Throughout most of the 70s the majority of television heroes were detectives. They monopolized evening television. Unlike the television shows of today the older actors were actually the star of the show, the younger actors played sidekicks. No, really! It’s true! It was rare to find a television star who didn’t hover between the 40s and a little shy of 70. Experience came with age. Older folks would smack you around like nobody’s business and if you condescended or patronized guys like McCloud or Barnaby Jones, they would probably kick your ass. I know. It’s hard to believe. It was a glorious time.
|I'm Barnaby Jones, punk!|
|James Garner as Jim Rockford|
The averageness of these detective heroes also made it easy to identify and sympathize with them. Whenever Jim Rockford punched a guy he would often break his hand. He would blow off work to go fishing with his dad who whole heartedly disapproved of his often dangerous profession. As a nerd who grew up dealing with his fair share of bullies in school, it was somewhat comforting to see a guy like Rockford who had no problem fighting dirty when the odds were against him. When Rockford got scared he had no problem admitting it and that was pretty damn cool. When he was outnumbered by the villains, Rockford would get the hell out of there and come back when the odds were in his favor. Most of the time he stood his ground and took a beating in order to protect an innocent or just because he‘d had enough of being pushed around.
|William Conrad as Frank Cannon|
Cannon was played by the talented actor William Conrad. Conrad was a character actor in film, television and radio. He was the voice of the radio show “Marshall Matt Dillon” on Gunsmoke for almost a decade. He starred in many low budget 50s film noir, often cast as the corrupt cop or the villain. One of his more memorable jobs was as the energetic narrator of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. But it was as the rotund, tough, no nonsense detective Frank Cannon that Conrad found world wide stardom. Cannon ran from 1971 to 1976. During the 1973-74 season, Cannon was extremely popular, particularly in the UK. He even had his own comic strip segment in the British television fan magazine Countdown aka TV Action, a magazine that started out featuring comic strip versions of Gerry Anderson properties but eventually included many British action TV shows such as the Protectors, the Persuaders, Dr. Who and many American TV shows including Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii 5-0, Mission Impossible and Cannon (drawn by the talented strip artist Martin Asbury).
|Conrad with Diana Muldaur|
Almost immediately Cannon realizes that there has been a cover up. Investigating the crime scene, Cannon amusingly chews out the local police over their shoddy, lazy and unprofessional investigation. Naturally this sets up a rather antagonistic relationship with local law enforcement but Cannon doesn’t care. Like an angry bull, Cannon charges through all the resistance that comes his way. Along the way Cannon runs into red herrings, betrayals and a cabal of retired CIA agents, some of who miss the dangerous and duplicitous lifestyle and who go out of their way to prevent Cannon from finding out the truth about his friend. Through it all, Cannon is undeterred. In one scene, he walks in on a bunch of former CIA agents, the leader played by the always creepy William Smithers (aka “Jeremy Wendell”, villainous oil baron who was always trying to take over J.R. Ewings company in Dallas). Cannon faces down the group of agents and lets them know in no uncertain terms that he’s going to get to the bottom of things no matter what!
|George Peppard as Banacek|
You don’t see a whole lot of guys like Frank Cannon around on television these days and that’s a shame. Cannon was a smart, formidable protagonist who might have been underestimated on occasion but was just as often recognized for his brains and tenacity. Today someone who looks like Cannon would most likely be the butt of a joke, or play an idiotic, beer guzzling sidekick to the good looking star. But in the 70s, guys like Cannon were the star, kicking ass, taking names and commanding the respect of friends and foes whether they be short, tall, thin or fat. In a world of yogurt eating spies and doctors with nicknames like “McSteamy”, watching a guy like Frank Cannon in action again was a nostalgic breath of fresh air.