Comfort viewing classic-era TV shows during the pandemic has brought legions of new fans to Peter Falk’s Columbo. There’s something safe and reassuring about watching a humble and dedicated public servant do his duty, and bring wealthy, self-entitled criminals to justice. No one is above the law. I enjoyed the full series when it ran on Netflix a few years ago, and wrote a post about the overlap between Columbo filming locations and the silent era (above Chaplin in City Lights on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills). Many Columbo episodes are now closer in time to the 1920s than to today. If you’re a fan, the Columbophile blogpost is also fun to visit.
My shelter-in-place security blanket this year has been rediscovering Mannix, the private-eye series I watched broadcast 50 years ago, but hadn’t seen since. The title character Joe Mannix, portrayed by Mike Connors, is nearly flawless. Tall, brave, athletic, wise, generous and kind, self-assured but never smug, gentle with kids, iron-fisted with thugs, and irresistible (yet respectful) with the ladies. Almost impossibly resourceful and resilient, Joe Mannix always gets the job done. Again, how reassuring is it to see someone honest and capable prevail time after time against evil?
It escaped my attention years ago, but the character Mannix (and actor Mike Connors, born Krekor Ohanian) is of Armenian descent, who speaks Armenian and refers to Armenian proverbs during the show. This frame from the opening titles honors the Armenian flag. I had no idea.
I only watched a season or two when it first aired, but the jazzy, jaunty Mannix intro theme song, composed in 6/8 time by Lalo Schifrin (of Mission Impossible theme song fame), with the haunting piano middle bridge, is unforgettable. Becoming reacquainted with the song after five decades is a “remembrance of things past” that makes me smile (and even tear up) each time I crank up the volume to hear it play.
Another fun surprise is witnessing actors like Diane Keaton, Cloris Leachman, and Sally Kellerman make pre-fame appearances in early episodes. Likewise, Leave it to Beaver‘s father Hugh Beaumont appeared in three episodes, while The Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed, and Dr. Frank Burns from M*A*S*H, Larry Linville, played recurring roles as LA Police detectives who spar playfully with Joe.
It’s also fascinating watching Joe drive around Los Angeles 50 years ago. I won’t discuss the locations, but I have to laugh how many times someone will turn right from Hollywood Blvd. and next appear on a remote stretch of Mulholland Drive miles away. While escaping my attention back then, the show filmed repeatedly at a modest and tiny Paramount backlot that today stands out unconvincingly like a sore thumb.
Truth be told, having watched about 20 episodes I may not delve much more deeply. The fistfights and car chases can be repetitive, and the premise has limitations – after all, how many renegade daughters of millionaires can Joe track down, how many noble city officials threatened by the mob can Joe rescue? But in these trying yet hopeful times, watching an honest, honorable, competent man reliably save the day is so comforting, and just what I need to see. The entire series appears to be available on YouTube – pick an episode at random and see what you think.
Please help support naming the Chaplin Keaton Lloyd alley in Hollywood by posting a review on Google Maps. Prototype alley sign design by noted Dutch graphic artist – Piet Schreuders. Download a 4-page brochure about the alley HERE. This video further explains the alley – if you can, please leave a thumbs up and share it with others.