Television detectives were a pretty straitlaced bunch until the 1970’s. During that time, the airwaves filled up with left-of-center detectives like Columbo, Cannon, and quite possibly the coolest of the bunch, Baretta. This maverick cop with a talent for the art of disguise became a television favorite and a standard by which all future cool television detectives would be measured.
Baretta rose from the ashes of another cop show, Toma. When Tony Musante, the lead actor on the latter show, decided to leave after its first season, the producers merely developed another show around actor Robert Blake. A former child performer who appeared in The Little Rascals, Blake had developed a tougher persona in his adult career, thanks to roles like the cold-blooded killer he played in the classic film In Cold Blood. With Baretta, Blake found the persona that would make him a television star.
To say that Tony Baretta was an unconventional cop was an understatement. He never worked with a partner, dressed in his street clothes instead of police blues, and worked out of his apartment in a run-down hotel instead of the police station. As one might imagine, all these quirks got him in trouble with the brass down at the precinct. His main nemesis in this respect was his commanding officer, a role first filled by Lieutenant Shiller and later by Lieutenant Brubaker.
Like his predecessor Toma, Baretta was a master of disguise and used this ability to solve his cases. Baretta favored going deep undercover with his cases and was good enough to pass for everything from a biker to a member of the mafia. While working undercover, he also got street-level information from Rooster, a stoolie with a yen for fancy threads, and from Fats, a street source with a raspy voice. At home, Baretta’s main pal was his pet cockatoo, Fred.
These colorful characters promised to make for an interesting cop show, and Baretta promptly made good. It was a perfect blend of hard-hitting action, good-natured comedy (much of it from Rooster), and just the right touch of drama. To top it all off, the show boasted the killer theme song ‘Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow,’ a funky-yet-smooth number sung by Sammy Davis, Jr. This carefully-balanced mixture of cool elements, paired with Blake’s rough-and-tumble charisma in the title role, helped make Baretta a television success story.
Baretta enjoyed a very respectable run, racking up three and a half years’ worth of shows before calling it quits in the summer of 1978. Robert Blake moved on to film roles and other television series like Hell Town, but Baretta remains his definitive adult role to many a cop show fanatic. It also remains a favorite in syndication.
These days Robert Blake’s career has been overshadowed by his 2005 trial for the 2001 murder of his second wife Bonnie Lee Bakley. He was acquitted but found liable in civil court for her wrongful death.
USA / ABC / x60 minute episodes / Broadcast Friday 17 January 1975 – Thursday 1 June August 1978
Theme Music: Keep Your Eyes on Me performed by Sammy Davis Jr.
ROBERT BLAKE as Detective Tony Baretta
DANA ELCAR as Inspector Shiller (1975)
EDWARD GROVER as Lt Hal Brubaker
TOM EWELL as Billy Truman
MICHAEL D. ROBERTS as Rooster
CHINO WILLIAMS as Fats
Ape And Essence (The Wednesday Play BBC-1 1966, Alec McCowen)
In Scifi drama Ape and Essence, based on the novel by Aldous Huxley, a group of New Zealand scientists conduct a survey on a Britain ravaged by atomic war 80 years previously.
Series: The Wednesday Play Season 2 Episode 29
Alec McCowen as Alfred Poole
Robert Eddison as Arch Vicar
Derek Sydney as Chief
Jenny Lee as Flossie
Yvonne Antrobus as Young Girl
Sydney Bromley as Craigie
Martin Carroll as Director of Food
Hazel Douglas as Mies Hook
John Falconer as Patriarch
Petra Markham as Loola
Ken Parry as Science Praet
Amanda Reiss as Polly
Jonathan Scott as Int. Priest
Fiona Fraser as Part of Crowd
Ann Mitchell as Shaven-Head
Jacki Salt as Mulatto Girl
Carol Blake as Shaven-Head
Gordon Craig as Part of Crowd
Robert Cude as First Man
Writer: John Finch
Book: Aldous Huxley
Music: BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Producer: Peter Luke
Director: David Benedictus.
Network and Production Companies: BBC One
Duration: 1×75 minute episode
Aired From: 18 May 1966
Plane Makers, The (ITV 1963-1965, Patrick Wymark, Barbara Murray)
Drama series The Plane Makers took us behind the scenes in the boardroom and shop floor of the Scott Furlong Aircraft Factory. After two seasons the lead character John Wilder took a place on the board of a merchant bank and the series was then renamed The Power Game.
Patrick Wymark as John Wilder
Jack Watling as Don Henderson
Barbara Murray as Pamela Wilder (Seasons 1-2)
Ann Firbank as Pamela Wilder (Season 3)
Reginald Marsh as Arthur Sugden
Alan Dobie as David Corbett
Creator: Wilfred Greatorex
Producers: Rex Firkin (seasons 1-2), David Reid (season 3)
Network: ITV – ATV
Duration: 57×50 minute episodes
Aired From: 4 February 1963 – 12 January 1965 black and white
Running Wild (ITV 1987, Ray Brooks, Janet Key)
Sitcom Running Wild was about the ups and downs of separated couple, Max and Babs, trying to get on with their lives. In season two Max wants to return to his wife but Babs is not so keen.
Ray Brooks as Max Wild
Janet Key as Babs Wild
Sharon Duce as Wanda
Michelle Collins as Stephanie Wild
Peter Amory as Rob
Berwick Kaler as Tom Coleman (Season 1)
Brigit Forsyth as Jenny (Season 2)
Writer: Philip Trewinnard
Producers: Marcus Plantin (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)
Directors: Vic Finch (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)
Network and Production Companies: ITV – London Weekend Television
Duration: 13×25 minute episodes
Aired From: 6 March 1987 – 4 June 1989
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