Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Might've Been: Blacke's Magic (1986)

In the winter of 1986, NBC decided to try an old concept, with a twist.

Blacke's Magic was a different kind of crime drama, starring two actors accustomed to playing cops in Hal Linden (ex-Barney Miller) and Harry Morgan (ex-Dragnet, M*A*S*H, etc.). Linden was retired magician Alexander Blacke, who, albeit reluctantly, moved into a new career as a detective specializing in bizarre murders. Morgan was Leonard Blacke, Alexander's dad, a career con artist. Mark Shera (ex-Barnaby Jones, S.W.A.T.) was their police contact.

Blacke's Magic came from the brilliant minds of legendary writer-producers Richard Levinson & William Link (Mannix, Columbo), and producer Peter Fischer, at the time a relatively new name in television. The trio would find greater success with another series they sold to Universal, Murder, She Wrote, for CBS. So, the question becomes one of why Blacke failed as a mid-season replacement. Well, for one thing, as memory serves, the show aired on Wednesday nights, serving as a lead-in to St. Elsewhere. Plus, it combined elements of two series from the 70's. On one hand, there was Bill Bixby's 1972 series, The Magician. Alexander Blacke might've sounded too close to Bixby's Anthony Blake. On the other, there was The Feather & Father Gang, with Stefanie Powers & Harold Gould, which in turn was a sort-of reboot of The Rogues from the 60's. Like Gould, Morgan was playing a con artist whose offspring was on the right side of the law. Given the resumes of Morgan and Linden, this should've been gold. However, it'd been 4 years since M*A*S*H ended, giving way to AfterM*A*S*H, and 3 since Barney Miller ended, and both series were thriving in syndication. Viewers were still identifying the actors with their earlier roles.

Following is the open. I think the music may have been recycled somewhat for Murder, She Wrote, or, at the very least, the two series had the same musical director.

This was, in fact, comfort food during the winter. Too bad it wasn't renewed, because it certainly deserved to.

Rating: A-.

1 comment:

Mike Doran said...

First off, Murder, She Wrote started out in Fall 1984, a season and a half before Blacke's Magic.
At that point, Peter Fischer had been working together with Levinson & Link for more than a decade - first on Columbo, then on Ellery Queen, then on The Eddie Capra Mysteries (which I'm guessing you don't remember), then on a string of TV movies (mainly unsold pilots), all well before Murder, She Wrote.
In other words, Peter Fischer was anything but a "newcomer" by the '80s.

A few years back, Peter Fischer wrote a memoir, Me And Murder, She Wrote, which you really out to look up and read.