Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Seven (More) Obscure TV Series That I Curiously Remember

Kevin McCarthy, Lana Turner, and George Hamilton.
1.  Harold Robbins' The Survivors (1969-70). Novelist Harold Robbins was still churning out lurid bestsellers when he was approached to create a prime-time series. The result was this nighttime soap about the jet set starring Lana Turner, George Hamilton, Ralph Bellamy, Kevin McCarthy, and even Mrs. Howell (or rather, Natalie Schaefer). My family watched it because Dad was a Robbins' fan (some of the early novels, like A Stone for Danny Fisher, are pretty good). The Survivors, on the other hand, wasn't very good and ABC axed it after 15 episodes. It did resolve its major storylines in the final episode, leading some folks to claim it was American television's first miniseries.

2.  The Most Deadly Game (1970-71).  Speaking of Ralph Bellamy, he returned to prime time the next fall as Mr. Arkane, the senior member of a team of criminologists specializing in high profile murder cases. His colleagues included his former ward, Vanessa (Yvette Mimieux), a college-educated expert in criminology, and former military man Jonathan Croft (George Maharis). Originally, the series was to be titled Zig Zag and feature Inger Stevens as the female lead. She died in 1970, though, and the role was recast.

Phyllis Diller as Phyllis Pruitt.
3. The Pruitts of Southampton (1966-67) - I can still remember the lyrics to the title song of this Phyllis Diller sitcom and they concisely describe the premise: "The Pruitts of Southampton live like the richest folk/But what the folks don't know is/That the Pruitts are flat broke." Yes, the Pruitts were forced to declare bankruptcy after learning they owed millions in back taxes. Other series regulars included Reginald Gardiner as Uncle Ned, Grady Sutton as the butler, and Richard Deacon as the IRS agent. The show was revamped at midseason and renamed The Phyllis Diller Show. The change didn't help Phyllis find a steady viewing audience.

4. The Second Hundred Years (1967-68). A gold prospector (Monte Markham), who was frozen during an Alaskan avalanche in 1900, "thaws out" in 1967. Perfectly preserved, he winds up living with his 33-year-old grandson (Markham in a dual role) and 67-year-old son (Arthur O'Connell). A little confusing, eh? This "high concept" sitcom lasted a year thanks mostly to likable leads Markham and O'Connell.

The Silent Force trio.
5. The Silent Force (1970-71).  Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible) may have played a role in developing this half-hour series about three Federal agents--played by Ed Nelson, Percy Rodriguez, and Lynda Day George--who go undercover to fight organized crime. It was a well-done show that probably would have worked better as an hour series. ABC cancelled The Silent Force after 15 episodes. Lynda Day George joined the cast of Mission: Impossible in the fall of 1971.

6. T.H.E. Cat (1966-67). We've written about this incredibly cool show before, but it still deserves a spot on this list. Robert Loggia stars as Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, a former circus performer and retired cat burglar who now works as a bodyguard. T.H.E. Cat featured one of the best openings of any 1960s show, with a terrific Peter Gunn-inspired theme and a nifty animated sequence (a black cat lunges forward and transforms into a shadowy man). Still, it was Loggia that made this show such a delight.

Michael Nouri as the Count.
7. Cliffhangers (1979). This short-lived, but clever series featured chapters from three different serials each week. The serials were: Stop Susan Williams, starring Susan Anton as a photographer investigating her brother's death; The Secret Empire, a science fiction Western; and The Curse of Dracula with Michael Nouri as a modern-day vampire who teaches history (of course) at South Bay College. Several of the "chapters" were edited into television movies; for example, condensed versions of The Curse of Dracula turned up as World of Dracula and The Loves of Dracula.


  1. The Silent Force was an Aaron Spelling production; Bruce Geller had nothing to do with it.
    I believe Geller was exclusive to CBS at this time, as Spelling was to ABC.

    1. While it was an Aaron Spelling production, I found multiple sources citing Geller's involvement. But there's not a lot of definitive information on THE SILENT FORCE and you may be right. It could also be he was involved with the show early in development and departed.

    2. Bruce Geller had experience at both ends with "second-hand" properties - he acquired Mannix from Levinson & Link and later passed it on to Goff & Roberts, among others.
      If anyone finds any Silent Force episodes, check the credits for names in common with the very similar Mission: Impossible (not necessarily including Geller; M:I had a sizable alumni association).

      As long as I'm here -
      Anyone who wants to check Mystery File Blog might like to check out the back-and-forth we had about The Most Deadly Game a few years back. It went on almost longer than the series did.

  2. George Hamilton and a couple of Survivors' surviving producers, created Paris 7000. With half the shelf life of its parent.

    1. I remember that one, too. May need to include it in a future post!

  3. I remember The Second Hundred Years. We all thought it was incredibly cool, second only to "Mr Terrific", which didn't last too long either.

  4. Most of these ran on ABC. Perennially third place, it was driven to new ideas and formats. Some of these like Peyton Place, Batman, Fugitive, worked. There was also the short-lived Robert Morse That's Life - episodes in the life of newlyweds, done weekly as Broadway style musicals. ABC had the only series, Turn On, where the first episode was cancelled halfway thru its first show by the network prez.

    Milton Berle once said if they put the Vietnam war on AbC, it'd be over in thirteen weeks.

  5. Wow, these are some rare ones. I'm only familiar with T.H.E Cat. About the Survivors : how interesting that Lana Turner made a tv series! Thanks for sharing Rick.

  6. There's an episode of Pruitts on YouTube, with John Astin. Not the best writing, but Diller and Astin are great as always.

  7. Fun post. I remember "The Second Hundred Years". I was a fan. I don't know if I remember "T.H.E. Cat" or just remember that my dad really liked the show.