A Big TV Accomplishment

February 23, 2017

By Avi Green

In the past couple of years, I have achieved a dream I’d wanted to complete years before. I’ve viewed and completed a significant amount of old TV shows whose themes are mainly crime drama, adventure, action and suspense. By the standards I go by today, I’m not so big on westerns, sci-fi and sitcoms, and if I do watch anything involving sci-fi, it’s usually just stuff set in the present. Today, it’s mainly the one-hour crime series set in modern times I’m interested in. And as I’m going to talk about in the following segments, I’ve viewed all episodes of the following. I’ve thrilled to the suspense scenes, watched the dramatic character moments with interest, laughed at the funny moments, and overall, found something amazing to do in my pastime.

Now, I’m going to tell you all about it, and what I’ve seen dating from the late 1950s till the present.

Perry Mason (1957-1966), 271 episodes + 30 reunion TV movies (1985-1995) | Developed by: Paisano Productions (no official name available)
Adapted from the novels by Earl Stanley Gardner, the series starred Raymond Burr as the titular defense attorney who wound up representing people wrongly accused of murder (the victim could often be an unlikable person), with the help of his secretary Della Street, played by Barbara Hale. Private detective Paul Drake (William Hopper), who ran an agency in the same Brent Building where Perry’s own office was located, did a lot of the legwork in finding clues to help in the defense team’s courtroom sessions. Their adversaries in law enforcement were police lieutenant Authur Tragg (Ray Collins) and district attorney Hamilton Burger (William Talman). In the 4th season, Wesley Lau joined as police lieutenant Andy Anderson to fill in for the then ailing Collins in some episodes before replacing him altogether until the penultimate season, when Richard Anderson would take this role as Steve Drumm. Some of Mason’s clients were pretty foolhardy folks who made mistakes that really got them in trouble, and it was his job to get them out of it and find the real culprit in a crime. It was one of the most entertaining legal dramas I’ve seen, and made a great role for Burr, who’d originally auditioned for the role of Burger, but ultimately won the producers over as the ideal actor to take the main spotlight.

Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963), 134 episodes | Creator: Roy Huggins
A de-facto spinoff from 77 Sunset Strip (which I’ve seen nearly half of, but was unable to find all episodes to complete), it’s set in Honolulu at the time Hawaii became a full-fledged part of the USA, and centers on two detectives who run a security company working primarily for the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel, with Anthony Eisley and Robert Conrad in the main roles, and Connie Stevens and Poncie Ponce providing some of the comedy relief in their own roles as a photographer and a taxi driver, respectively. This was also one of the earliest series to feature performers of Polynesian backgrounds, and in the 3rd season, possibly the first interracial screen kiss between a white guy and a Polynesian girl. Though not filmed in Hawaii proper (much of the filming was done on the WB lots), there were at least 4 episodes filmed there in its last season. It proved to be a lot of fun, and the “superimpositions” of the beach and airport didn’t dilute the entertainment value one bit. This was a cool ride.

12 O’Clock High (1964-1967), 78 episodes | Developed by: Sy Bartlett, Beirne Lay Jr.
Based on the 1949 WW2 movie of the same name, this focused on the fictional 918th Bombardment Group of the USAF, which ran missions over German-occupied France. Initially, Robert Lansing was the main star, but because the studio staff felt a younger lead was needed, he was replaced with Paul Burke, even though he wasn’t that young himself either.

Combat! (1962-1967), 152 episodes | Creator: Unknown
Another WW2 drama, starring Vic Morrow and Rick Jason, this spotlighted a US Army platoon fighting the Nazis on the ground in German-conquested France, and how they interact with both the enemies and the innocent people whose country was held hostage in the grip of tyranny. It was by far the longest running WW2 series of its time, and offered some exciting battles between the goodies and the forces of evil.

The Fugitive (1963-1967), 120 episodes | Creator: Roy Huggins
After Dr. Richard Kimble is wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife, fate allows him to escape from the train on which he’s being transported to prison death row by police lieutenant Phil Gerard, and he travels around the USA trying to find the real culprit: a one-armed man who broke into his house in search of drugs. David Janssen had one of the best roles of his career with this, and it ended intentionally with Kimble finally catching up to the vermin who murdered his wife, and the culprit gunned down in defense of Kimble by Gerard, who was finally convinced the guy he initially pursued is innocent. The story was inspired by the real life experience of Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose own wife was murdered in 1954 by a drug addict who’d broken into their house. Sheppard was finally acquitted in 1966, and died in poverty 4 years later.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E (1964-1968), 105 episodes, and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E (1966-1967), 29 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1983) | Creators: Sam Rolfe, Norman Felton
Following the success of the first James Bond movies in the early 1960s, MGM soon decided to capitalize by developing a TV series that was like a variation on them. It would be the United Network Command for Law & Enforcement, an international spy organization based mainly in New York City, in a building that could be entered from a secret door in a connecting tailor shop. The two main agents were American-born Napolean Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian-born Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum). Shot almost entirely on the MGM backlots in Culver City, the twosome would go on various adventures to combat global criminals – mainly the enemy agents of T.H.R.U.S.H – and meet various fancy ladies along the way. During its third season, it began to falter because the producers opted for a tongue-in-cheek tone, possibly inspired by the Batman series of the late 60s, and by the time they tried to return to more serious storytelling, it was too late. Still, it was a very entertaining adventure that became a pinnacle of its time.

The Invaders (1967-1968), 42 episodes | Creator: Larry Cohen
One of the few sci-fi tales produced by Quinn Martin, it saw an engineer witness a spaceship’s landing, and even after unsuccessfully trying to convince the local authorities there was danger lurking, he continued to try and defeat the enemy’s forces. In the second season, he began finding more allies to help him as a group, but while the series had some interesting tales to tell until the end, viewership apparently wore off and lost interest, so it was cancelled after barely a year and a half. Still, a very impressive venture, and does have its values today.

Mission: Impossible (1966-1973), 171 episodes + continuation series (1988-1990), 35 episodes | Creator: Bruce Geller
By far the best and most durable of espionage series produced in the 1960s, the focus was on a team of operatives – usually 4 guys and one girl – who took seemingly impossible missions by the government to defeat all manner of criminals from communists and fascists to organized crime syndicates. They'd usually get the instructions by tape recorder (voiced by Bob Johnson), which the team leader would either destroy himself afterwards, or, the tapes were programmed to self-destruct. Some plots could involve fooling the villains with ideas like aliens from outer space, yet it managed to pull everything off very surprisingly well. The first team leader was played by the late Steven Hill. However, because he had a bad temper that later led to his dismissal because he was acting up on the set and being a troublemaker, he was replaced by Peter Graves, who remained the lead for the rest of the run. The other co-stars included Greg Morris, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Peter Lupus. And when Landau and Bain left, Leonard Nimoy, fresh from his role as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, joined the cast. The lady team members during the 4th seasons were usually guest stars (one of them was Lee Meriwether), and in the 5th season, Lesley Ann Warren joined in a regular role. Lynda Day George would take up both the lady agent's role and the disguise specialist's role for the remainder of the run. Sam Elliot was also a cast member for a short time.

