Monday, December 06, 2010

Don Meredith On Police Woman

Everyone knows the late “Dandy” Don Meredith was a fine NFL quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, being named to the Pro Bowl three times and the NFL Player of the Year in 1966. Everyone also knows about Meredith’s career as a sportscaster, namely as one-third of the most popular football announcing teams of all time, joining Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell for many seasons on ABC’s MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. But what is mostly forgotten is Meredith’s brief career as an actor.

“The Danderoo,” as Cosell sometimes called him, left MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL to join NBC. His three-year contract not only included calling NFL games with Curt Gowdy, but also acting in NBC TV series and movies. One of his first acting gigs under his new deal was in “The Loner,” POLICE WOMAN’s first-season finale.

POLICE WOMAN starred Angie Dickinson (RIO BRAVO) as Sgt. Pepper Anderson, an undercover Los Angeles police detective who worked for her platonic friend Sgt. Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman). A sexy mature actress, Dickinson was one of the first women to star in a one-hour police drama. Unlike the campy CHARLIE’S ANGELS, which came two years later, POLICE WOMAN was played straight with plenty of sex, violence, and adult storylines featuring white slavery, illegal adoptions, narcotics, serial killers, and lots of rapes. Under executive producer David Gerber, POLICE WOMAN was gritty, tough, and popular with audiences.

“The Loner” aired March 14, 1975. Burton Armus, later a staff writer on KOJAK, NYPD BLUE, and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, penned the teleplay, and ONE STEP BEYOND host/creator John Newland directed it. Meredith plays Turk Allison, a Texas-bred private eye hired to keep an eye on an important witness named Fred Blau (Pat Harrington, ONE DAY AT A TIME’s Schneider). After an assassination attempt at LAX that leaves one gunman dead, Blau splits, and the lone-wolf Allison teams with Pepper and a reluctant Crowley to find Blau before mobster Ace Briscoe (Neville Brand) does.

Meredith is amateurish and a bit stiff, but not without charisma, and the Southern-fried Allison may have been written for him. Gerber knew him well, having cast Meredith in several episodes of the anthology series POLICE STORY as Tony LoBianco’s partner. The Meredith/LoBianco shows were popular, but surprisingly never led to a regular series. 1976’s BANJO HACKETT was certainly an attempt at getting Meredith a weekly vehicle, but the pilot didn’t go.

Dandy Don returned to the MNF fold in 1977, but continued to act, most notable in the NBC movie UNDERCOVER WITH THE KKK, which starred Meredith as FBI agent Gary Rowe, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama in the early 1960s. He left MNF for good in 1984 and pretty much retired from the public life, popping up for occasional acting jobs and rare NFL appearances.

Meredith died last night in Santa Fe, New Mexico after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 72 years old. His Dallas Morning News obituary is here.

No comments: