Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pioneers of Television


I have been trying to put my finger on what is wrong with this series. I thought the episode on crime dramas was very disappointing.

First, they show too few clips. You get very little idea of what the shows were like. I realize this might be because they don't have the rights to show clips, but then why include the show if they can't.

I also feel they don't have an interesting, if any, thesis. And the show lacks the sophistication that most PBS shows have. Fifty minutes is not enough time to cover sixty years of any type of show.

The single bright spot was the line from Quinn Martin, "I like sadism but I wish you could come up with another approach to it."

I can't imagine anyone not alive to see these shows in the day would get anything out of Pioneers of Television. There are too many interviews with the same people. Perhaps because many others are dead. Interviews where actors say that they had fun and enjoyed being pioneers only get you so far.

It's a shame that such a broad look at television is so tame. Where are the critics that might shed more light on the history of the medium? Where are the historians who study it. Very disappointing. What did you think?

Stay tuned for a surprise forgotten book review on Friday.

Interesting piece on Women on the Scaffold, right here.

20 comments:

Max Allan Collins said...

They won points with me for leading with Jack Webb and understanding how innovative he was, and how important he was to both crime dramas and the medium itself.

It's not an overview show, but an attempt to latch onto significant series that made an impact: UNTOUCHABLES amping the violence, POLICEWOMAN introducing a female protagonist, I SPY breaking the color barrier, etc.

But even so, it was scattershot and...odd. Who says MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and I SPY were crime shows? Eliot Ness was an "FBI man"?!?! THE GIRL FROM UNCLE -- huh?

I did enjoy very much the stuff on James Garner, including his own comments. A lot of cool, interesting people seem to have given their last interviews here -- Stephen Cannell, Robert Culp, Peter Graves....

Evan Lewis said...

I've been seeing this listed and been curious. Now I'm 50-50 on giving it a look.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was shocking how many of the actors had died recently. The Jack Webb stuff was the strongest. What about Peter Gunn? That seems like a show they should have included.
I wonder how much they were led by having actors still alive that appeared on the show. Streets of San Francisco and The Defenders seemed like sure bets too. More than MI and I SPY.
I wonder if James Garner was dressed for a part or reverting to his Maverick roots.
Kid shows are next, Dave.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Thanks for letting me know about this. I'm a huge fan of the 70's era crime shows and movies. I also loved the ABC movie of the week. but based on your post they could have done a better job. "A Quinn Martin Production"!!

Streets of SF, Hawaii 5-0,and Baretta, man, it didn't get any better that, for me at least.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was soso but had some interesting stuff, like the Jack Webb. I also noticed how many people have died since their interviews.

I've never been a huge ANgie Dickinson/POLICE WOMAN fan but I liked her attitude a lot.

The contrast between how Barbara Bain looks now and Pat Crowley (who is only two years younger!) was startling. (There was no mention that Bain and Landau were married or the scandal of them leaving the show. Her career never really reached that height again.)

I didn't get including MANNIX, frankly.

Things I learned: James Garner was one of the best stunt drivers in Hollywood. Stephen Cannell was only 29 when he did ROCKFORD. Desilu did even more shows than I'd remembered.

Jeff M.

PS - I sitll wish I'd watched the westerns hour.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I have to admit; I didn't see this one. But now I'm kind of glad I didn't DVR it...

George said...

I'm with you, Patti. CRIME DRAMAS was disappointing. I agree with Max Allan Collins, the whole episode was too scattershot. It would have made more sense to do this as a series of episodes like CRIME DRAMAS OF THE 1950s, CRIME DRAMAS OF THE 1960s, etc. Too many programs were left out. No BARETTA...unbelievable.

K. A. Laity said...

I always dislike the superficial run-throughs they tend to do lately. But that Quinn Martin quote is priceless!

Richard R. said...

I'll chime in to add my own disappointment. Too narrowly focused, and more interested in showing off Dickenson than giving a real overview. So many of the programs were on NBC, I wonder if that's all they used? No Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, Naked City, Highway Patrol, Surfside Six, 77 Sunset Strip, Streets of San Francisco, no medical crime dramas (Quincy), Ellery Queen (the Hutton version) was missing, as was so, so much more.

