77 Sunset Strip — and other matters

I fly a lot, normally about 5000 miles a week, and mostly on American Airlines. I don’t watch the in-flight entertainment, and I don’t wear the headset, but I can’t avoid seeing CBS and other Viacom products on display. I think it’s actually more enjoyable to watch 60 Minutes without hearing the sound — there are only three or four themes to 60 Minutes pieces, and it’s a little interesting to guess which one they are doing on the screen.

There are a lot of commericals in the entertainment, and most of these are for CBS programming. That is how I am familiar with the endless trail of CSI products, Miami, New York (doesn’t Gary Sinese look a little like Dr. McCoy?), and a bunch of other places I can’t remember. Now they want to milk the brand, but in the old days, networks wanted to hide the fact that they were making the same show over and over again. I remember watching 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat — without ever realiizing, until last year, that they were exactly the same program.

These programs, key elements in putting also-ran ABC on the map, were created by Roy Huggins (most famous for “The Fugitive”) out of a Philip Marlowe type character, and produced by William Orr. Here’s part of an excellent piece at IMDB on 77 Sunset Strip:

Huggins had fancied himself a detective writer in the 40’s and came up with Stuart Bailey, an Ivy Leaguer with a background in World War II intelligence who set up his own detective agency in Los Angeles. When Huggins became a story editor for Warners, it was decided to create a show around the Bailey character, 77 Sunset Strip, which debut in 1958. They gave Bailey a partner, Jeff Spencer and created the character of Kookie, the parking lot attendant, for comic relief. It set the stage for the other three, similar shows, each with a pair, (or three) handsome detectives operating in glamorous or exotic locations. Warner’s learned you needed a pretty girl involved and the comic relief. they also learned from “Peter Gunn” that a musical interlude would occasionally be welcome.

I have no idea whether the characters on CSI ever enjoy themselves — they sure look like they don’t. Perhaps that’s one difference between TV then and now.

Photos via TV party.

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