Over on the R.I.P. Fess Parker thread, I started a brief deviation into a discussion of the television show Mannix. CK chimed in with the fact that Mannix was required viewing in his home when he was a boy. It virtually was in my house, too. Joe Mannix was one of television's last "man's man" characters---masculine, tough, capable, confident, but no need to broadcast it. He just was, and you knew it.
Most of you who do remember Mannix, or saw it in reruns, probably remember him as a private investigator in business for himself, working out of his Mediterrean-style office/residence in West Los Angeles. His secretary was Peggy Fair (played by Gail Fisher), the widow of a fallen LAPD patrolman, and his police contacts varied between detective lieutenants Adam Tobias (Robert Reed), Art Malcolm (Ward Wood), Dan Ives (Jack Ging), and George Kramer (Larry Linville)---though it was Tobias or Malcolm seen more often.
In this format, the show ran for seven seasons, and it was certainly entertaining. But it ran on the strength of Joe Mannix's character. Peggy and the police contacts were usually just there as functionaries to move the plot along. Peggy occasionally got more screen time, and once in a while, an episode even centered on her, such as the flashback to the death of her husband, Marcus Fair. But it was Joe's show all the way.
And, of course, there is no discussion of Mannix without addressing how violent the show was. Now, by to-day's standards, modern television viewers would be wondering what the big deal was. Mannix never came close to the violence, blood, and grue of a Criminal Minds or CSI: Miami. But, for viewers from the late 1950's through the decade of the '60's, Mannix was a violent bit of business, indeed.
Part of it came from the man himself. As I mentioned, Joe Mannix was the type of man who was quietly confident in his abilities; he was also likeable, approachable, with none of the "Yeah, I'm bad!" attitude that seems to exude from contemporary television tough guys. Joe was no dummy, either; he was capable of resolving a conflict through guile or charm. Nevertheless, he wasn't shy about dealing with many situations with his fists. Those moments tended to be explosive. One second, Mannix is standing there, seemingly compliant; the next, he is punching his way through whatever henchman, gang boss, or young punk that is standing in his way.
To be fair, many of those times, his opponent struck first. It was the Good Mrs. Benson who first observed what I call the "Mannix technique" in those cases. Joe would (1) take the first punch; (2) duck the second; (3) hit his foe with a kidney punch; and (4) follow it up with a right cross to the jaw. That was usually enough to take out the average underling. If his opponent was slightly higher up in the credits, the battle would last a little longer, with Mannix taking more damage and striking back harder.
But the violent acts weren't limited to just what Joe did to solve a case. Murder was a common eventuality. Most of the foes he faced were truly homicidal. No character in an episode of Mannix was immune to being a murder victim---guest stars, minor players, even walk-ons could all wind up killed. That kept the show from being predictable because no-one had a "death exemption". It could be a good friend of Joe's, or the client who hired him, or the lead girl of the episode, who wound up on the slab. And not in a dramatic way, so to provide Joe with that episode's emotional drive to solve the case. No, often these characters were bumped off in a relatively casual manner---because Mannix was too late, or didn't figure things out in time, or because it just plain came out of nowhere.
The scripts used that aspect of the show to good advantage. Sometimes the plot would follow one person as the main bad guy through the first half of the show, only by the beginning of act three, to have Mannix discover his corpse. That left the viewer confounded, since he had probably expected how the episode was going to turn out; now, the plot had veered in an entirely new direction.
When the anti-violence lobbies were at their peak in 1968, Mannix was one of their primary targets. It's evidence of how high the show's ratings were that CBS ignored the complaints about the violence until 1973, when the show finally toned it down.
I said that the show ran for seven seasons in the format of Mannix in business for himself as a private eye. But Mannix actually ran for eight seasons, beginning in the fall of 1967. The first season, though, operated under a different format. Many folks don't remember that original version, either because they were too young to remember it clearly, or their memories were overwhelmed by the seven seasons when Joe was an independent operator. It didn't help that the first season has been rarely, if ever, re-run. All the syndication packages start with the second season.
But I remembered that first season well. And, though I liked Mannix throughout its run, it was the first season I enjoyed most. It's one of my earliest memories of reading the annual "Fall Preview" issue of TV Guide---because that's where I discovered that Mannix was being retooled, and I suspected that I was going to be disappointed by the changes. I was right.
In the premise of the first season, Joe Mannix worked for a elite investigative agency named Intertect, Ltd., established, owned, and run by his pal, Lew Wickersham (played by Joseph Campanella). It was meant to be a study in contrasts. Intertect was an upscale, polished firm which relied heavily on then-modern technology, which included what was then the leading edge of the new age---computers. Rooms full of bookcase-sized equipment with blinking lights, punch cards, and spinning discs of magnetic tape that gave Intertect access to wide ranges of data and analysed it for its operatives.
