Friday, February 12, 2021

What Might've Been: Nero Wolfe (1981)

 The late Rex Stout never liked the idea of his greatest creation, Nero Wolfe, being adapted for other media. There had been two radio shows with Sydney Greenstreet in the title role. We've seen failed pilots with Kurt Kasznar & William Shatner (1959) and Thayer David (1979). Wolfe finally went to series on TV in the winter of 1981 for ratings-challenged NBC.

William Conrad (ex-Cannon), at the time also the voice of The Lone Ranger for a CBS Saturday morning series, landed the title role, paired with a relative newcomer in Lee Horsley as Wolfe's chief operative, Archie Goodwin. I know a few comics publishers that probably had some fun with that, as there was a real-life fellow by that name who was a prolific writer in the comics business at Marvel, DC, & Warren in the 70's & 80's. Robert Coote (ex-The Rogues), in his final role, played Wolfe's greenhouse nurse, as Wolfe was a botanist in his spare time.

Fourteen episodes were produced, half of which were adapted from Stout's novels. The series aired initially on Fridays, but that was, at the time, Dukes of Hazzard territory. Then, NBC moved Wolfe to a later slot on Tuesdays. Problem there was another detective show over on ABC. Hart to Hart, with Robert Wagner & Stefanie Powers, anchored ABC's powerhouse Tuesday block.

Suffice to say, the game was over. The series resurfaced in reruns on TV Land between 1996-9.

With Valentine's Day this weekend, here's "Death & The Dolls". Wolfe is hired by the granddaughter of an old flame.

Rating: B.

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