Monday, June 1, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Manhunter (1974)

Bearing in mind that Quinn Martin had started his production company off the success of the first two seasons of The Untouchables, one could understand if Martin wanted an opportunity to return to the era of that series. Twice in the space of four years, Martin tried detective shows set in that era, but both failed.

Today, we're focusing on CBS' The Manhunter, which, to be fair, would be best described as The Waltons crossed with Barnaby Jones, the latter of which had debuted the previous year (1973) as a spin-off from Cannon. Three years earlier, Martin and WB had sold Banyon to NBC, Martin's first sale to the "Peacock Network". That was the other series set in the 30's, and, as would happen with Manhunter, it would ultimately fail.

Ken Howard ("1776") starred as ex-Marine-turned-private eye/bounty hunter Dave Barrett, who used the money from his cases to keep the family farm from being foreclosed due to the Depression. While Manhunter was cancelled in the spring of 1975, Howard would eventually return and score an even bigger hit a few years later with The White Shadow. By his own admission, Howard said in an interview, he wasn't the right guy for the part, which he felt called for a Clint Eastwood-type. Seems he was thinking in terms of "Dirty Harry".

The Rap Sheet provides the open, complete with Hank Simms' narration:

As with Cannon, Simms doesn't read "A Quinn Martin Production" as it appears on the screen. In fact, Martin's last two series for NBC, Tales of the Unexpected (1977) and A Man Called Sloane (1979) didn't use Simms' voice-overs at all, save for Unexpected teasers.

As we know, the majority of Martin's output went to ABC, from The New Breed, The Invaders, and The F. B. I. in the 60's to Streets of San Francisco and Most Wanted, among others, in the 70's. If my count is correct, CBS & NBC bought 3 Martin series apiece.

No rating. Never saw the show.


magicdog said...

A classic case of interesting idea, poor execution.

This could be rebooted - although I'd update it to the present and have the hero someone who lost the family farm due to inheritance taxes. He has to start all over again from scratch. He gets involved in bounty hunting and helps get back on track.

The title won't work either since when most people think "manhunter", they think of the DC Comics character!

hobbyfan said...

True on all counts. I have Montgomery Gentry's Daddy Won't Sell the Farm in my head as I type this. I'll see if I can come up with a better name.