In 1988, during the Writer's Guild strike, it was decided to revive the series just to serve as a time filler of some sort, and Graves returned, with Morris' son Phil taking over his role as electronics and gadgetry expert. The rest of the cast included Thaao Penglis, Anthony Hamilton and Terry Markwell, who was replaced after several episodes by Jane Badler. But this new take on the series was unfortunately not very well thought out, did not have the energy of its predecessor, and it showed in the low ratings it got. It was filmed in Australia, curiously enough, because of the tax breaks they were offering. Greg Morris and Day George made guest appearances here, but it was to no avail, and the second series was quietly cancelled after two seasons.

Mannix (1967-1975), 194 episodes Creators: Richard Levinson, William Link | Developed by: Bruce Geller
There aren’t that many detective series starring a guy of Armenian descent, are there? But Joe Mannix was certainly one such guy, and for 8 seasons, Mike Connors played the private eye who faced brutal assaults by some pretty slimy criminals, yet kept going in the name of justice. In the first season, he worked for a technology firm called Intertect, and in the second season, he set up his own private business, with Gail Fisher becoming co-star as his secretary Peggy Fair; one of the first African-American actresses to become a regular in an action/suspense series.

Ironside (1967-1975), 194 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1993) | Creator: Collier Young
First drama series starring a character with a physical disability, Raymond Burr got his second most famous role as Robert T. Ironside, a San Fransisco police inspector who was shot and paralyzed from his waist down by a sniper while vacationing at a farmhouse on the outskirts of town. But, he continued to solve crimes with the help of a small team he formed, including Don Galloway as Sgt. Ed Brown, Don Mitchell as former delinquent-turned-police assistant Mark Sanger, Barbara Anderson as plainclothes officer Eve Whitfield in the first half of the run, and Elizabeth Baur as officer Fran Belding in the latter half of the run. Together, they’d all prove effective in solving crimes and other situations.

The Rockford Files (1974-1980), 122 episodes + 8 TV reunion movies (1994-1999) | Creators: Roy Huggins, Stephen J. Cannell
In his second most notable role after 1957-62 western series Maverick, James Garner played Jim Rockford, a private eye who’d spent 5 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and was now trying to move past that by solving crimes himself while living in a trailer house in the lots at Paradise Cove Road in Los Angeles. His father was played first by Robert Donley in the pilot episode, then by Noah Beery Jr. for the rest of the run, while Joe Santos played police sergeant Dennis Becker, Jim’s close buddy in the LAPD.

The Mod Squad (1968-1973), 123 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1979) | Creator: Bud (Buddy) Ruskin
Three former delinquents turned undercover police investigators, known in promotional materials as, “one white, one black, one blonde.” Pete Cochran (Michael Cole) was a wealthy prep kid who got booted from the family household and was later charged with car theft. Lincoln Hayes (Clarence Williams III) was arrested at the Watts Riots. Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton) was a flower child who’d run away from her prostitute mother’s home in San Francisco and was charged with vagrancy. And police captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews) was their sympathetic mentor and commander. Being of a younger generation, they were good at “fitting in” to groups of youth who could be engaging in shady activities. There were quite a few storylines here in producer Aaron Spelling’s first serious hit that were pretty daring in their time, and in 1979, the cast reunited in one of the first TV films that served as a reunion for past successes.

Cannon (1971-1976), 124 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1980) | Creator: Edward Hume
Proof you don’t need to be in shape in order to make an effective crimefighter, along with an excellent success of a detective series. William Conrad played Frank Cannon, an overweight former policeman turned private eye who’s got a small fortune that enables him to live in a fancy apartment in downtown LA, and drives a Lincoln Continental Mark IV. There were a few episodes where, when he needed to combat the baddies, he knocked them over with his abdomen, yet this was all very serious stuff, and proved an enjoyable success for 5 seasons, even crossing over twice with Barnaby Jones (which I've seen the first season of so far), and later leading to a reunion TV film that wrapped things up.

The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977), 120 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1992) | Developed by: Edward Hume (based on the book Poor, Poor Ophelia by Carolyn Weston)
If there’s any police procederal that captured the times well in the Bay area, it was this one. More so than Ironside, here, the producers sought to fit as much of the local culture into the show as possible. Stories could deal with devil worshipers, kidnappers, rapists, murderers, teen gangs, child/spousal/sexual abuse, drug traffickers and mafia syndicates.

As odd as it may sound, some of the villains here reminded me of several personalities over on the old ultra-leftist Captain Comics website, so if life imitates art, I suppose this could serve as a good example. Karl Malden played detective lieutenant Mike Stone, and Michael Douglas, in a role that brought him to attention for his subsequent movie career, inspector Steve Keller of the SFPD. He left after the premiere for the 5th and last season, and was replaced for the remainder of the run by Richard Hatch as inspector Dan Robbins. Joan Carr played Stone’s daughter, and when the reunion was produced in 1992, she made a return appearance, though Douglas, at the time already riding high with his movie success, did not.

Harry O. (1973-1976), 46 episodes | Creator: Howard Rodman
While it only ran 2 seasons, this private eye series with David Janssen was his second notable role on TV after The Fugitive, playing Harry Orwell, a former policeman who had to resign after he got shot in the back, and a bullet was still in his body. He usually resided in a seaside house where he'd spend time fixing a schooner, and occasionally had to take the bus around town since his Austin-Healey convertible was in the repair shop. There were some interesting moments, but when Fred Silverman was in charge of the network, he decided to cancel the show to make way for others, much to Janssen's disappointment.

Black Sheep Squadron (1976-1978), 36 episodes | Developed by: Stephen J. Cannell (based on the memoirs of James Boyington)
A WW2 drama set in the south pacific developed by Stephen J. Cannell, based on the memoirs of James “Pappy” Boyington, a USAF pilot commander who fought against the Japanese. It starred Robert Conrad in the Boyington-based role, with several other cast members alongside him. Dana Elcar, in one of his pre-Macgyver roles, played his rival in the local command.

Police Woman (1974-1978), 92 episodes | Creator: Robert Collins
Inspired by the last episode in the first season of the Police Story anthology (1973-80 plus a few revivals in the late 80s), this was the police procedural that really paved the way for lady cops. Angie Dickenson played sgt. Pepper Anderson, part of the Criminal Conspiracy Unit at the LAPD, whose primary job was investigating organized crime, who could take undercover cases while backed by her 3 co-stars, Earl Holliman, Ed Bernard and Charles Dierkop. These undercover guises could include prostitute, nurse, stewardess, schoolteacher, waitress, etc, in order to gather the evidence needed to arrest dangerous vermin. Dickenson won a Golden Globe award for her role here.

Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979), 93 episodes | Creator: William Blinn
A buddy cop show notable for being one of the first to feature a sense of humor, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser played the titular pair of plainclothes officers who rode around in a red Ford Gran Torino with a red stripe. Antonio Fargas had one of the most notable recurring roles here as Huggy Bear, restaurant owner and informant, who at one point became a street salesman before taking up a job as restaurant owner again.

