Monday, March 1, 2010

This Week's Poll: What Is Your Favorite Quinn Martin TV Series?

One of the most successful television producers of the 1960s and 1970s, Quinn Martin was easily the most recognizable—or rather his work was. Often, Martin’s TV series bore one or more of the following traits: (1) a pre-title “teaser” scene; (2) a title sequence that summarized the premise of the show; (3) four labeled “acts” and an epilog; and (4) opening and closing voiceover narration.

Martin got his big break as a producer on The Untouchables in 1960. Its success enabled him to start QM Productions, which, after a shaky start, became a hit factory when The Fugitive turned into a major success. Martin’s subsequent series often dealt with law enforcement and private detectives—though there were intriguing detours with Twelve O’Clock High and The Invaders.

This week’s poll asks you to pick your favorite QM series from the nominees below:

The FBI – Quinn Martin’s longest-running show (1965-74) starred Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine, who led a team of crack agents in pursuit of the Bureau’s most wanted criminals. The series was not only endorsed by the FBI, but the Bureau actually had approval rights on every fact-based script. Stephen Brooks and later William Reynolds played the young agents learning from veterans Erskine and Arthur Ward (Philip Abbott).

Twelve O’Clock High – This adaptation of the Gregory Peck film aired on ABC for three seasons, though it was never a big hit. For the first year, Robert Lansing starred as the commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 918th Bomb Group, which was stationed in England during World War II. Lansing’s character was killed at the start of the second season and Paul Burke was promoted to the lead.

Cannon – William Conrad, who provided the narration for The Fugitive, got his own QM series in 1971. He portrayed Frank Cannon, a retired LAPD cop, who became a private detective. If his clients could pay, Cannon charged them high fees—so he could indulge his tastes for luxury cars and fine cuisine. At a time when young, good-looking leads were dominating the cop shows, Cannon was a breath of fresh air.

Barnaby Jones – Bubby Ebsen starred as a private detective who came out of retirement to solve his son’s murder. He teams up with his widowed daughter-in-law (Lee Meriwether) and opens up shop again. Barnaby Jones was introduced on a third season episode of Cannon. The two series sometimes conducted “crossovers” in which Ebsen and Conrad would appear on each other’s shows.

The Streets of San Francisco – Shot on location, this police detective drama starred Karl Malden as veteran Lieutenant Mike Stone and Michael Douglas as his much younger, inexperienced partner Steve Keller. When Douglas left after four years, Richard Hatch joined the show as Malden’s new partner for its final season.

The Fugitive – In one of the most acclaimed 1960s dramatic series, David Janssen portrayed wrongly convicted physician Richard Kimble, who tries to find his wife’s murderer while being pursued relentlessly by police lieutenant Philip Gerard. It was still a ratings winner when the series concluded after four years with a memorable final episode where Kimble is exonerated.

The Invaders – Whereas Kimble was the pursued, architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) was the pursuer in this show about a secret invasion of Earth by aliens beings from another planet. For most of the series’ two seasons, no one believed Vincent until after their own encounter with the aliens. It didn’t help that the aliens left little evidence—when they died, their bodies glowed orange and disappeared.

Those are the seven nominees! If you believe one of Quinn Martin’s other series was unjustly omitted from the list, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, though, please cast your vote in the green sidebar on the right.


  1. Rick, I voted for The Streets of San Francisco. One of my all time favorite shows.

  2. Rick I kind of miss Dan August I know it only run for one season it's still one of the best things Burt Reynolds ever did, And I love the theme by Dave Grusin. So I'll have to go with Dr Richard Kimble.

  3. This is an easy vote for me. "The Fugitive" was far and away the QM masterpiece. Week after week it boasted excellent guest stars who provided support to the very believable David Janssen. So, like Paul, it's Dr. Richard Kimble for me.

  4. How could I select anything other than "The Streets of San Francisco"!
    Thanks for the great poll.


  5. For those of you who don't know, Magic, worked on "Street" and has posted his experiences at The CFU. Every one is worth your time. Good to see you here.

  6. Hey, I liked STREETS (which had a great look to it) and I own THE INVADERS, but I, too, have to go with THE FUGITIVE.

  7. I'm supposed to love STREETS because I live in the S.F. Bay Area, but I never liked it because the actors yelled too much. I've never seen The Fugitive. My mother and I always like Barnaby and Cannon because as she put it, "The old guy and the fat guy always run after the villain and win."

  8. panavia, that line from your mother is just too funny...and totally accurate!