Kent Morgan said...

It took me about 20 seconds before I realized it was James Garner in the hat and beard. All the show did for me was to remind me how lucky I was not to waste my time watching TV in those days and instead get out and about.

pattinase (abbott) said...

How right you are, Rick. I didn't think of that. I wonder if certain vaults were open to them. Hawaiian Eye was another favorite and certainly 77 Sunset Strip. I would say the last was one of the most popular shows in the early sixties.

michael said...

I was very disappointed with this episode compared to the others I have seen (the sf one was good).

Did they forget the first "Police Woman" Beverly Garland in DECOY?

No mention what the change was on MANNIX that save the show. In the beginning Mannix worked for a big detective agency that used a computer to solve crimes, it was when he went on his own with his secretary (Gail Fisher) that audiences tuned in.

No mention of Steven Hill, the first lead actor of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

The show lacked depth for those of us who are interested in the subject.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And as far as women go, the real pioneers were Cagney and Lacey, who performed as men did--not as Angie Dickinson who seemed afraid to discard her femininity at any cost.
Quite odd, the way she kept repeating that. It needed to be much longer to cover the ground it any significant way.

Max Allan Collins said...

Again, they did spy shows under the crime umbrella. I wonder if there's a separate "mystery" installment? Any sense of the literary side of things -- "Perry Mason," "Mike Hammer" -- being reflected on TV, wholly absent. They skipped an interesting beat in the pre-DRAGNET stuff, which was live, in particular MARTIN KANE, PRIVATE EYE. That Mannix was the only private eye on display (CBS, I think, not NBC) without any Hammett/Chandler/Spillane context, well, that speaks volumes. The biggest thing in crime TV, after DRAGNET, was the PI craze that PETER GUNN and 77 SUNSET STRIP sparked. Both absent.

On the other hand, Webb has been given such short shrift in other things like this, they still get a few points for getting that mostly right....

pattinase (abbott) said...

Perry Mason was iconic. Mike Shayne and The Detectives.

Todd Mason said...

OK, I'll just assume in the future that 1) essentially no one heeds my critiques and 2) I'm lucky if anyone reads them, and 3) try not to suggest, Well, I did warn you. Repeatedly. And initially at length.

Because, 4) who cares and 5) who's going to read the suggestions.

Jack Bates said...

I was hoping after the one westerns there would be a little something more. It's kind of liking getting unsalted fries from McDonald's; there ain't no flavor going on.

I'd always admired Stephen J. Cannell. He was an inspiration for writing. I liked his insights on getting Rockford Files up and running.

I think it needed Ken Burns.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Exactly. It needs a point of view or thesis.

ceresmary said...

my frustration was in the children shows (but I absolutely agree about the crime shows in lacking some very early front runners that just remained nameless). The left out Kukla Fran and Ollie! Can you imagine? This along with Electric Company, Zoom, etc.

They spent a great deal of time on Fat Albert which (IMO) was nothing more than a cartoon, and if they are going to review cartoons, why did they not just keep it to the Genre? Have a full show on Cartoons for heaven's sakes.

If they wanted to review all local children's shows, why would they not include the pacific northwest or other areas that had significant children's shows for years?
(Seattle WA, JP Patches ran from 1964-l979).

I felt slighted by their choices and the constant reharping back to The Arizona Local show, (maybe because of Speilburg) which took up an inordinate amount of time in the retelling.

Mr Green Jeans? Nope. Captain Kangaroo? Nope. Children's Community Playhouse? No. All of these shows were important to children's Shows.

I thought the Sci Fi show that started this set of memories to be intreguing and well done, but really if you want people to yell at the TV, don't show them shows that they grew up with an insist that what they DID show was the best, because it wasn't.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was so dispirited after the crime show I wrote it off. But you have to wonder if certain shows were featured because they had access to their archives. I guess Fat Albert was the first show featuring a black character other than the ensemble pieces. Just too little time and thought went into this series.