|(All images courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, unless noted otherwise.)|
OF all the genres creators of prospective new TV series have pitched to cable or broadcast networks, the hardest sell must be the anthology, which is why there weren't very many in the era of Cobweb TV. Because anthologies typically have no (or few) regular cast members, the kind of stories the creator(s) wish to show from week to week a week had better be attention-grabbing to programming executives, or it won't get green-lighted to the pilot stage.
So it went NBC was sold on PS...nearly. Risky of a venture as it was (even if the grittiness was watered down for '70s television), they decided to air the pilot as a TV movie, more or less leaving it up to Nielsen families to decide if it should be a regular series. On 3/20/73, "Stakeout" was broadcast, and TV critics and viewers paid attention, much to NBC's delight.
|Chuck Connors and Diane Baker|
|Vic Morrow and Ed Asner|
|Vic Morrow and Ina Balin|
Generally speaking, as realism hit motion pictures in the 1960s, so it would on TV, but it took longer to find a foothold. Attempts at showing edginess and the human side of the police on cop shows were tried prior to PS (ABC's N.Y.P.D. is one example that comes to mind), but I think it took the success of The French Connection (1971) to spark network interest in trying out a newer breed of crime drama. (It also helped viewers were beginning to embrace realism by making All in the Family a hit, which also debuted in '71.) With PS, the innovations of showing cops making mistakes and living lives beyond the police station on a weekly basis were ones gradually incorporated into other crime series in the years ahead.
|Harry Guardino and Kim Hamilton|
|Vic Morrow and Diane Baker|
|left to right: Vic Morrow, John Bennett|
Perry, Chuck Connors and Diane Baker
To be fair, Ed Asner's performance as Blodgett doesn't seem much different than his portrayal of Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (and Lou Grant), but by being off the screen for all the time he is, he's believable enough as a lawman when he is on. Then again, playing a boss and yelling at his subordinates is something Asner can do in his sleep.
One more point of trivia about "Stakeout": there's a cameo by Kevin Dobson as a patrolman. Twelve days prior to the airing of "Stakeout," the TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders premiered. Subsequently, it became the pilot for Kojak, which Dobson joined as a cast member months later.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM R.A.M.'67:
Cobweb TV! ranking for "Stakeout": three and a half stars (out of four).
Cobweb TV! ranking for Police Story Season One: three stars.
NEXT TIME ON... COBWEB TV!