Wonder Woman (1975-1979), 60 episodes | Developed by: Stanley Ralph Ross (based on the DC Comics character created by William Marston)
Following an unsuccessful pilot from 1974 where Cathy Lee Crosby played the famous Amazonian superheroine, Lynda Carter was chosen to play WW, and unlike blonde Crosby, Carter was brunette and looked the part, for what would be a series beginning during WW2, and then switching to modern times after the 1st season. Lyle Waggoner played colonel Steve Trevor in the first, and afterwards would play his identical son who worked as a government operative. But in hindsight, while there were some interesting moments here, there just wasn’t enough to make this a really impressive show, mainly because it played everything safe: in much of the “fight” scenes, WW would grad and toss the crooks aside, as the producers apparently succumbed to the early notion that it had to be literally marketed to kids with no in-between, and effective combat was the sacrifice. Even by the 3rd season, when they shifted, it wasn’t enough. I was also quite disappointed with the episode “The Starships are Coming”, which featured a right-wing colonel staging a fake alien invasion scheme to serve as a cover for his plans to attack China. What, not Russia of the times?!?

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979), 46 episodes | Developed by: Glen A. Larson (based on the characters created by Edward Stratameyer)
This has a rather uneven history of development. Based on the characters launched by Edward Stratameyer’s syndicate, the two brother detectives and the girl sleuth, it began with a rotation basis, where one week the Hardys would be the focus and the next it would be Drew. As the second season began, Nancy’s solo stories were soon phased out along with at least a few supporting characters, and by the 3rd season, it was the Hardys alone. (Oddity: Nancy’s co-star and occasional boyfriend Ned Nickerson, who made at least 3 appearances in the 1st, turned up again once more in the 2nd as though it was his first time! So much for consistency there, huh?) There were some interesting moments here, but I guess I can see why it petered out and lost popularity by the time it was done.

Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981), 115 episodes | Creators: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
The perfect representation of the 1970s “jiggle” era on TV, it spotlighted 3 lady detectives working for the unseen boss, businessman Charlie Townsend (played in voice by John Forsythe, who became the star of Dynasty after it ended). The first trio was played by Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, with David Doyle playing Charlie’s aide Bosley, who supervised the trio at the office. Fawcett would be all but replaced in the following seasons by Cheryl Ladd as her sister, and then Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts would replace Jackson in the 4th and 5th seasons. Overall, it enjoyed 5 seasons well worth viewing.

Vega$ (1978-1981), 69 episodes | Creator: Michael Mann
A detective series set in Nevada’s prime gambling location, with Robert Urich playing Dan Tanna, a local private eye and Vietnam vet, Phyllis Davis as his secretary Beatrice Travis, Bart Braverman his frequent assistant Binzer, and Greg Morris as police lieutenant David Nelson. It was also filmed on location there.

The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978), 104 episodes, and The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), 57 episodes, + 3 TV reunion movies for both (1987, 1989, 1994) | Developed by: unknown for former, Kenneth Johnson for latter
By far the most notable of sci-fi adventures to emerge in the 70s, you could say it was one of the first shows to employ a comic book approach without actually being based on comics themselves, although the actual source material here was Martin Caidin’s 1972 novel Cyborg starring the male protagonist, Steve Austin, a NASA pilot who’d survived an accident that cost him his right arm, eye and both legs. They would all be rebuilt using the expensive technology that would make him part cybernetic, and pretty strong too. Lee Majors played the role pretty well, and in the latter part of the second season, Lindsay Wagner would debut as Jaime Sommers, former girlfriend of Steve’s and later tennis pro/school instructor who survived similar injuries in a skydiving accident, with one little difference being that instead of losing an eye, she lost an ear. She too would get a cybernetic limb makeover, making her formidably strong as a woman, and go on to star in her own series for 3 seasons. Both stars would reprise their roles in 3 reunion TV films for both in the late 80s/early 90s, which introduced a son for Steve who underwent similar operations, a girl played by Sandra Bullock in one of her early roles getting the treatment too, and would finally end with both Steve and Jaime getting married.

The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982), 82 episodes + 3 TV reunion movies (1988-1990) | Developed by: Kenneth Johnson
Loosely based on the Marvel comics anti-hero, Bill Bixby starred as David Banner (the name Bruce from the comics was kept on as a middle name), who lost his wife in a car accident, and is trying to find ways to realize greater strength. But his experiments backfire, turning him into the ultimate in Jekyll-Hyde creations, albeit nowhere near as powerful as the Hulk of the comics. The alter ego would be played by famous bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno in his first notable screen role after first gaining attention in the Pumping Iron documentary. And what leads Banner to become a drifter is the incompetence of nosy tabloid reporter Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin, who unknowingly knocks over a chemical container in a storage at his lab, resulting in an explosion that kills Banner’s female assistant. McGee, however, thinks the Hulk caused the blowout, and wants to capture him to expose him to the world, leading Banner, who doesn’t want anybody like McGee to know what he’s become lest they make things worse, to become a drifter vaguely similar to the Fugitive.

The series dealt with some pretty challenging issues, including race relations, child abuse, drug trafficking and organized crime. I think what made it work is that it didn’t try to be a sci-fi series in an overwhelming sense, and I didn’t think of it as a sci-fi series when I watched it. 6 years after it ended, there’d be 3 reunions, two of which served as attempts to develop series for Thor and Daredevil, and the third which would see Banner finally pass away he made an effort to oppose some communist criminals.

Chips (1977-1983), 139 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1998) | Creator: Rick Rosner Developed by: Rosner, Paul Playdon
This is a textbook example of the perfect way to develop family entertainment that’s anything but violent, and still offer plenty to entertain and think about. Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada played California Highway Patrol officers Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello, motorcycle patrolmen who journeyed the LA highways and met up with all sorts of situations both serious and humorous. Jon was straight-laced and Ponch was the rebel whiz, who’d grown up in a Latino ghetto and made his way to fortune. Their partners included station commander Joe Getraer, played by Robert Pine, and officers Artie Grossman (Paul Linke), Bonnie Clark (Randi Oakes), Barry Baricza (Brodie Greer) and Lou Wagner played Harlan Arliss, the station mechanic. They never used their firearms, and there were only three times when they were, all by Baricza.

After the 5th season, Wilcox left (he and Estrada, unfortunately, didn’t get along all the time behind the scenes and Wilcox had arguments about the wages), and was replaced in the last by Tom Reilly as Bobby Nelson, and Bruce Penhall as his younger brother Bruce Nelson (the former caused a controversy when it was discovered he'd been abusing drugs, so the latter took up much of the spotlight in the latter half of the last season). There was plenty to enjoy here, and later on, there came a reunion broadcast on the TNT network.

Simon and Simon (1981-1989), 156 episodes + 1 TV reunion movie (1995), and Whiz Kids (1983-1984), 18 episodes | Creator: Phillipe deGuere
Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney played two brothers detectives working mainly in San Diego. They first worked for a rival detective whose daughter is still on their side, and then split off to form their own business. Mary Carver was their mother who sometimes gave them assistence on their cases.

