Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Episode Guide: The Protectors

THE BOLD ONES was an interesting experiment on the part of NBC and Universal to do something different in episodic drama. The idea was to produce three different television series and rotate them in the same Sunday night timeslot. Premiering in the fall of 1969, THE BOLD ONES was successful enough for the network and studio to continue the strategy for most of the 1970s in FOUR-IN-ONE, THE NBC WEDNESDAY MYSTERY MOVIE, and—most famously—THE NBC SUNDAY MYSTERY MOVIE, which gave us COLUMBO, MCMILLAN AND WIFE, and MCCLOUD, among other shows.

THE BOLD ONES began with three rotating series: THE NEW DOCTORS starring E.G. Marshall (THE DEFENDERS), John Saxon (ENTER THE DRAGON), and David Hartman (LUCAS TANNER); THE LAWYERS with Burl Ives, James Farentino (COOL MILLION), and Joseph Campanella (MANNIX); and the series written about here, THE PROTECTORS.

THE PROTECTORS was the least successful of the BOLD ONES ventures, lasting only six one-hour episodes following the pilot movie, DEADLOCK, which NBC aired in March 1969. Leslie Nielsen, who died November 28 at age 84, starred as Sam Danforth, the deputy police chief of San Sebastian, located in southern California. A politically conservative man who ran his force by the book, Danforth was brought in from Cleveland to clean up the city using modern police methods.

Danforth frequently clashed with Hari Rhodes (DAKTARI) as liberal district attorney William Washburn, who grew up in the San Sebastian ghetto. That Danforth was white and Washburn black played into the scripts’ attempts at relevancy. Rhodes passed away much too early in 1992 at age 59.

What’s perhaps most distinctive about THE PROTECTORS is its lack of a musical score. It’s an odd choice by executive producer Jack Laird (NIGHT GALLERY) and not an entirely successful one. The show seems slowly paced because of it, and while I suppose the choice was made to give the production more realism, it isn’t shot in such a way to suggest it. This strategy was abandoned in the final episode, which featured a rock score by Tom Scott.

An experimental fast-cutting style and cinematography by the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond in the first episode create the series’ strong visual sense. Another intriguing element is the use of audio from a political call-in radio show during the opening and closing scenes that paralleled the theme of each episode.

Partway through THE PROTECTORS’ run, NBC reportedly changed the title to THE LAW ENFORCERS in an effort to pick up viewers. Although THE LAWYERS and THE NEW DOCTORS proved quite popular with Sunday-night viewers, THE PROTECTORS was a flop and was cancelled after six shows.

Its replacement for the 1969-70 season was THE SENATOR, the most critically acclaimed BOLD ONES segment, starring Hal Holbrook as an idealistic politician, but it also didn’t last more than one season. THE LAWYERS and THE NEW DOCTORS filled out THE BOLD ONES’ third season with THE NEW DOCTORS holding the reins alone the fourth and final season.

I haven’t seen the pilot of THE PROTECTORS, which was directed by Lamont Johnson (another 2010 casualty) and written by Chester Krumholz and Robert E. Thompson with a story by William Sackheim and Roland Wolpert, but I have seen the six regular episodes and compiled the following episode guide.

Leslie Nielsen as Sam Danforth
Hari Rhodes as William Washburn

Music: Tom Scott (final episode only)
THE BOLD ONES Theme: Robert Prince
Cinematographers: Vilmos Zsigmond, Richard Batcheller, Richard C. Glouner
Art Director: Frank Arrigo, Alexander A. Mayer, Joseph Alves Jr.
Editors: Richard C. Meyer, Douglas Stewart, Thomas Scott, James Leicester
Associate Producer: Mark Rodgers
Producer: Jerrold Freedman
Creators: Roland Wolpert and William Sackheim
Executive Producer: Jack Laird
Filmed in Universal City, California at Universal Studios

“A Case of Good Whiskey at Christmas Time”
September 28, 1969
Teleplay: L.T. Bentwood and Betty Deveraux
Story: Robert I. Holt
Director: Robert Day
Guest Cast: Edward Andrews, Amy Thomson, Charles Drake, Lorraine Gary, Michael Bell, Frank Maxwell, Bart Carpinelli, Fabian Dean, Fred Williamson

Jack Sheehan (Charles Drake), a local politician suspected of accepting graft, is found floating in the harbor. Washburn and Danforth’s investigation of his murder uncovers corruption behind the construction of a low-income housing project.

“If I Should Wake Before I Die”
October 26, 1969
Teleplay: Adrian Spies
Story: Jerrold Freedman
Director: Daryl Duke
Guest Cast: Robert Drivas, Edmond O’Brien, Gene Evans, Milton Selzer, Len Wayland, Connie Kreski, Regis Cordic, Ron Stokes, Arthur Malet

Robert Drivas is excellent as Martin Sitomer, a Death Row prisoner who earns a new trial, causing Danforth to reopen the investigation that will provide a sympathetic Washburn with enough evidence to convict.

“Draw a Straight Man”
December 14, 1969
Writer: Sam Washington
Director: William Hale
Guest Cast: Michael Bell, Celeste Yarnall, Janine Gray, William Mims, Tom Reese, Peter Brocco, Charles Brewer, S. John Launer, Terence Garin, Bill Hickman

Washburn and Danforth are at odds when an elderly night watchman implicates two police officers in a robbery ring.

“The Carrier”
January 11, 1970
Teleplay: Mark Rodgers and Barry Trivers
Story: Paul Stein & Charles Watts
Director: Frank Arrigo
Guest Cast: Louise Sorel, Clifford David, Barbara Babcock, Frank Maxwell, Peter Mamakos, Mikel Angel, Joseph Perry, Carl Byrd, Walter Mathews, Carmen Zapata, Richard Dillon, Ira Angustain, Kurtis Laird

Danforth urgently seeks a Mexican-American boy and a man (Clifford David) who were exposed to a deadly virus that endangers the entire city. Directed by the series’ art director. Universal remade the teleplay as the KOJAK episode “A Wind from Corsica.”

“A Thing Not of God”
February 1, 1970
Teleplay: Mark Rodgers
Story: Harold Livingston and Mark Rodgers
Director: Jerrold Freedman
Guest Cast: Lynn Carlin, James Broderick, Lew Brown, Garry Walberg, Peter Brocco, Kenneth Kirk, Stuart Thomas, Carl Byrd

A priest (James Broderick) is attacked while protecting a young soldier (John Rubinstein) who’s thinking of deserting the Army.

“Memo from the Class of ‘76”
March 8, 1970
Teleplay: Ben Masselink
Story: Jerrold Freedman
Director: Daryl Duke
Guest Cast: Norma Crane, Billy Gray, Peter Hooten, Michael C. Gwynne, Claude Johnson, Danny Smaller, William Wintersole, Steve Pendleton, Carl Byrd, Richard Collier, Stuart Nisbet, S. John Launer, Matt Pelto, Fredricka Myers, Jack Bender, Don Lorbett, Cathe Cozzi

Danforth declares war on the local high school when several popular students are arrested for possessing marijuana. He has good reason to be worried when a new batch of acid is discovered to be deadly.

Here's an example of the main titles for THE BOLD ONES featuring the Robert Prince theme. However, it's from the second year after THE SENATOR had replaced THE PROTECTORS in the rotation:

1 comment:

J. Kingston Pierce said...

You'll find the original BOLD ONES introduction, which includes "The Protectors," here: