I’ve been fortunate to work on some shows that are still being shown today. MASH in particular has stood the test of time (granted you have to go up to channel 200+ now to find it but it's there). And it got me wondering – which of today’s hits will still be around in twenty-five or thirty years? Will LOST and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA still seem very cool or will the Y-generation look back and say, “Jesus, how turn of the century"? Will the procedures used by the twelve CSI shows seem archaic in a few years? (“Look at that. DNA. Were they cavemen back then?”) My guess is LAW & ORDER will hold up, 24 (a show that I love) will look ridiculous. The SIMPSONS will go on forever and be the first show from Earth to be a hit on Jupiter.
What shows do you think will survive and which will not? I keep hoping ALMOST PERFECT will be re-discovered but that dream is starting to dim.
I bring up this topic because recently on the American Life network I caught an old episode of BURKE’S LAW. When this show premiered in 1963 I thought it was the coolest show EVER. How could it not with this dynamite premise – middle aged heartthrob Gene Barry is a police captain solving murders. He is also incredibly rich, lives in a mansion, has an Asian houseboy (allowing him to make Charlie Chan jokes), and drives around investigating crimes in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce. (Very similar to THE SHIELD.) Every hot babe who could easily be his daughter swoons and throws herself at him whenever he pokes around a murder site (always in a tailored suit). There is no action whatsoever. He just questions different guest-star celebrity suspects and eventually put two-and-two together, usually while sipping champagne with some flight attendant on her 18th birthday.
Talk about wish fulfillment. What 13 year-old hormonally challenged boy didn’t want to be Captain Burke (except for maybe the 45 years old part…that was kind of ick)?
I hadn’t seen an episode in a gazillion years. Much to my complete and utter shock BURKE’S LAW didn’t hold up. For the first time I started thinking – how much was he on the take to afford that mansion and sweet ride? God, those girls were golddiggers! It’s not that he was suave, it’s that he had bucks. Larry King could have played that part and scored just as well. Every suspect was a loon. In the episode I watched Michael Ansara was a fitness expert who went around with a bow and arrow, Fernando Lamas was an insane guitar store owner, Jim Backus played a guy in a Hawaiian shirt who just kept confessing for reasons known only to the writer, Diana Lynn was a drunk over-sexed widow stuffed into slacks like they were sausage casing, and in his most over the top performance (which is really saying something) -- William Shatner was a beatnik. The only bright spot was Joanie Sommers, one of my favorite singers of the 60s (jazz, pop, Pepsi) doing both a number and a scene in which she dished out gobs of incomprehensible exposition.
After one season, either ABC or producer (Aaron Spelling) decided that this format wasn't happening and retooled it. Next season Captain Burke left the force and his mansion and became AMOS BURKE SECRET AGENT. Even at 14 I knew this was a crock of shit.
Television series have clearly evolved over the years. The production values, depth of character, and storytelling – especially in dramas – have advanced to where they’re often feature quality. At least that’s what we think now. Let’s see in thirty years. Please check back with me then. I'll be the pathetic guy at the Hollywood Collectibles Show handing out cast photos of ALMOST PERFECT.