They Aren’t John Shaft, But They Are Still Cool

18 Feb

Today, I was driving down the interstate when a red blur went by me. It was a red Ferrari. A couple of thoughts went through my mind.

“Damn, that’s a cool car.”

“Hey, I should blog about cool private investigators on television.”

One thought – obvious. The other one – not so much.

Anyway, here goes with the post. Private investigator shows were a big deal in the 1970s and 1980s, and my parents watched most of them. As a result, I watched them, too. It’s funny how television copies itself. Let one program hit it big, and a bunch more will follow. I guess some detective show must have hit it big because those shows were everywhere.

Obviously, private investigators were cool, but there were several factors that made up the coolness. Most important was a cool opening credits theme song. In fact, it’s impossible to be a cool television investigator without a cool theme song. Other factors can vary. There may be a cool car. There may be a cool assistant or sidekick. There are also bonus points if the show was a Quinn Martin Production with each episode made up of chapters and an epilogue.

With all of that being said, here are some cool television private eyes.

Barnaby Jones – Old? Sure. I never could figure out how he ran down suspects. However, there is a lot of coolness here. Barnaby had a great theme song. He was a Quinn Martin Production. More than that, his secretary was a former Miss America.Barnaby Jones

Jim Rockford The Rockford Files was one of the coolest shows ever. Rockford lived in a trailer and drove a Firebird. Admittedly, it wasn’t a Trans Am, but everyone has faults. He was also used the latest technology, an answering machine. Oh, he also had a great theme song.Jim Rockford

Thomas Magnum – Magnum was the epitome of cool. Cool theme song. Cool car. Cool friends. Cool house in a cool locale. However, underneath all of that cool was a professional moocher who didn’t really want to do much.Thomas Magnum

Thomas Banacek – I have written a little about Banacek before. He was a “man about town” from Boston who investigated insurance claims along side his street wise chauffeur and a friend who owned a bookstore. Full of old Polish proverbs, he solved the craziest of crimes. His theme song left a lot of be desired. I wonder if there is an old Polish proverb that explains why a cool investigator would operate to lame music.Banacek

Frank Cannon – I have to give Cannon props for being another Quinn Martin Production, but I have to admit that it was rare to see him running down any bad guys. This guy liked to eat and liked to get paid so he could eat more. Cannon had a cool Lincoln Continental, and he lived in New Mexico. Now, that is what I call cool. His theme song was decent.Cannon

It’s because of these guys that I grew up wanting to be a private eye. Heck, it’s a job that can be done no matter who you are.

A former oil baron from the Ozarks.

A gambler from the Old West.

A guy who turned down the role of Indiana Jones.

A movie-making, airplane-building tycoon.

A voice actor who played the Lone Ranger.

These are just a few of the great television private detectives. Do you guys have some favorites?

11 Responses to “They Aren’t John Shaft, But They Are Still Cool”

  1. javaj240 February 18, 2013 at 05:36 #

    Petrocelli, loved him. Dan Tanna from Vegas. I mean, come on. What’s cooler than driving INTO your actual house? I also loved Robert Urich in Spencer for Hire (much later, of course— and grittier). I know Columbo wasn’t a P.I., but I loved that show! Actually I loved all of those ABC Sunday Night Crime Dramas — McMilan & Wife, McCloud!

    • Rick February 18, 2013 at 13:47 #

      How could I forget about Dan Tanna? Ever since that show, I have wanted a house that I could drive my car into. Hart to Hart was a good husband and wife team, too.

      • javaj240 February 18, 2013 at 15:34 #

        I don’t know how you could have forgotten about Dan Tanna either. LOL. Yeah, Hart to Hart was cool in that 80s kind of way.

  2. thehistorytourist February 18, 2013 at 12:46 #

    Mannix — mostly for the theme. And Petrocelli, because he worked in Tucson, which was near my Arizona home town.

    • Rick February 18, 2013 at 13:48 #

      I didn’t see Mannix enough to be able to write about him. I remember Petrocelli but didn’t know he was in Tucson. Thanks for that bit of information.

      Your part of the country is one of my favorite places.

  3. DyingNote February 19, 2013 at 04:30 #

    Remington Steele? I remember having seen some of the episodes but I don’t quite have a recollection of the music or come to think of it, much of the ‘stories’ themselves. So I suppose it was all eminently forgettable. I love the recent BBC reworking ‘Sherlock’

    • Rick February 19, 2013 at 05:05 #

      I didn’t think about Remington Steele until after I wrote the post. Like you, I don’t remember much about it.

  4. paintlater February 20, 2013 at 02:29 #

    Sorry I’m completely shallow, give me Magnum…obvious reasons.

    • Rick February 20, 2013 at 02:39 #

      I’m stunned.

      • paintlater February 20, 2013 at 02:41 #

        I think it’s the mo.


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