There were two crossovers with other series that took place here: one was with Magnum PI during its 3rd season and S&S’s second. The other was with series creator Phillipe deGuere’s brief series called Whiz Kids, the other subject of this discussion, which told the adventures of a handful of teenage computer geniuses led by Matthew Laboryteux, formerly of Little House on the Prarie, who got guidance from a reporter and police detective. It was an interesting idea, but couldn’t find an audience like S&S had. Parker and McRaney’s series lasted longer, and had more entertaining storylines, later followed up by a reunion in 1995.

Remington Steele (1982-1987), 94 episodes | Creators: Robert Butler, Michael Gleason
Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) was a lady detective who couldn’t get any clients because nobody took the idea of a lady sleuth seriously, so she created a fictional boss who could boost her job assignment chances. And it did. Especially when a mysterious jewel thief from Ireland (Pierce Brosnan) looking to go straight took up the role she created while trying to evade a pair of much more dangerous criminals who were after him because he was in debt. Laura and her mystery suitor would go on some offbeat adventures together in the world of crimefighting, and of course, would fall in love. Zimbalist’s father, Efrem, would guest star a few times as the mystery man’s mentor, another con artist himself, who’d occasionally help out on some of their cases, and Doris Roberts joined the cast as Mildred Krebs, former IRS fraud squad agent who became their secretary and frequent partner in solving cases. The show was sometimes filmed on location in a few European countries, particularly during its finale story.

Kojak (1973-1978), 118 episodes + 7 TV reunion movies (1985-1990) | Creator: Abby Mann
Telly Savalas’ most memorable TV role cast him as a Greek-American police lieutenant in charge of a squad at New York City’s 11th precinct (although the police station shown was located in the 9th, and later was used as a location for Cagney & Lacey) in Manhattan’s Southern Borough. Telly’s own brother and likewise actor, George Savalas, played detective Stavros, and Kevin Dobson played Sgt. Bobby Crocker. It ran for 5 seasons and would see 7 more reunions several years afterwards.

Hawaii 5-O (1968-1980), 284 episodes | Creator: Leonard Freeman
Of all police procedurals set in the islands, this is by far the most famous. Jack Lord played Steve McGarrett, lieutenant-commander of the 5-O, which was basically the state police service, with James MacArthur and Kam Fong playing Danny Williams and Chin Ho Kelly, his most senior partners. Along with several other officers, they’d solve many different crimes taking place all over the islands, including political criminals and assassins, militias, rapists, racists, drug dealers and gun traffickers. A most notable recurring villain was Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dheigh, a Chinese intelligence agent and criminal mastermind who was good at eluding authorities until the last episode of the series, when he was finally captured.

The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), 145 episodes + 2 TV reunion movies (1997, 2000) | Creator: Gy Waldron
This has the distinction of being one of television’s most prominent live action cartoons. Set in a fictional county in Georgia, it would tell the slapstick adventures of the Dukes, who consisted of four primary stars – cousins Bo & Luke, Uncle Jesse and his daughter Daisy. Together, they’d be busy foiling the get-rich-quick schemes of Boss Jefferson Davis Hogg (Sorrell Booke), the crooked county commissioner, and his sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, who in revenge tried to frame them and arrest them on trumped up charges many times. But, the Dukes always managed to prevail in the end, and the true bad guys whom Hogg foolishly made deals with got caught. They had on their side deputy Enos Straight (who got a brief spinoff series in 1981-82), and the town mechanic. There’d be 2 reunions at least a decade after the series ended, but since Booke had passed away in 1994, his character wasn’t included.

The A-Team (1983-1987), 97 episodes | Creators: Frank Lupo, Stephen J. Cannell
Another live action cartoon and just as popular in its time, but with more serious plots involved, the spotlight was on 4 former Vietnam vets who’d been framed for a crime they didn’t commit, and escaped from jail to become vigilantes for hire. There was leader Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict, although Tim Dunigan played the role in the pilot and was replaced because they though he was too young for the role), “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), and Mr. T as B.A. Baracus (his initials were meant to stand for “bad attitude” though this was rarely stated after the pilot episode).

Airwolf (1984-1987), 79 episodes | Creator: Donald P. Bellisario
Surely the most notable example of technology for the real world during the mid-80s, the show was about an intelligence agent named Stringfellow Hawke, whose older brother St. John was MIA in Vietnam, who was approached by “The Firm”, represented mainly by Michael Coldsmith-Briggs (nicknamed “Archangel” and wore fancy white suits that fit him well), to retrieve an experimental Bel-222 helicopter that was stolen by Dr. Charles Moffet (David Hemmings) in the pilot, which also saw Archangel suffer an injury that cost him an eye. Moffet took the copter to Libya, then overlorded by Muammar Qaddafi. Aiding Hawke was his mentor Michael Santini, played memorably by Ernest Borgnine, another intel agent and pilot. During the second-third season, they were joined by Caitlin O’Shaughnessy (Jean Bruce Scott), a former policewoman. Creator Bellissario’s then-wife Deborah Pratt played Archangel’s colleague Marella for 2 of 4 seasons. They’d combat communists and even criminals on the home turf.

CBS originally wanted the producers to tone down the dark tone of the pilot, which was fine in and of itself. However, when a 4th season was conceived, everything went down the toilet as the original production staff and cast left and a Canadian company took up chores instead as the series moved to the USA network, and the copter was abandoned, with just cheap stock footage making a poor substitute for actual action. Story-wise, it was ludicrous how the returned St. John was warped from the original vision: instead of the older brother, he became the younger! Michele Scarabelli, who played Jo Santini, Michael’s daughter, in the last season, said that when they were hired for the 4th, the teleplays were already completed, giving them no room for development or input. The first 3 seasons are perfect pastimes, but the last one is best avoided.

Miami Vice (1984-1989), 111 episodes | Creator: Anthony Yerkovich
New York City cop Ricardo Tubbs (Phillip Michael Thomas) lost his brother and fellow police colleague to drug syndicate criminals who fled to the Sunshine State and its most prominent city (although not the capital; Tallahassee takes that position), and Tubbs tracked him there, where he joined up with local vice squad officer Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) to capture the culprit, and wound up getting a job in southern law enforcement. Their local partners included Saundra Santiago, Olivia Brown, Michael Talbott, John Diehl, and Edward James Olmos as lieutenant Martin Castillo (joining in the 5th episode; as the original commander Lou Rodriguez, played by Gregory Sierra, left because he wasn’t comfy with the local weather). Diehl was dropped in the middle of the run, possibly due to budget cuts because his character wasn’t replaced by any new cast member.

Matt Houston (1982-1985), 68 episodes | Creator: Lawrence Gordon
Lee Horsley played the titular Texas native, son of a prominent businessman who moved to Los Angeles and took up private eye work in his spare time (obviously, he had plenty, since he did have his aides and colleagues to fill in for him), and Pamela Hensley played his lawyer and closest aide, C.J. Parsons. She used a computer for a lot of her research, and Matt provided the muscle.

The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983), 44 episodes | Creator: Stephen J. Cannell
A tongue-in-cheek adventure, one of the very few shows Cannell produced using sci-fi elements, it featured the pairing up of schoolteacher Ralph Hinckley (William Katt) and an FBI agent (Robert Culp) after an encounter with an alien spaceship who gave the former a superpowered costume to fight crime with. They rarely agreed on most issues, but managed to put everything aside to foil various criminals. Connie Sellecca played the Katt’s girlfriend who became his wife towards the end of the series. There was an attempt to restart the show by replacing the Hinckley character with a female lead in a special episode filmed in 1986, since Katt and Sellecca had moved on to other projects, but this was unsuccessful and the episode was edited into the rest of the series package as a regular one. In hindsight, that “finale” was hardly worth it.

