I was born in 1958, so the center of attention in our house was the television.
I got my driver’s license in 1974, but only drove on weekends until I graduated high school in 1976. So I watched all of the shows from the 1960s and 1970s. I can remember a lot of obscure TV series that were only on maybe one season.
To find a treasure chest of classic TV, you need go no further than your local stations. Since digital TV allows four channels where there was once only one, all of the local stations have quadrupled. And so have their programming demands. But for a classic TV buff like me, it’s great.
We have six channels with TV’s Greatest Hits on them — MeTV, Cozi TV, Antenna TV, Laff, and newly added Decades and Heroes and Icons. So my remote goes from 148 to 144 to 96 to 153 to 86 and finally, to 84. I usually have two programmed in.
Being a 1970s TV fan that means I’m also a cop show fan. It’s unavoidable.
They had a detective, most times a private eye, in every shape and size — dashing, Mannix; fat, Cannon; old, Barnaby Jones; Polish, Banacek; Italian, Petrocelli; 1930s, Banyon; even a woman, Mrs. Colombo.
They had uniform cops — “Adam-12,” “The Rookies,” “S.W.A.T.” and “T.J. Hooker,” William Shatner’s crack at law enforcement.
They had all kinds of detectives — “The Mod Squad,” my first favorite; “Starsky and Hutch,” my second favorite, and other favorites like “Hawaii 5-0,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “McMillan and Wife,” “McCloud” and “Colombo.” The last three were spawned by something called the NBC Mystery Movie, which alternated them every three weeks. Banacek was also in that format on a different night, along with another long-forgotten show, “Cool Million,” starring James Farentino.
They tried to bring back that format on ABC in the late ’80s, with Colombo in the lead, and two other entries — “B.L. Stryker,” in which icon Burt Reynolds took a stab at private eye, and “Gideon,” with Louis Gossett.
Does anyone remember Burt Reynolds’s first shot at being a cop? The Quinn Martin production “Dan August” from ABC in 1970. His partner was none other than Mr. Roper, Norman Fell.
By the way, Quinn Martin was my idol — he produced a total of 16, one-hour drama series, most of which were cop shows — “Streets of San Francisco”; “The FBI”; the Capone-era Chicago mob story “The Untouchables”; World War II drama “12 O’Clock High”; the aforementioned “Banyon”; “The Manhunter,” a 1974-75, one season wonder with Ken Howard from “White Shadow” fame as a 1930s bounty hunter; “Cannon,” starring William Conrad, the voice of the radio “Gunsmoke” Matt Dillon who also narrated an earlier show, “The Fugitive,” starring David Janssen, based loosely on the real-life story of Dr. Sam Shepherd of Cleveland, who was wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder and served 10 years in prison before his conviction was overturned.
MeTV has the most classic shows — including my all-time favorite, “Hogan’s Heroes.” Overnight — and sometimes I wake up to see them — are “Mannix,” “Cannon” and the 1950s hit “77 Sunset Strip,” with Efrem Zimblast Jr., who would later don the character Lew Erskine in Quinn Martin’s “The FBI”; Roger Smith, also known as Mr. Ann Margret, and Edd “Cookie” Byrnes. Richard Long joined the agency after his own series, Borbon Street Beat with Andrew Duggan, was canceled.
The only time MeTV fails is Sci-Fi Saturday night. I hate sci-fi, so I don’t watch.
Cozi TV was added last year, and has been a great addition. It carries some classics like “Dragnet,” “Adam-12,” “Emergency,” “Hart to Hart,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Bionic Woman” and “The A-Team,” the last one not a cop show but a related adventure series, like “McGyver.”
Laff carries sitcoms and comedy movies, including another one of my all-time favorites, “Night Court,” as well as “That ’70s Show,” “Home Improvement,” “The Drew Carey Show” and a few others.
Antenna TV carries the old Johnny Carson reruns, as well as some of the oldies like some of my other favorites, “McHale’s Navy” and “Barney Miller,” and some of the newer shows like “Murphy Brown,” “Becker,” “Coach” and Wings.”
Decades carries shows that span the ’50s to the ’80s — “I Love Lucy,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Bob Newhart” and “Newhart,” and two true classics, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” and the old Ed Sullivan shows.
On weekends, they binge an old show 42 hours from Saturday afternoon through Monday morning. When Peggy Lipton, Julie Barnes from “The Mod Squad,” died, they binged that show. When Doris Day died, they binged her sitcom from the ’70s. Last weekend, they binged “Vegas,” a 1979-81 private eye show starring Robert Urich, after “S.W.A.T.” and before “Spenser for Hire.”
Heroes and Icons did carry the old “Hunter” cop show with former New York Giant and Los Angeles Ram defensive end Fred Dryer, and “Renegade,” with Lorenzo Lamas. But they were cut back, and now it seems they only show “NYPD Blue” and every iteration of “Star Trek.” By the way, although I love TV from that era, I am not a Trekkie.
I’m going to end each installment with a trivia question I will answer the next time.
Here goes: What was Mary Tyler Moore’s first television series?