Mannix

Joe Mannix, private investigator.

At the time, the longest running series about a P.I., eight seasons.

The show was originally developed by Desilu Productions (Lucille Ball). After the first season, Ball insisted on some changes being made to the series and character. These changes saved the show from cancellation by the network.  Richard Levinson and William Link (Columbo, Murder She Wrote) created the show, giving it style and an establishment character who was still hip and bucked the establishment. Ball later sold her company to Paramount. It was Ball’s husband, Gary Morton, that suggested to Mike Connors that the show being developed might be a good match for him.

Joe Mannix was cool but he didn’t flaunt it. He drove amazing convertible automobiles and had a mobile phone in the car. Joe wore only sport coats and hip neckties. I once asked him if Mannix ever wore a suit, which Connors said not that he ever recalled.

Mannix upstairs from his office, which was decorated stylishly and he seemed to like jazz music.

Joe spent the first season working for a hi-tech investigation company, rebelling against the corporate culture. He liked the sun, mountains and California lifestyle. Joe was not hard-boiled or world-weary, he liked helping people, he was mannered and didn’t break the law, and stood up to the syndicate. And Joe remembered his friends.

MANNIX, Mike Connors, Gail Fisher, 1967-1975
Mannix and his secretary Peggy Fair.

The opening title sequence was trendy and unique with the split screen images and the jazzy music.

People came to Joe for help, even the police did. Often the cases weren’t what they seemed, and Joe was in over his head, but he always figured it out in the 51 minutes allowed.  Mannix usually raced against some sort of deadline to prevent someone from dying.  He had to re-enact something that had happened to find the clue or the lose thread that spun the story in a new direction.

Sometimes old friends, war buddies or girlfriend came calling. Joe was loyal. On occasion, he visited his family, Joe’s Armenian father. Joe and his father were estranged but they were able get closer later in the series.

It was not unusual for Joe to be shot or injured, separated from help, and involved in a cat and mouse game of survival.  Someone usually didn’t like Mannix prying into situations.  Cases took Joe to the country or to small towns, where people could be suspicious or involved in the in the plot.

After Mannix left the security company, he worked alone except for his secretary Peggy Fair, Albie a source of information, and three LAPD lieutenants (Ward Wood, Robert Reed, Larry Linville) who he went to for help, and occasionally reached out to him.

 

A few of my favorite episodes:

“End Game” – Mannix enters a building to rescue a policeman in a booby-trapped building, by someone Mannix served with in Korea.

“Return to Summer Grove” – Mannix returns to his hometown where his estranged father lives and Mannix meets up with his past.

“The Sound of Darkness” – Blinded by a bullet, Mannix is on his own to escape his would-be killer.

“A Ticket to the Eclipse – Guest star Darin McGavin plays another Korean war buddy who is out to kill Mannix.  That must have been some war.

“The Mouse That Died” – Racing against time, Mannix must find who is trying to kill him, and find an antidote for the poison he’s been given.

“A Gathering of Ghosts” – A reunion of his old football team in a ghost town turns to murder.

“Edge of the Knife” – A surgeon’s son will die if the surgeon lets a man die on the operating table.

 

“We made the character vulnerable. . . . He could be suckered in by a soft story or a pretty face,” Connors told the Los Angeles Times in 1997. Joe Mannix had a big heart.

Connors was born Kreker J. Ohanian and played basketball at UCLA.  His nickname was “Touch.”

Mike Connors passed away in 2017 at age 91.


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