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Showing posts by: michael shonk click to see michael shonk's profile
Jun 15 2013 10:00am

Home of the Forgotten: Television’s P.I. Agencies

....Why yes, I did hear a strange noise...Let’s face it. When you think of sociable people, the fictional private eye is not the person you think of first. PIs are supposed to be loners. The TV PI will tell you he is a loner, but then every week you meet another old close friend now in trouble. He spends quality time every week talking to his secretary, cop contact, legman, snitch, or anyone else available to help deliver story exposition. Suddenly, a PI agency with more than two employees makes sense.



21 Beacon Street (1959)

Perhaps the first TV series to feature a PI agency with three employees or more was 21 Beacon Street, which aired as a summer replacement series in 1959, then repeated on ABC a few months later. The half-hour mystery featured PI Dennis Chase (Dennis Morgan) and his staff of Lola (Joanne Barnes) his assistant, Brian (Brian Kelly) a law school graduate, and Jim (James Maloney) who specialized in gadgets and disguises.

Despite being the top rated summer replacement series of the year (according to Broadcasting), 21 Beacon Street suffered the fate of too many TV series, not only is it forgotten, but may be lost as well. We here at the Home, dedicated to saving the forgotten mysteries of the recent and distant past, will always keep a room reserved for such series with hopes we might get to watch it.

[Hey Gang, Let's Get Together and Solve Crime...]

Apr 24 2013 12:00pm

Secretaries’ (aka Administrative Professionals’) Day: Mystery Edition

Philip Marlowe might not have had a secretary, but Sam Spade knew better. Who else do you trust to bring you the dingus but your loyal secretary? Who else can you depend on to fend off inconvenient lovers or nasty cops, and deal with dead ship captains?

Dashiell Hammett’s Effine Perrine is just one of mystery’s famous characters who happens to be a secretary. It is impossible to think of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason without Della Street. No matter what the danger, be it in books, radio, movies, or television, we knew Della would be at Perry’s side when he needed her.

Where would Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe be without Archie Goodwin? Not having a beer while he tends to his orchids, that’s for sure. Though the most popular PI “legman” might be Sam from TV’s Richard Diamond, Private Detective in the late 1950s (Sam was portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore’s legs), Archie is mystery’s most famous legman. But Archie is more than just a legman he also answers the phone, takes notes during meetings with clients and suspects, does the books, and handles the running of Wolfe’s office.

Archie Goodwin is a fine example of how complex the job of secretary can be. It is more than typing, taking dictation, and fetching coffee. No wonder that in fine mystery tradition the “secretary” has been known by any number of names, from the typewriter girls of the late 1800s to today’s Administrative Professional.

[Help Wanted: Gal Friday…]

Feb 16 2013 11:00am

Home of the Forgotten: TV Spies

Welcome to the place where forgotten, neglected, and lost mystery fictions of all kinds are welcomed. We do not judge here. Many here have been forgotten unjustly, while others deserved their fate. But who is to decide which is which? Every mystery is someone’s favorite, even if why is the biggest mystery of all.

Today I wish to show you the part of the Home where forgotten TV spies wait for the call to save the world that may never come again or at least get its own DVD.

The first TV spy with a weekly series was John Randolph (played first by Mel Ruick) on NBC’s Doorway to Danger (aka Door With No Name) that premiered in the summer of 1951. Since then there have been countless TV spy series, too many remain forgotten.

[Let’s open the secret door. Don’t forget to smile for the surveillance cameras…]

Jan 24 2013 1:00pm

How the Old Song and Dance Iced TV’s First Private Eye

One of the most important facts to know in life is that Martin Kane is remembered as the first PI to be featured in a weekly television series. On the historic day of September 1, 1949, NBC took its popular radio series Martin Kane, Private Eye and adapted it for television. William Gargan was the first (followed by Lloyd Nolan, Lee Tracy, and Mark Stevens) to play Kane, the typical hardboiled wiseguy PI with a nice hat.

However, Martin Kane would have been second to another hard-boiled PI from radio, if it weren’t for the Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate.

Recently, I uncovered a sad noir tale of a forgotten PI done in by a dame.

[All he said was “break a leg” and the skirt started to sing…]