sixties and seventies even while still respecting the roots of the genre, Mannix paved the way for all who would succeed him.

As Connors himself once mused (in Ric Meyers' Murder On the Air) somewhere out there "Mannix is still working...there was a decency and a dignity about the man..."

Turns out he was right. In 1997, Connors stepped back into Joe's gumshoes in an episode of Diagnosis Murder, a lighthearted piece of fluff that claimed to be a mystery drama, about a Dr. Mark Sloan (played by Dick Van Dyke), a teaching physician who also becomes deeply involved in crime-solving in his role as consultant to the local police department. Sort of a Murder, He Prescribed, with a scary similiarity to Matlock. In one of the few episodes that interested me, Mannix teams up with his old friend Dr. Mark Sloan to solve a 25-year-old murder case.

Scenes from a 1973 Mannix episode, "Little Girl Lost" are used in flashback sequences. Pernell Roberts and Beverly Garland reprise their guest-starring roles from the original "Mannix" episode as Mannix, in an attempt to honour a promise to a little girl (now a grown journalist) to track down her father's killer. When he arrives at Community General Hospital with a bullet wound, he runs into Mark and together they work the case. Meanwhile, the good doctor uncovers a more serious health risk while treating Mannix for his bullet wound and strongly advises him to take immediate action -- a warning Mannix promptly chooses to ignore.
Seems you can't keep a good dick down.

Don't believe me?

Check out how many TV private eyes STILL wear heavily patterned tweed sports coats... even in balmy Southern California.

Ask James Garner about the "Mannix jacket."
  • "Stop worrying Peggy, I've got 50 pounds on her."
  • "He's not as famous as Columbo or as lauded as Jim Rockford, but few TV detectives have remained as beloved and under-the-radar cool as Mike Connors' Joe Mannix...right from the start Connors emitted broad-shouldered Everyman solidness (solving) cases with his brains, his gun and his fists: he was an all-purpose detective."
    --Ken Tucker,
    Entertainment Weekly
  • "In the first year of the show, when he worked for Intertech, Mannix, Joe drove a George Barris-customized convertible Oldsmobile Toranado. AMT or MPC made a model of it, in fact (this is true! I had one- ed. ) When he quit Intertech, he went downhill and drove various Dodge Challengers and Darts for the rest of the series. The book, Barris Movie & TV Cars has photos of it. The Mannix cars were pretty was sold a couple of years ago for not much money...I think less than $10,000."
    -- John Boyle
    (1967-1975, CBS)
    193 60-minute episodes
    Created by William Link and Richard Levinson
    Developed for Television by Bruce Geller
    Executive producer:
    Bruce Geller
    Producers: Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
    Theme by Lalo Schifrin
    Mike Connors as JOE MANNIX
    and Gail Fisher as Peggy FairJoseph Campanella as Lou Wickersham (1st season)
    Robert Reed as Lieutenant Adam Tobias
    Guest starring
    Loretta Swit, Neil Diamond, Lew Alcinodor, Bobby Troup, Lynda Day, Robert Conrad, Fritz Weaver, Rich Little, Dean Stockwell, Shelley Fabares, Milton Berle, Lou Rawls, Martin Sheen, Rip Torn, Eddie Egan, Adam West, Burgess Meredith, John Ritter, Diane Keaton

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