Monday, June 26, 2017

The Best of Crime & Detective TV


Max Alan Collins and John Javna
The Critics' Choice:  The Best of Crime & Detective TV (1988)
(OP but readily available from used booksellers)

After Bill Crider mentioned this book on his blog  [Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine (http://billcrider.blogspot.com/), which is worth reading if only for his reviews and recommendations of obscure, unknown, and underappreciated books--mainly mysteries--and movies), I had to get it, and reading it has been a treat.  It's reminded me of many shows I watched regularly, some I missed, and a few which pre-dated my television-watching days.

Collins and Javna do a really nice job of depicting and assessing the shows (in four major categories--Private Eyes, Police Procedurals, Amateur Sleuths, and Comedy Crimefighters), with a nicely consistent format in each section.  I generally agree with their assessments (of the programs I'm familiar with), and they have a lot of fun with it (so I have too).  Perhaps my favorite line in the book comes in their dissection of The FBI, in which they contrast Efrem Zimbalist's portrayal of FBI guy Lew Erskine with his 77 Sunset Strip persona, Stuart Bailey:  "As a PI, he seemed sophisticated and charming; as a government agent, he came across as the dark side of Ward Cleaver."

I enjoyed being reminded of shows I'd nearly forgotten, such as Ten-Speed and Brown Shoe (Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum) and seeing that I'm not the only person who thought that Harry O (David Janssen) and Hec Ramsay (Richard Boone) were remarkably good, under-appreciated shows (and why aren't the Hec Ramsay episodes available on DVD?).

I saw no glaring omissions or errors, although I remember some things differently, only one of which I'll mention.  In their discussion of Remington Steele, a show I think I liked better than they did, they write:  "Following in her father's footsteps, Stephanie Zimbalist made her TV debut as a high-class private detective with her own agency, because of what she perceived as prejudice against woman detectives, Laura Holt hired a handsome male with an English accent (Pierce Brosnan) to play the part of Remington Steel, her bogus boss."  As I remember the show, Brosnan shows up one day claiming to be Remington Steel and basically refusing to leave.  We're given the impression that there's something shady about him...

Great fun, great memories, and a very, very good critical analysis of the subject.

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