The Fall Guy (1981-1986), 112 episodes | Creator: Glen A. Larson
Three years after ending his role as the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors returned to a regular series role as Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter. Douglas Barr, who later became more of a TV director, played his cousin Howard Munson, and Heather Thomas played stunt protégé Jody Banks. A primary goal was capturing criminals who jumped bail, and catching them often proved more difficult than it looked at first glance. Jo Ann Pflug was the first bail-bonds agent who called on them to help out in the 1st season, and Markie Post took up this role in seasons 2-4. The actors did a lot of their own stuntwork, and the main vehicle of the stars was a GMC pickup truck.

The series was also notable for guest roles by a lot of notable actors playing themselves – particularly during the first 3 seasons; afterwards this idea was downplayed, though it was still there to some extent.

T.J Hooker (1982-1986), 90 episodes | Creator: Rick Husky
William Shatner’s second notable TV role after playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek was the role of a police sergeant in a fictional L.A district who fought crime in uniform along with his partners, played by Adrian Zmed, Heather Locklear (doing double-duty besides her role in Dynasty at the time), and James Darren. It began as something of an older-younger cop partnering, until Zmed left after the 4th season, and attention then switched to Locklear and Darren.

Hardcastle and McCormick (1983-1986), 66 episodes | Creators: Stephen J. Cannell, Patrick Hasburgh
A buddy team-up of the mismatched variety, Brian Keith played retired judge Milton Hardcastle, and Daniel Hugh-Kelly played Mark McCormick, a race car driver and former car thief who teamed up to solve over a hundred of the former’s cases where criminals were let off the hook through technicalities and other unfortunate misuses of the law. Aiding them during the chase scenes was a custom-made racecar called the Cody Coyote. Their residence was filmed at an estate on the coast of L.A which had been used for several other films and TV shows over the years, including at least one appearance in the Rockford Files.

Riptide (1984-1986), 56 episodes | Creators: Frank Lupo, Stephen J. Cannell
Two detectives working out of a yacht in King Harbor on the California coast (Perry King and Joe Penny) are joined by a computer whiz (Thom Bray) and his special robotic assistant named the Roboz. I thought this was pretty good, but the series finale was a real bummer, as Bozinsky accidentally kills a crook and spends the rest of the story feeling guilt ridden over it.

Knight Rider (1982-1986), 90 episodes + 1991 reunion TV movie (KR 2000), Knight Rider 2010 prospective pilot (1994), Team Knight Rider (1997-1998), 22 episodes, Knight Rider (2008-2009), 18 episodes | Creator: Glen A. Larson (original series), Rick Copp, David A. Goodman (TKR series), and developed by: David Andron (2008 series)
When David Hasselhoff first tried out prime time TV for real, this was the result, a show where he’d be paired with a talking robotic car in the guise of KITT, then the latest model of the Pontiac Firebird, alternately named the Trans Am. He played Michael Long, a vice cop whose face was badly injured and got plastic surgery by the company of billionaire Wilton Knight, who wanted somebody to take charge of pet project, because he felt that one man could make a difference.

Hasselhoff’s main co-star was Edward Mulhare, with Patricia MacPherson as the main secretary and occasional love interest. Rebecca Holden took this role in the 2nd season, but MacPherson was brought back by popular demand. Peter Parros co-starred in the last season. There were a lot of stunts performed during its run, and plenty of technology to boot, with William Daniels playing the voice of KITT. As a sense of humor, the car could often be seen talking to various pedestrians and other people around California.

Even after the series ended, there were attempts to revive it, starting with a reunion TV film in 1991, and later a TV film set in the future (2010), featuring another actor whose robo-car was created with the brainwaves of a woman who’d been killed by a warlord. Then there came a brief series featuring not just one, but at least five intelligent vehicles. And then there came another series starring Justin Bruening as Mike Traceur, son of the original star (Hasselhoff had a special cameo in the premiere), now driving another robotic car in the guise of a Ford Mustang. The latter two had the misfortune of either having too many stars and not enough development for anybody, or, not enough stunts and sense of humor to accompany the action.

The Wizard (1986-1987), 19 episodes | Creators: Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Paul B. Radin
Possibly inspired by the success of Macgyver, albeit featuring more surreal elements, was this brief series starring British-born dwarf actor David Rappaport as Simon McKay, a brilliant inventor who’d once worked for the government but decided he couldn’t do that anymore, and took some time to go incognito before returning and reestablishing himself as a successful toymaker. He was partnered with Douglas Barr, fresh off his role in the Fall Guy as Alex Jaeger, a government agent assigned as a bodyguard, and Fran Ryan played housekeeper Tillie Russell. McKay used his talents for crimefighting, usually through non-violent means, and I thought it was a pretty interesting idea. Unfortunately, the series running in the same timeslots as sitcoms like Who’s the Boss and Growing Pains, and as a result couldn’t find enough audience (although the producers tried to launch a letter writing campaign to save it), and worse, 20th Century Fox as the filming studio wouldn’t give it much backing either because of the expenses in making it. Still, if there’s anything this interesting item did accomplish, it was remaking a script for the embarrassingly bad Manimal series from 1983, from the episode “Female of the Species”, this time with a younger child in the role of a modern-day Mowgli, in a story simply titled “Endangered Species”, and I’d say it worked a lot better because it wasn’t bogged down in the heavy-handed wolf-barking and howling that made the Manimal episode such an awful botch.

If this is remembered for anything today, though, it’ll probably be the devastating suicide of Rappaport in 1990. He was suffering from depression, and first tried killing himself after just 2 days of filming Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 3rd season episode, The Most Toys. He had to be replaced by Saul Rubinek, and Rappaport later killed himself for real 5 days before the finished episode was to air. The Wizard’s producers, who later found more success with Baywatch, did a special tribute in Rappaport’s memory in Baywatch’s 1994 episode “Second Sight”, and Ryan had a guest role in one of the other episodes. Barr, as mentioned before, has since gone on to become a TV director.

Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983-1987), 88 episodes | Creators: Brad Buckner, Eugenie Ross-Leming
In her second most notable role after Charlie’s Angels, Kate Jackson played single mom Amanda King, working hard to support two sons, who was paired with Bruce Boxleitner as Lee Stetson, a government agent nicknamed Scarecrow. She wound up helping him on a case, and secretly became a government agent herself. Mel Stewart played Billy Melrose, their commanding officer, and Martha Smith played Francine Desmond, another agent who assisted them on many cases. Beverly Garland played Amanda’s mother Dotty. The two main stars would eventually fall in love and marry by the end of the show’s run.

Stingray (1985-1987), 25 episodes | Creator: Stephen J. Cannell
Nick Mancuso played a mysterious troubleshooter known only by the model of Chevrolet Corvette he drove – the mid-1960s Stingray model – who’d help clients in return for a future favor. It was one of the first shows Cannell filmed in Canada, as some producers moved there in the mid-80s to buck expenses that were rising, but alas, not one of the most successful.

