Sunday, June 26, 2016

Classic TV: 77 Sunset Strip (1958)

Novelist-turned-producer Roy Huggins took one of his earlier books and adapted it for television, after the same book had been turned into a movie a few years earlier.

However, most people remember 77 Sunset Strip for what it was, a crime drama that lasted six seasons on ABC (1958-64), and made stars out of its three leads, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith, and Edward Byrnes.

Byrnes was the jive-talking hipster, Kookie, and became a pop culture icon, with a novelty record duet with Connie Stevens ("Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb") spinning out of the series. Byrnes left for a year, then came back as a full-fledged partner in the firm of Bailey & Spencer. However, WB suits, playing with fire after a dispute with Huggins led to his departure, altered the format in the final season (1963-4), leaving Zimbalist as the only regular. Not only that, but the new show-runner knew a little something about detectives, having played one himself----Jack Webb, who was was a couple of years away from reviving Dragnet for NBC. People forget that Webb originally was with WB.

After 77 Sunset Strip ended, Zimbalist returned in another iconic role, as Federal agent Lewis Erskine in The F. B. I., which WB co-produced with Quinn Martin's production company. Byrnes would not land another series gig for several years.

I wish I could remember seeing the show in reruns as a youth, but I don't, so there won't be a rating. We'll leave you with a sample episode, "A Bargain in Tombs":

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