Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tribute to Mannix - Forty Years Later It Is Still Excellent Entertainment

The founders of The Flaming Nose had a commitment to keeping alive the great television shows from the past. Our memories can sometimes cloud us with a bit of nostalgia, since some of those former programs aren't particularly noteworthy as we look back at them. I could name dozens of programs that are dated beyond watching or are now just downright bad for one reason or another.

The Me-TV folks have been giving us some significant and not so significant oldies for several years now and one of those programs is not only worthwhile it has proven to be highly worthwhile. I grew up with a dad who watched Mannix. I remembered a few bits from Mannix, but as a young kid this was not a go-to series for me. Mannix had a long run on CBS from 1967 through 1975 and looking back 41 years past its last original airdate one can see why it was a long running hit for them.

Mike Connors played the smart and appealing Joe Mannix. There is so much to like with this show I could go on endlessly for several paragraphs. The Los Angeles based Mannix was smart, but not a smarmy smart. He was a guy who thought situations out and he was fearless (without being too fearless) and ambitious. He was also a nice guy. I miss nice characters on television. We now seem to search out the weird and the cruel.  

                                                         Mike Connors as Joe Mannix

The first season of Mannix was quite different from what the remaining seasons would look like, so in many ways the first season was a prototype for the following seasons. During season one, Joe Mannix worked for a company that was high tech for its day, so it was already heads and shoulders above many of the contemporary law enforcement/private investigator style programs of the era.

Connors is one of the most likable actors to ever grace our television screens. You can't help but like the character and the actor. He was a highly competent actor in an era of overacting. He gives a superb performance in this series - episode for episode.

With all of the talk of diversity in our time, it's interesting to see Gail Fisher playing the assistant to Mannix; and she was given more to do than just answer the phone. She supports Mannix out in the street and in the investigations from time to time. Gail Fisher's Peggy Fair was a fearless woman going undercover and willing to take the proverbial bullet for her boss if need be. Of course, Mannix would have taken a bullet for Peggy Fair. They were a committed duo.

                                                           Gail Fisher as Peggy Fair

Lalo Schifrin composed the theme music for Mannix. Anyone who knows anything about music scoring will know who Lalo Schifrin is and if you don't know who he is - he is most famous for that absolutely brilliantly perfect score for Mission Impossible. That piece of music from the Argentine born Schifrin is clearly one of the most famous scores in all of television/film.

                                                                Lalo Schifrin at work

Mannix was the last series produced by Desilu Productions and if you are a frequent visitor to this site you will know our dedication to all things Lucille Ball.

Let's be grateful to the programming folks over at Me-TV for bringing Mannix back and let's hope it stays on their schedule for many years to come. It's a smart show and outside of the occasional orange telephone or green wallpaper, it is far less dated than almost every single show of its genre from the 1980's and 1990's (yes, think The Commish, Hunter, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue).

Mike Connors is still alive.  He's 90 years old and I hope he is doing well.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2016              


Mitchell Hadley said...

Wonderful piece about a terrific show. It strike me as perhaps the perfect blend of a personal life, in this case the very human Mannix, and a professional life, that of a detective that we'd definitely want on our side. Great piece!

Lisa said...

I love Mannix, Mike Conners and Gail Fisher! And that theme song -- one of the zestiest and coolest ever, peppy and promising excitement!

Wonderful article on a terrific show! Gosh, I love classic TV!

Gary R. Peterson said...

A great tribute! I actually prefer the first season. Mike Connors and Joseph Campanella played so well off each other. There was also the recurring theme of man vs. machine that was touched on frequently in that other Desilu show STAR TREK. I was actually reluctant to buy the second season, but Amazon offered the full series at a great price, and I'm glad I bought it. I do like Peggy and the stories are compelling and inventive as can be expected when the producer is Bruce Geller of MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE. The theme, the opening titles, and the guest cast boasting virtually every character actor of the era do elevate the series to greatness. And as you pointed out--Mannix is a nice guy. That's a winning quality also shared by his heir Jim Rockford.