Tour of Duty (1987-1990), 58 episodes | Creators: Steve Duncan, L. Travis Clark
One of the most notable Vietnam war dramas of its time, the focus was on a squadron fighting the Viet Cong some distance from the country’s northern border, which the military stupidly never tried penetrating if that’s what it took to bring down the commies and stop their horrors. There were some interesting actors working here.

Magnum PI (1980-1988), 162 episodes | Creators: Donald P. Bellisario, Glen A. Larson
Tom Selleck’s first famous role on TV, set on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, playing Thomas Magnum a former US Navy intelligence officer from Tidewater, Virginia, who first became a private investigator on the island state in 1979, and as a security expert, he won residence at the estate of Robin Masters, a millionaire author of several lurid novels by peforming a special security check there. The main caretaker in charge of the estate was former British army officer Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman), whom Magnum often found himself at odds with, but as time went by, their relations improved, and Higgins also proved helpful in solving some of his cases, as did his fellow Vietnam partner Theodore Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick Wright (Larry Manetti), who ran the country club owned by the Masters estate (in the pilot, he was running a small bar in downtown Honolulu, but this was changed soon after). While this was a co-creation of both Glen A. Larson and Donald P. Bellisario, it’s the latter who was mainly in charge of the production, and his influence for much of the run is what made it work.

Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990), 56 episodes | Creator: Ron Koslow
Call it a modern day variation on the classic fables, with Linda Hamilton, at the time famous for her role as Sarah Connor in the Terminator, playing Catherine Chandler, a lawyer who’d been mutilated and left for dead by criminals mistaking her for a prostitute who’d violated their rules, and was rescued by Vincent (Ron Perlman), a strange man-beast who lived in a tunnel community beneath the streets of New York City, where he was mentored by a father figure played by Roy Dotrice. Catherine would go on to learn self-defense measures, and together, they’d solve crimes around the Big Apple.

While the series was well regarded, what brought it to an end was Hamilton’s decision to quit because of an upcoming pregnancy she had, and her character was killed off. She was replaced in the last 10 episodes by Jo Anderson as police detective Diana Bennett, who was investigating Catherine’s murder.

Since this was originally filmed, a new take on the series was produced, airing around 2012-2016. The approach was somewhat different.

China Beach (1988-1991), 63 episodes | Creators: William Broyles Jr, John Sacret Young
The Vietnam war as seen primarily from the viewpoint of the women who served there. Dana Delany played 1st lieutenant Colleen McMurphy, assigned to the army HQ at My Khe beach, nicknamed China Beach by the American and Australian personnel operating in ‘Nam at the 510th Evacuation Hospital in the late 60s, and the story told of her experiences there for nearly 4 years. Her co-stars included Marg Helgenberger as Karen Charlene Koloski, a downbeat prostitute working in the country at the time, trying to make her own fortune, and not just through brothel business. Michael Boatman played Samuel Beckett SP4, son of a reverend who was in charge of the Graves Registration Unit at the base, and Concetta Tomei played Major Lila Garreau, one of the main officers in charge. The series was inspired by former army nurse Lynda Van Devanter’s memoir, Home Before Morning. The series would cover the lives of several cast members from their days in 'Nam leading up to 1988, as seen in the last season.

MacGyver (1985-1992), 139 episodes + 2 TV continuation movies (1994) | Creator: Lee David Zlotoff
By far the pinnacle example of adventure with impressive gimmicks and gadgetry to emerge in the mid-80s, Richard Dean Anderson played the titular field operative for the Phoenix Foundation, a government research firm who used his mind to fight crime at home and abroad. Dana Elcar, who first appeared in a cameo in the premiere episode, soon joined the series as a regular several episodes later as Pete Thornton, Macgyver’s boss and good friend.

The series would feature plenty of interesting tales, like with Mac combatting communists in the tail end of the Cold War, to social activities, and of course, using his various inventions like plugging a leaky gas tank with fried eggs (something that was practically suggested by a TV viewer during the 2nd season in a special write-in contest), to building homemade stilts and even fixing an old dictophone with special pieces of wood. Bruce McGill even guest starred several times as old roomate Jack Dalton, played for comedy relief at times, and Teri Hatcher also appeared a few times as ditzy model Penny Parker. The series ended with Mac discovering he had a son through an old flame who worked as a photographer, and decided to retire from employment at the Phoenix Foundation to spend some time acquainting himself with his offspring. 2 TV films were later produced as solo continuations for the star, but failed to garner high ratings, and with that, the original series finally ended, and Anderson went on to become the star of the long-running Stargate series.

The Equalizer (1985-1989), 88 episodes | Creators: Richard Lindheim, Michael Sloan
The late Edward Woodward, notable for films like The Wicker Man and TV programs like Callan in the UK, played a former intelligence agent who quit because he felt his fellow operatives were screwing up with civilian safety, and became a vigilante who usually worked for free for ordinary citizens who found themselves in danger of scummy criminals like kidnappers, rapists, drug traffickers, racists and other truly revolting lawbreakers. He'd get help from a lot of contacts he had in law enforcement, with Robert Lansing playing his former supervisor, and Keith Szarabajka a leading field operative.

Moonlighting (1985-1989), 67 episodes | Creator: Glenn Gordon Caron
At the time this was made, it was one of the most notable parody style series, lampooning the detective business as model Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shephard), who found her resources had been depleted, decided to go into the private eye business along with goofy David Addison (Bruce Willis, in a role that led to his subsequent stardom in movies), who was running the Blue Moon Agency she had a stake in. And they’d go through plenty of comedic/dramatic adventures that would include breaking the fourth wall, though it was unfortunate neither of the 2 stars liked each other behind the scenes, and that’s apparently what led to the series ending after 4 years, and seasons with less episodes than usually filmed for a lot of other series like these at the time.

Quantum Leap (1989-1993), 97 episodes | Creator: Donald P. Bellisario
An interesting blend of science fiction adventure with dramatics, Scott Bakula played Sam Beckett, a scientist from around the end of the past century who was experimenting with time travel – notably, to travel within one’s lifetime, as stated in the show – and wound up inhabiting the bodies of people in the past who suffered all sorts of problems that needed fixing. Aiding him from their own time in holographic form was Al Calavicci – played well by Dean Stockwell – a military admiral overseeing the time travel project and quite a ladies man to boot, who gathered much of the research needed so they could figure out how to solve all these problems in the past and work things out for the better.

21 Jump Street (1987-1991), 103 episodes, plus Booker (1989-1990), 22 episodes | Creators: Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell
As an early broadcast of the Fox network when it was just beginning (another was Married…With Children), the focus was on a police precinct where younger looking officers were employed for undercover strategies, to infiltrate corruption in the youth scene in L.A. Johnny Depp, in the role that led to his later movie stardom, played Tom Hanson, alongside Holly Robinson-Peete as Judy Hoffs, Dustin Nguyen as Harry Ioki and Peter Deluise as Doug Penhall, with Steven Williams as their captain, Adam Fuller (the initial captain, played by Fredric Forrest, was dropped after 6 episodes). I thought there were some interesting moments here, but there was one episode or two that was definitely galling: a 2nd seasoner where the argument was made about why it was wrong for religious Christian folks to think they can run public property as they wish, and then this whole crowd turns into a bunch of nutcases! Ugh. The series spawned a brief spinoff starring Dennis Booker, played by Richard Greico, who became a private investigator, but it just didn’t lead anywhere.

