Sunday, February 7, 2016

How to ruin a Classic in one easy lesson: Amos Burke, Secret Agent (1965)

It's said that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. Someone at ABC was desperate to have a spy show on the schedule to counter NBC's Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2nd season) and CBS' incoming steampunk spy series, The Wild, Wild West. So they prevailed upon producer Aaron Spelling at Four Star to retool Burke's Law into something it wasn't meant to be, at least in the eyes of Amos Burke's creator, Frank Gilroy.

The end result, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, would've killed the Burke franchise dead, if it wasn't for Spelling having the foresight to acquire the rights to the series later on. Honey West, a Burke spin-off, bowed the same year (1965), and also lasted one season, but that, as we discussed before, was because viewers seemingly weren't ready for a strong female lead just yet.

Gene Barry continued as Burke, who now answered to someone known simply as "The Man" (Carl Benton Reid), who was in the military as a general. The idea was to reboot Burke as a James Bond clone, and it failed. Period.

Let's take a look at a sample episode.

Nearly 30 years later, Spelling would bring back Burke's Law, this time at CBS, and got 2 seasons out of it. With Burke back in the states as a police detective, it was as if his globe-trotting season as a Secret Agent had been ret-conned out of existence.

I remember seeing the original series in reruns as a youth, but I don't think this final season was included, so there's no rating for Amos Burke, Secret Agent.


Hal Horn said...

To be fair, BURKE'S LAW struggled during its second season in the ratings, ranking 64th during 1964-65 season with a 28.5 share. NBC's Wednesday Night Movie won the time period (31st overall) with a 36.4 share. BURKE'S LAW was third in the time period, with CBS's DANNY KAYE and CARA WILLIAMS (cancelled) ranking 56th and 57th respectively.

The tinkering obviously didn't help, sending AMOS BURKE to the bottom 10 and early cancellation in early November 1965. But the renewal was likely by the skin of its teeth, and the format change might well have been the only chance Speling had at even getting a third season.

hobbyfan said...

Care to think that, save for Big Valley, Four Star had jumped the shark in 1965?