Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Might've Been: Dick Tracy (1967)

William Dozier had two schools of thought by 1967.

On the one hand, his lone hit, Batman, was on its last legs, and the last first-run episode would air in March 1968. Dozier tried to catch lightning in a bottle again, but, as we've already seen (to use a phrase Dozier used during season 1 of Batman), pilots for Batgirl & Wonder Woman went unsold, and in the case of Wonder Woman, it was just as well, as it would've done an irrevocable disservice to fans of the Amazing Amazon.

On the other hand, Dozier wanted to prove he could still do serious drama. The lone Western he made, The Loner, was also the lone series he'd sold to a network other than ABC (it aired on CBS), and came from the pen of no less than Rod Serling (ex-Twilight Zone). That the iconic Serling would step away from the science fiction & horror genres and move in a different direction was noble and worthy, but he & Dozier were found wanting as Loner was cancelled after 1 season. The same fate befell Green Hornet, which contrary to popular belief wasn't done in "hero camp", but was rather a straight mystery series, befitting the hero's radio roots.

And, so, Dozier acquired a license to adapt Chester Gould's iconic newspaper strip, Dick Tracy, to television, which would've been the first live-action Tracy series in 16 years; the first one ended when actor Ralph Byrd passed away during the 1951-2 season. Unfortunately, ABC & NBC both passed, and it's never been said if CBS was even offered the show.

Kliph Nesterhoff has the complete pilot episode on his blog, Classic Television Showbiz, but unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it on YouTube. Maybe it's the right combination of search words I need to have. Meh. Anyway, what we do know is that reliable Victor Buono (King Tut from Batman), who'd also done a gig on The Wild, Wild West, was cast as Mr. Memory. Not sure if Memory was an actual Gould creation, or someone that Dozier's staff concocted for the proposed show. What we do have is the open, with theme music performed by surf rock icons, The Ventures (whose rendition of the theme to the original Hawaii Five-0 still kicks major tail 44 years later). The only "name" you might recognize is that of Eve Plumb, who'd gain icon status herself three years later, when she was cast in The Brady Bunch.

No rating, as I've not seen the full pilot. Could Tracy be done today, what with all the procedural crime dramas? I don't know.


magicdog said...

I think it's possible to revive Dick Tracy for TV, but I think they'd have to reset it in the past - not unlike the Warren Beatty film (or the 40s film serial for that matter). That way, the crime procedurals are not as highly advanced and good old fashioned detective work and characterization gets the spotlight. Plus, the art deco visuals would be a bonus!

It's possible that if Dick Tracy weren't revived as a live action series, I can easily see it as an animated one in the right hands.

hobbyfan said...

Rights issues are preventing Beatty from making another Tracy movie, but it's been 22 years, so he might as well pass the yellow coat and hat to someone else.

An animated series would be nice, as long as it's in the hands of someone that actually cares. Which disqualifies the idiots at Cartoon Network.....

magicdog said...

Oh, I wouldn't expect Beatty to repise the role; just that a live action series could be similar in style to the film.

I went over to Nesterhoff's blog but the Dick Tracy pilot seems to have been removed from youtube completely.

hobbyfan said...

Thanks for the heads-up, magicdog. I wondered why the open was all that was available.

I think that the mentality in Hollywood now is to cast young for parts that aren't meant for young actors. That said, the ship's sailed on a Tracy series for the time being.