Wickersham insisted on presenting a sleek, professional image. His operatives were required to wear dark suits and ties. Their offices were sterile and generic. They could have only one sheet of paper on their desks at a time. Wickersham had also installed a video camera with sound in each of the offices, so he could sit at his desk and monitor what his employees were doing and saying at any time.
In contradistinction, Joe Mannix was a maverick. His office had enough flair on the walls to open a T.G.I. Friday and his desk was heaped in documents, case files, and yesterday's lunch. When he came to work in the morning, he would place a coat rack in front of Wickersham's camera. And sometimes---gasp!---he even wore a sport coat and slacks instead of a suit.
Most importantly, Mannix refused to rely on the information provided by Intertect's computers to point him in the right direction on a case. Yes, he sometimes made use out of whatever the machines cadged out of a database, but he preferred to rely on his hunches, his gut instincts, and what he was able to glean out of a individual's reactions. Sometimes, Intertect's computers told Joe one thing and what he saw on a person's face during an interview told him something else. Joe preferred to go with the latter.
Often Joe's doggedness in pursuing a case would run against Intertect's interests. Mannix would badger clients if he thought they were holding out on him. He would goad prominent figures. He would commit minor offences, such as breaking and entering, to acquire information, if there was no other way. This often meant butting heads with his boss, Lew.
Wickersham put up with all of this---albeit grudgingly---because Mannix was his best man. Also because, unspoken, but evident in the two men's interactions, they had an abiding friendship. That's also why Joe occasionally toed the mark.
I've avoided jumping on the DVD train. I have video tapes of most of the shows I have a real interest in, and a VCR that still works. And because sooner or later, I think the shows from the past that I want to see will eventually be available on line. Sites such as Hulu.com are bearing this out. But I made an exception in the case of Mannix's first season. That was something I felt would be a long, long time before it would ever appear on line, and two weeks ago, I finally got around to ordering it.
When it got here, I had the GMB give me a crash course on how to operate her DVD player (she is squarely ahead of the curve with 21st-century technology, while I am still struggling with how to work the microwave). Then I sat down to watch something which I, literally, had not seen in forty-two years. So far, I've seen the first eight episodes out of twenty-four. I was eager to see if my memories of Mannix's first season lived up to the reality.
I'll talk about that next time.
I'm looking forward to your comments, Commander. While Mannix wasn't exactly "must see TV" in my household, Joe wasn't exactly an uncommon visitor either. I've never seen --- or, until recently, even heard of --- the first season's different approach.
And appropos of nothing except that we're talking about Mannix, I don't want to pass up the opportunity to say (again) that the show was blessed with another one of Lalo Shiffrin's unforgettable themes. (Literally. I haven't seen the show even once in the 30 years since it went off the air, and I can still hum that music!)
Was that first season of Mannix in color?
ClarkKent_DC said:Was that first season of Mannix in color?
Yes, the first season was in colour---that sharp, brilliant colour that television shows just can't seem to produce, anymore.
This may be a silly question, but... why are there 3 different MANNIX threads?
I mean, this isn't like DOCTOR WHO where a whle lot of people are watching the show and discussing each individual story in detail... (is it?)
If the color output of Star Trek was any indication, then by the time that Intertect and Mannix came out, ALL shows were being produced in color and it was only the local station OR the home TV set that was still in black and white in the US.
I remember the time very clearly. The 1965-66 season, about half the shows went color. For example, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA went color that year... but LOST IN SPACE was B&W.
When BATMAN debuted in January '66, it was in color.
The 1966-67 season... ALL the shows were in color.
Of course, in England, they didn't switch to color broadcasting until either 1969 or 1970. Many shows done on the commmercial network (ITC) were produced in color, but being run in B&W because they weren't broadcasting in color in England yet. I understand Gerry Anderson's STINGRAY (1964!) was the 1st English show filmed in color... but English fans didn't get to see it in color until reruns in the 70's. Ditto for things like THE SAINT, THE AVENGERS...
DOCTOR WHO finally went color for its 7th season, when Jon Pertwee debuted. That was the 1969-70 season!
Henry R. Kujawa said:
This may be a silly question, but... why are there 3 different MANNIX threads?
Not a silly question at all. It would have been a more cohesive effort if I had combined it all into one article. The thing was, it didn't start out to be such a long effort.
It broke up into three different pieces because I wrote each one at a different stage of my viewing of the first season's episodes---the first after seeing just the first few, the second after viewing half of them, and the last after finishing up the twenty-four-episode run. Enough time elapsed between those three occasions that the board had moved on considerably, and it was easier for me to just start a new thread than to run down the old one and add on to it.
I wrote the first one intending it to be only two or three paragraphs long, but it got away from me. I couldn't deliver an accurate picture of the first season of Mannix in a few paragraphs. The same thing happened when I wrote the second part. By the time I wrote the last part, I knew it would run long enough to warrant its own "chapter".