Midnight Caller (1988-1991), 61 episodes | Creator: Richard diLello
Gary Cole played Jack Killian, a former cop in San Francisco who’d accidentally killed his partner and resigned to become a radio talk show host at a time when the subject was becoming a big deal. He was approached for the job by wealthy radio manager Devon King (Wendy Kilbourne). The other co-stars included Dennis Dun, Mykelti Williamson and Arthur Taxier.

Tropical Heat (1990-1993), 66 episodes | Creator: Sam Egan
This Canadian-produced actioner – broadcast in the USA under the title Sweating Bullets – has the distinction of being filmed abroad in 3 significant places, thanks to tax subsidies provided: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Eilat, Israel and Pretoria, South Africa. The focus was on ponytailed private eye Nick Slaughter (Rob Stewart), former DEA officer, and his lovely secretary Sylvie Gerard (Carolyn Dunn), who operated in the fictionalized Floridian city of Key Mariah. As a product that ran under the “Crime Time After Prime Time” slot at 11 nighttime, it did have its moments when it could terrifyingly violent, but it also had its moments of interest. Having been to Eilat several times myself, it was rather amusing to see how they made an effort to pass off the town as an American one, even setting up US mailboxes on a street or three where I’d been standing. At times, you can also see cars that were more commonly sold here than available in the USA at the time, like Citroen BX-16. There was even one episode filmed in Jerusalem since the story was too. The title of the series, if you’re curious, is the name of the bar where Nick and company hung out.

In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995), 146 episodes | Developed by: James Lee Barrett (based on the characters created by John Ball)
Based on the novel by John Ball and film from 1967 starring Sidney Poitier, this was Carroll O’Connor’s second notable role after All in the Family, as he played the role of Bill Gillespe in the fictional Mississippi town of Sparta (there’s actually a town by that name in Illinois), and the late Howard Rollins played the role of Virgil Tibbs. Their co-stars included Alan Autry as the tall deputy Lawrence “Bubba” Skinner, Anne-Marie Johnson as Athea Tibbs, the lovely wife of Virgil, Geoffrey Thorne as police cadet Wilson Sweet, David Hart as Parker Williams, a Vietnam vet, Crystal R. Fox as Luanne Corbin, Denise Nicholas as councilwoman Harriet deLong, and even O’Connor’s son Hugh. The series dealt with problems like racism, anti-semitism, rape, drug dealers prostitution and drunk driving.

Raven (1992-1993), 20 episodes | Creator: Frank Lupo
Jeffrey Meek and Lee Majors co-starred in this Hawaiian-filmed detective actioner where the former played Jonathan Raven, a former Special Forces agent whose parents were murdered by a yakuza called the Black Dragon when he was 12, and he later sought to infiltrate and defeat them, but their members were many and proved more than he could handle alone. He retired to the islands after his wife died, but she gave birth to their son beforehand, and he’s spent a while looking for him. Majors played local private eye Herman “Ski” Jablonski, who becomes his good partner and provided some of the comedy relief. While this only ran 2 short seasons, it proved to be one of the more engrossing stories of its kind, and is decidedly recommended.

Thunder in Paradise (1993-1994), 22 episodes | Creators: Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Gregory J. Bonann
Hulk Hogan and Chris Lemmon co-starred in this adventure fare with surreal elements included set in Florida, about two commandos running a business at a local hotel resort with the help of a high-tech speedboat. Carol Alt played Kelly laRue, the owner of the Scuttlebutt Bar & Grill at the resort who took care of the former’s adopted daughter while he and his partner were away on business. Watchable though it may have been, it did get awfully silly at times, and predictably, some of Hogan’s fellow professional wrestlers made guest appearances. Need I point out how absurdly cartoonish that made it as a result? Just like some of Hogan's own career!

But, if there’s something this single season series did accomplish, just like The Wizard, it was to again recycle the script formerly titled “Female of the Species” from the disastrous Manimal series of 1983, and again, it was just titled “Endangered Species” over here. This time, the modern-day Mowgli was a pre-teen boy, and just like the Wizard episode, the producers wisely didn’t make any wolf-calls heavy handed, which made for a much more satisfying story. Interestingly, the series finale also served as the basis for an interactive video game produced shortly after.

Acapulco H.E.A.T (1993-94 and 1996-97), 48 episodes | Creators: Max A. Keller, Micheline H. Keller
Some of the best action/adventure tales of this period were the ones that didn’t rely on big budgets and massive car crashes. This is one of the best, although it ran two seasons with a gap. In the first, the focus was on a government-sponsored team of agents who worked in Mexico as the Hemisphere Emergency Action Team, and their job was to fight crimes like terrorism and mafia. Catherine Oxenberg and Brendan Kelly were the stars at first, with John Vernon, Fabio Lanzoni, Alison Armitage and Michael Worth co-starring. In the second, the focus was changed to a more private group of troubleshooters and a pared down cast, with Lydie Denier added as the new manager of the operation, now a privately backed business, and Christa Sauls as a secretary and computer expert. This too was pretty interesting, and above all, what made it work was that it wasn’t trying to be anything overly spectacular. The music theme by Sable Jeffries was magnificent.

Renegade (1992-1997), 110 episodes | Creator: Stephen J. Cannell
Call it a modern day variation on The Fugitive, this starred Lorenzo Lamas as Reno Raines, an undercover policeman framed for murdering his girlfriend by a police captain played by series creator Stephen J. Cannell himself, as Donald “Dutch” Dixon (the use of alliteritaves was pretty noticeable here). Reno found help via American Indian bounty hunter Bobby Sixkiller (Branscombe Richmond) and his half-sister Cheyenne Phillips (Lamas’ then-wife Kathleen Kinmont), who give him a job as a field operative. Kinmont left after 4 seasons and was replaced in the last by Sandra Ferguson as Sandy Caruthers. At the end, Dixon, who murdered his own wife, was finally defeated and became what he’d turned Reno into.

Silk Stalkings (1991-1999), 176 episodes | Creator: Stephen J. Cannell
This began as part of CBS’s Crime Time After Prime Time project, and continued from the 3rd season onwards on the USA network. The spotlight was a pair of cops in Palm Beach, Florida who investigated sex-based crimes committed in and around the vicinity of the wealth residents of the district. For nearly the first half, Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes played police detectives Rita Lance and Chris Lorenzo, and Charlie Brill soon joined them as captain Harry Lipshitz, with his real life wife Mitzi McCall making occasional guest appearances for comedy relief and such. After Kapture decided to quit when she had her first child, Estes decided to go as well, and they were briefly substituted for by Nick Kokotakis and Tyler Layton, until Janet Gunn and Chris Potter took over for the remainder of the run as detectives Cassy St. John and Tom Ryan.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001), 122 episodes | Creator: Carlton Cuse
Don Johnson’s second series role 6 years after Miami Vice ended was as the title SFPD inspector, and his partner this time was played by Cheech Marin. But I can’t say I really enjoyed everything this time, as some of the humor was honestly crude, and certainly tastelss, though Jodi Lyn O’Keefe as Nash’s daughter did make a high point. I was honestly annoyed at how Kelly Hu’s character from the 3rd season was killed off; they didn’t have to do that just so she could move on to co-star in the next title here.

