Sunday, April 29, 2018

Forgotten TV: Caribe (1975)

It seemed that Quinn Martin was starting to lose his golden touch.

In 1975, Martin had The Streets of San Francisco nestled comfortably on ABC's Thursday schedule. Over on CBS, you could find Barnaby Jones & Cannon. However, the cookie cutter format was starting to wear thin.

Martin had tried to change things up with period pieces like Banyon at NBC and The Manhunter for CBS, but neither got past their first seasons. Then, Martin decided he wanted a piece of the Hawaiian action.

Caribe, as memory serves, didn't air anywhere near the original Hawaii Five-O, but it didn't last too long, either. Stacy Keach landed his first lead role, but most folks remember him more for his later work as Mike Hammer in the 80's. In a rare twist, his co-stars, Carl Franklin & Robert Mandan, were introduced after the guest stars, as you'll see in the intro below.

Franklin would return the next season with another short-lived series, The Fantastic Journey. Mandan, on the other hand, would fare much better with the soap opera spoof, Soap, reinventing himself as a comic actor.

Rating: B.


Mike Doran said...

Lots & Lots & Lots about Caribe:

- Prior to this, Stacy Keach was mainly known for his stage work, and for low-budget indie movies.
His looks weren't exactly leading-man type: he was already balding, with a surgery-corrected cleft lip that looked off-center.
When he turned up as an action hero in Caribe, Stacy Keach was the least-likely candidate for such a role - ever.
Even with the most elaborately conformed toupee in history.
The reason Keach took on Caribe: he wanted to be A Star - fighting the Bad Guys, charming the Ladies, wisecracking his way through the shows ...
... sort of like Robert Wagner, for whom Caribe was originally created - and who proved to be unavailable, because he and Natalie Wood were unwilling to relocate to Florida, where the series would be filmed.

- That was another thing: Caribe (which at one point was going to be called Caribbean Force) was supposed to be done all through Florida, the Bahamas, and whatever else of the Caribbean area was available for filming.
Many, many other issues, principally weather-related, took care of that.
The Caribe company was stuck in a Miami studio complex for the duration.

- Back to Stacy Keach for a bit:
Since this was Keach's first go-round as a Leading Man, he didn't really know the territory.
At his request, the QM producers gave his character two hooks:
(1) He would be a Master of Disguise (a la Ross Martin on Wild Wild West).
(2) He would be a non-stop wisecracker (among other things, he would always address his superior (that was Bob Mandan's character) by exaggerated titles of respect, such as Your Eminence.
As years went by, Stacy Keach got more of a handle on the TV Star thing.
In his memoir from a few years back, Keach acknowledges all of this , with great good humor.

- All that said, here's the really strange part:
Caribe was a hit!
The show generally won its time slot; during summer rerun months, Caribe actually was the top-rated show in the country a couple of times.
But by that time, ABC had already given up on Caribe.
The above mentioned problems were major factors; the network never warmed up to that guy with the funny lip, and the budget overruns were troublesome.
Also, ABC's long-standing relationship with Quinn Martin was starting to unravel (a really complicated story in itself).

I remember all of this from when it first happened back in the '70s (I was reading weekly Variety back then, as a corrective to the really lousy "TV critics" we had in Chicago).
It made little sense to me then; today, forty-plus years on, it still doesn't ...

hobbyfan said...

Ok, I was thinking the show would be in Hawaii as a knock-off of Hawaii Five-O. So I was wrong.

And how did ABC's relationship with Martin unravel? The next two shows he delivered (Most Wanted and Bert D'Angelo-Superstar) also were one year wonders.