Monday, February 5, 2018

What Might've Been: Hawkins (1973)

In 1973, CBS decided to reboot their Tuesday Night Movie, in a questionable attempt to replicate what NBC & ABC were doing. What they tried to do was combine the made-for-TV movies in a every three week rotation with Shaft and our next subject, Hawkins.

Billy Jim Hawkins (James Stewart) was a lawyer from West Virginia whose Southern gentleman charm and legal skills took him across the country to solve cases. His only operative was his cousin, R. J. (Strother Martin).

Coming as it did two years after Stewart's first TV series, a self-titled sitcom, had failed, Hawkins was the last production from producer Norman Felton's Arena Productions for MGM. Felton had been the driving force that got Dr. Kildare & The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on the air for NBC in the 60's, but he had previously sold Jericho to CBS in 1966, and that lasted just 1 season, just as Hawkins would.

So why did it fail? Sources say that alternating Hawkins and Shaft, the latter with Richard Roundtree reprising his movie role, with the made-for-TV movies, would confuse viewers. ABC had succeeded with its Movie of the Week, which entered its 5th season in 1973, because they only ran movies on those particular nights. NBC's Mystery Movie wheels on Sundays & Wednesdays had their own distinctive identities developed with each component (i.e. Columbo). Hawkins would prove to be James Stewart's last attempt at television, though he would be a regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast.

The Rap Sheet provides a sample clip:

Nearly 15 years later, Andy Griffith would land his final hit series as a Southern lawyer, albeit from Georgia instead of West Virginia or even Griffith's native North Carolina. Matlock perfected the formula that had actually started, if you think about it, with Hawkins.

10 year old me never got to see Hawkins, so there's no rating.

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