Martial Law (1998-2000), 44 episodes | Creator: Carlton Cuse
Hong Kong action specialist Sammo Hung played Sammo Law, a Chinese police inspector who ends up transplanted to L.A along with his protégé Grace “Pei Pei” Chen, played by the aforementioned Kelly Hu. The series became something of a variation on Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour, as Arsenio Hall joined the cast as Terrell Parker, a police press liason who became Sammo’s partner. As lively as the show was, the expensive budget led to its much-too-early cancellation, sadly.

Pacific Blue (1996-2000), 101 episodes | Creator: Bill Nuss
Proof you don’t need car chases for suspense, this police procedural set in Santa Monica starred Jim Davidson, Darlene Vogel, Paula Trickey, Marcos Ferraez and Rick Rossovich as leading officers at a beachside police station set in a former firehouse (and built, interestingly enough, next to a beachside synagogue), who did their rounds on bicycles, and sometimes did special stunts with them too, if they needed to get over or around difficult spots during chases.

An interesting note: when Carmen Electra was a co-star on the 8th season of Baywatch, she guest-starred on an episode of this series during the middle of its run. Rossovich and Ferraez left after the 3rd season and Davidson/Vogel/Trickey were promoted to higher ranks, while Mario Lopez and Shanna Moakler were brought in as new younger guard cast members, and even provided more comedy relief at times.

Relic Hunter (1999-2002), 66 episodes | Creator: Gil Grant
This Canadian-produced series may have been inspired by the success of Tomb Raider, and certainly provided Tia Carrerre with a perfect starring vehicle. She played Sydney Fox, a college professor and black belt martial artist who journeyed around the world on adventures to find all sorts of valueable relics, both old and new (or more recent, if that sounds like a better description), along with British co-star Christien Anholt, who played her research assistant Nigel Bailey. The stories and plots could involve plenty of secret doorways that needed opening, traps and pitfalls that needed caution getting around, and plenty of combat for Carrerre to boot, along with plenty of sexy outfits. Interestingly, Fred Dryer of Hunter fame played Sydney’s father in the middle of the run, and UK actor Simon MacCorkindale appeared in the last season as an adversarial villain who was responsible for the death of Sydney’s mentor.

Baywatch (1989-2001), 242 episodes, + Baywatch Nights (1995-1997), 44 episodes + 2003 reunion TV movie | Creators: Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Gregory J. Bonann, David Hasselhoff (spinoff series)
Of all the shows of its time that made for perfect escapism, this leads the pack. David Hasselhoff played Mitch Buchannon, L.A county lifeguard in Malibu and divorcee who was trying to raise his young son Hobie while working as the senoir operative at a busy beachside with various other lifeguards, and plenty of hot women around. Originally dropped by NBC after just one season, it found a much bigger following and longer life in syndication, lasting 11 seasons, a spinoff that ran 2, and a reunion movie 2 years after cancellation. Brandon Call originally played the role of Hobie Buchannon in the first season, but was replaced for the rest of the run by Jeremy Jackson. The other cast members included plenty of interesting faces, such as Billy Warlock, Erika Eleniak, Pamela Anderson, David Charvet, Gregory Alan Williams, Michael Newman, Nicole Eggert, Alexandra Paul, Yasmine Bleeth, David Chokachi, Kelly Packard, and plenty more.

The producers even thought to take advantage of the popularity by creating the spinoff series Baywatch Nights, which co-starred Angie Harmon. In the first half, the stories were standard detective fare, as Garner Ellerbee (Williams) thought to quit the police force for a time and set up a private eye business, with Mitch joining in. Their HQ was located above a bar restaurant called Nights. But ratings weren’t high enough, and they thought in the second season to take a different path to science-fantasy and thrillers, trying to follow up on the success of The X-Files. While this more surreal angle had some interesting moments, viewership, alas, continued to wane, and it was cancelled after 2 seasons.

In its last two seasons of the parent series, they moved to Hawaii (and would be known as Baywatch Hawaii to some extent), and ended on a pretty good note. Hasselhoff had decided to leave the cast after the penultimate season, but remained as co-executive producer till the end and in the reunion in 2003 (Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding), it turned out he survived the explosion by a bomb some criminals had set up. There’d be a showdown with a criminal who appeared in the 2nd season, and this all wrapped things up pretty neatly.

Some people have dismissed it just because the acting wasn’t professional, but it wasn’t trying to be anything Oscar-quality. If anything, the producers were simply trying to produce the best possible vehicle for diversion and escapism, and with all those pretty ladies around in bikinis and such, I’d say they had an excellent idea in mind. Anderson was one of the most popular of the pretty faces, and though not a true actress, she was enjoyable if only because this was nothing too complicated, so of course it was easy to overlook her miminal acting skills, because the role she had wasn’t a very hard one at all! I’d like to congratulate all involved for the great work they did in offering up some simple popcorn entertainment that made a splendid way to pass the time on television.

She-Spies (2002-2004), 40 episodes | Creators: Vince Manze, Joe Livecchi, Steven Long Mitchell, Craig W Van Sickle
Three hot women who were convicted of minor federal felonies are given the chance by the government to redeem themselves, in a more modern variation on Charlie’s Angels. Natasha Henstrige, Natashia Williams and Kristin Miller played the trio who had their own Bosley in the form of Carlos Jacott in the 1st season, and then Cameron Daddo took over this role in the 2nd. What’s significant about this show is that it began in the 1st half as a parody (with the Austin Powers movies as a possible inspiration), and in the 2nd, it became more of a serious adventure without breaking the 4th wall or self-referentials from the previous half. Alas, this may have caused a loss of interest, and it was canceled after just two seasons.

Series I’ve either seen some of, but not all and hope to complete someday, and those I haven’t seen yet:
77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964)
Run for your Life (1965-1968)
The FBI (1965-1974)
The Rookies (1972-1976), and S.W.A.T (1975-1976)
Barnaby Jones (1973-1980)
Cagney & Lacey (1981-1988, plus 4 reunion TV films)
Spencer for Hire (1985-1988, plus 4 reunion TV films)
Homefront (1991-1993)
Street Justice (1991-1993)
Hunter (1984-1991, plus 2 reunions and a very brief revived series in 2002)
The Commish (1991-1996)
Pensacola: Wings of Gold (1997-2000)
V.I.P (1998-2002)
Sheena (2000-2002)
Charmed (1998-2006)
Hawaii 5-0 new (2010-)
Blue Bloods (2010-)

In conclusion, I had a lot of fun with many of these programs, some of which I do want to see again in the future, and many of which are strongly recommended for everybody looking for the best pastimes on American TV. These are the best ways to make a series, both serious and escapist.

Copyright 2017 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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