Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Might've Been: The Lieutenant (1963)

Get TV's monthly rotation of Wednesday night blocks features Gene Roddenberry's 1963-4 military drama, The Lieutenant, this month. The series lasted just 1 season (1963-4) on NBC. Why? We'll explain as we go along.

Gary Lockwood (ex-Follow The Sun) top-lined as Lt. William T. Rice, stationed at Camp Pendleton. You might say that Roddenberry found some of the core cast for his later series, Star Trek, in casting guest stars for episodes of The Lieutenant, including Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett (Mrs. Gene Roddenberry). Nichols' guest appearance, in the episode, "To Set It Right", never aired due to content, as it involved a clash between a white private (Dennis Hopper) and an African American (Don Marshall, later of Land of the Giants, and, yes, he also guested on Star Trek).

The Lieutenant gained some decent ratings, but the outbreak of the Vietnam War made it harder for television to mount military dramas set in the present day, and that was the reason Lieutenant was cancelled. Co-star Robert Vaughn and executive producer Norman Felton came right back the next year with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which lasted 4 seasons, and Roddenberry's seminal Star Trek (3 years) followed two years after U.N.C.L.E.'s debut, both on NBC.

Following is a compilation of footage spotlighting guest star John Doucette, from the episode, "A Million Miles From Clary", which also guest stars Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian).

Standard fare of the day. Setting it on a military base made it stand out from the other dramas of the time. In the episode, "Cool of the Evening", Rice is caught between a lounge lizard (Norman Fell, of all people) and a cigarette girl, who falsely accuses Rice of accosting her. Yeah, sounds like a generic plot, doesn't it?

Rating: B--.

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