Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Forgotten TV: Checkmate




Anthony George, Doug McClure and Sebastian Cabot solved mysteries on CHECKMATE. At the time (1960-62) this seemed like the height of sophistication to me. Very debonair and cultured. Eric Ambler had something to do with the show and Johnny (John) Williams wrote the jazzy theme. You can watch episodes on you tube if you want a taste. I wonder why detectives were always portrayed as sophisticated in that era?
Or perhaps everyone was before the advent of realism that came five or so years later.The entire series is on DVD.

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, I have to admit; this is one I've never seen. I might have to see if I can find it.

Todd Mason said...

Well, tv detectives were already a mixed bag, but the post-PETER GUNN wave of jazzy guys were expected to be urbane and dashing or at least well-dressed (I guess Cabot was always presentable, though not hunky). There were already tv versions of MIKE SHAYNE and MIKE HAMMER and (though a police tec) ROCKY KING who were anything but glamorous, even if perhaps moreso than their literary inspirations. And 87TH PRECINCT and to some extent NAKED CITY (and, at least in terms of glamor) DRAGNET definitely took the shine off police-work, at the same time...I'm not sure that it wasn't till Rockford, Harry O and Brockelman that the demythologization of the private detective was much in evidence in small screen...

pattinase (abbott) said...

In real life, you have to wonder if any P.I. was dashing and sophisticated. Did they base in on reality at all or just giving the audience what they thought they wanted?
And then Magnum sort of struck the middle ground. The exotic setting allowed the man to be more ordinary, .

George said...

I remember this series much as you do: smart and sophisticated.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Patti. I loved this show, never missed it. It was definitely the highlight of George's career, though he acted in soaps like DARK SHADOWS for years afterwards.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Just checked: Amazon has the complete series on 14 DVDs for $39.45. (They won't let me link to it here.)

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

The private eyes, despite Hammett's and then Macdonald's suggestions otherwise, were being set up as the modern-day Good Gunfighters, the Shanes. Is it much wonder that Garner was key to so much of the deflation in the television versions...even ROCKFORD FILES giving Selleck his first showcase in the form?

pattinase (abbott) said...

But Garner was quite a dandy in Maverick. I think that probably influenced his change in Rockford Files-he didn't want to play the same character. He was Lew Archer for me.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Apparently Ambler had his name removed from the show ... I bought the DVD set, which is pretty cheap but unfortunatel the picture and sound quality is very poor - shame really as it's a fun show with a very light and agreeable cast.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That is a shame. If they are going to do it, they should do it justice.

Richard R. said...

1I loved this show, but since I was in high school homework interfered with my watching it as often as not. I wonder if the current DVD have the same lousy picture and sound quality?

Todd Mason said...

Ah, but Bret Maverick would prefer to do anything rather than face someone down...particularly in a gunfight. That was pretty radical for a hero in a tv western for that time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bart and Brett were of similar ilk if I remember it right. And then there was Beau, was it? (Roger Moore). Damn I loved that show.

michael said...

CHECKMATE -CBS - 1960-62 (two seasons).

Created by Eric Ambler. Anthony George ran Checkmate Inc with young detective Doug McClure. Sebastian Cabot played a College Professor who served as advisor to the agency.

Rather than solve crimes, they worked to prevent crimes from happening. The style was more traditional mystery than hardboiled.

There were even two Gold Key comic books based on the series.

Naomi Johnson said...

Oooh, I had completely forgotten this show. Must see how it holds up.

Jeff Flugel said...

Nice one, Patti!

CHECKMATE is a pretty cool show, thanks mostly to Sebastian Cabot's presence. While I generally agree with Sergio that the DVD set's picture quality isn't great, some episodes look fine and most of them are at least watchable. The blame can't really be laid completely at Timeless' (the company that released the series on DVD) feet, as they weren't licensed original masters from the parent studio (Universal?) and so were forced to make due with extent 16mm prints or whatever they could get ahold of from various collectors.)