Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random TV Title: Most Wanted

Popular tough guy Robert Stack’s third television series (five years after THE NAME OF THE GAME) was not much different in concept from his first, THE UNTOUCHABLES. In the 1976 pilot movie for MOST WANTED, Stack again played a righteous cop leading a team of younger detectives against crime in the big city. Of course, being the 1970s, one of his new team was a woman, and the criminals were nastier and sleazier.

Los Angeles is being ravaged by a series of rapes and murders of nuns. It’s a cinch Eliott Ness never handled a case so lurid. The mayor (Percy Rodrigues in a role clearly based on L.A.'s real mayor then, Tom Bradley) taps Captain Linc Evers (Stack) to run a special unit dedicated to solving high-profile crimes. Evers’ hand-picked staff: streetsmart undercover narc Charlie Benson (Shelly Novack, who had been on the final season of ABC's THE F.B.I.), empathetic psych Lee Herrick (Leslie Charleson), and computer whiz Tom Roybo (Tom Selleck).

Created by MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE producer Laurence Heath, who wrote some of that series’ best episodes, the Quinn Martin production suffers from Heath’s script, which spins its wheels sending the Most Wanted team after a cultist, even though the audience is already aware of the killer’s identity. There is novel interest in the rough technology used by Roybo to solve the case, and most of the performances, particularly the actor playing the killer, are quite good.

Selleck, who appears awkward, and Charleson didn’t make the leap to series (some QM personnel had misgivings over Selleck’s voice), and the ABC show starred Stack, Novack, Jo Ann Harris (RAPE SQUAD), and Hari Rhodes (THE BOLD ONES) as the Mayor. Director Walter Grauman, an old hand (he directed the STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO pilot for Martin), handles the crime drama well, and the film’s ratings were strong enough to give MOST WANTED a Saturday night slot. The strong supporting cast includes Jack Kehoe, Marj Dusay, Kitty Winn (THE EXORCIST), Robert Doyle, Sheree North, Fred Sadoff, Joyce Dewitt (THREE’S COMPANY), Richard Lawson, and Roger Perry.

Patrick Williams composed the pilot's score, but when the MOST WANTED series premiered in September 1976, it had a new theme written by Lalo Schifrin:


michael said...

The Wikipedia entry about this series claims Stack in his autobiography "Straight Shooting" wrote the series was a Top 10 hit and cancelled because of network politics.

In fact according to "Broadcasting" (4/25/77) "Most Wanted" finished #59 out of 102 and was out watched by both CBS' "Carol Burnett" and "NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies."

Stack would go on to play the same type character on the series "Strike Force" during the 80s

Mark Speck said...

I read somewhere that Most Wanted was in the Top Ten in the ratings, but something happened during a meeting between Quinn Martin and ABC executives that sealed the show's fate.

It seems that, during the meeting, things got a little heated and Martin slammed his fist on a table, which caused a metal ashtray to go flying and struck one of the executives squarely in the chest. That was enough for ABC to cancel the show.

Curt said...

The theme song is killer. Too bad this show didn't last.