30 August 2009

Get Out!

Acts 2:38-40 (The Message)
38-39 Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptised, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."
40 He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"
I'm working on the changes right now.

27 August 2009

Learning from the Detectives

Are you good at jumping to conclusions? Well, pretty much all of the great detectives we have encountered in this month's A-Z have one thing in common - making observations and then jumping to conclusions. The problem comes when the conclusion we arrive at is perhaps the wrong one...

If we are wrong in our analysis of the situation, we'll probably hurt somebody's feelings, judging them without knowing all the facts. I know from experience what happens when I've said something out of turn, or without thinking it through. I also remember the following:

James 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

As usual during August, I've been doing some self-analysis during the time I usually commit to blogging. And I've discovered that I often need to ask just more questions before reaching my final conclusion. As Columbo might have said, "Just one more thing..."

I also must accept that I may not like the conclusion. It may take me way out of my comfort zone. In the words of Sherlock Holmes: "When I eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth."

26 August 2009

Z is for Zimbalist (Remington Steele)

Our final offering showcases 'Remington Steele', an series produced by MTM Enterprises between 1982 and 1987. Stephanie Zimbalist stars as private detective Laura Holt, who finds her customers unwilling to hire a female!However, business picks up when she invents a fictitious male superior named Remington Steele. Laura soon encounters a former thief and con man (played by Pierce Brosnan, who later went on to play James Bond) who assumes the fictitious identity. The series features many references to classic detective genre movies.

25 August 2009

Y is for Yet More...

What a rich vein of material from this particular genre! Here are just a few more names which I could have mentioned in this month's A-Z. I leave you to sift through this list of possible contenders, as you plod down memory lane... perhaps I'll mention one of these in a future blog?

Spenser (Robert Urich)
Banacek (George Peppard)
Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck)
Jim Rockford (James Garner)
Sledge Hammer (David Rasche)
Harry O (David Janssen)
Steve McGarrett from 'Hawaii Five-0' (Jack Lord)
Inch High, Private Eye (Lennie Weinrib)
Regan and Carter from 'The Sweeney' (John Thaw and Dennis Waterman)
Cagney and Lacey (Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly)
Joe Friday from 'Dragnet' (Jack Webb or possibly Dan Ackroyd?)
Starsky and Hutch (Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul)
McMillan and Wife (Rock Hudson and Susan St James)
Holmes and Yo-Yo (Richard B. Shull and John Schuck)
Hart To Hart (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers)
McCloud (Dennis Weaver)
A Man Called Ironside (Raymond Burr)
Dempsey and Makepeace (Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber)

24 August 2009

X is for X-Ray (Diagnosis Murder)

To complement the coroner Quincy in our detective line-up we feature the medical profession again with the series 'Diagnosis Murder'. Starring Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a medical doctor who solves crimes with the help of his police detective son Steve (played by Dick's real-life son Barry Van Dyke) and an excellent regular cast. Dick is of course an established TV, film and Broadway star from decades of credits to his name, and is also an elder in his local church.

23 August 2009

W is for Lord Peter Wimsey

Lord Peter Wimsey is a British gentleman detective in a series of detective novels and short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers. Set in the 1920s - 1930s (which is when they were written), the books include an element of satire of the British class system which was prevalent at the time. In the adjacent image he is being portrayed by Ian Carmichael in a TV series from the 1970s.

22 August 2009

V is for Eddie Valiant

Eddie Valiant is a Californian private investigator in the 1988 fantasy film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". A Steven Spielberg film based on Gary K. Wolf's novel, the film is set in 1940's Hollywood where cartoon characters live alongside humans to make movies. Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) is brought in to solve a mystery involving Roger Rabbit, a Toon who is framed for murder. The film features many classic cartoon characters from Disney and Warner Brothers alongside one another for the first time, as well as some breakthrough work combining live action and animation.

21 August 2009

U is for the Ultimate Detective

Who else but - Sherlock Holmes? Could I have done an A-Z on this very subject without a mention of the ultimate example? The most famous consulting detective in the world first appeared in 1887, the creation of British author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes' use of observation and deductive reasoning in his work are now considered as standard in both real life police work and in modern-day detective fiction. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories that feature Holmes, many written from the perspective of his friend, Dr John H. Watson. Holmes is now so famous that the address of his consulting rooms at 221b Baker Street, London are as legendary as himself. Even Baker Street tube station is decorated with silhouettes of the great man - a fitting tribute to what has become an immortal character.

20 August 2009

T is for Dick Tracy

Possibly the consummate police detective, Dick Tracy is a long-running newspaper comic strip that has quickly progressed into mainstream pop culture thanks to cartoon and movie adaptations. Created by cartoonist Chester Gould in 1931, the strip made its debut appearance in the Detroit Mirror. Gould wrote and drew Dick Tracy's adventures until 1977 - and the strip still continues to this day. Tracy is a tough police detective who has matched wits with a variety of colourful and bizarre criminals, often utilising modern or even futuristic gadgetry.

19 August 2009

S is for Star Cops

'Star Cops' was first broadcast on BBC Two in 1987. Devised by Chris Boucher and set in the year 2027, it followed Nathan Spring (David Calder) and his multinational team who formed the International Space Police Force (nicknamed the “Star Cops”). Set in a near-future space environment, and let down by poor scheduling and some internal conflicts, the series was cancelled after one season. However, the show is regularly hailed by fans for its gritty reality in trying to portray an SF-based detective series. SFX magazine described it as “the SF TV show SF writers love. It wasn't perfect but it's as close as TV will ever get to producing proper written SF”.

18 August 2009

R is for the (Constant) Return Of The Saint

The character of Simon Templar (known as The Saint) was originally created in books by Leslie Charteris published from 1928. The character has featured in a series of Hollywood movies, a 1940s radio series starring Vincent Price, a popular 1960s TV series which starred Roger Moore, and a 1970s TV series called 'Return of The Saint' which starrred Ian Ogilvy.

Simon Templar is a thief that is known as The Saint because of his initials (ST), and by leaving a calling card depicting a stick figure with a halo. The character is depicted as 'The Robin Hood of modern crime' as he only takes from the heartless rich, giving it to the deserving poor - after keeping a percentage for his own expenses. A frelance adventurer, he will frequently interfere in a situation to put right a wrong, fighting against injustice.

(Incidentally, the 1997 film entitled 'The Saint' that starred Val Kilmer wasn't based on the Simon Templar character created by Charteris.)

17 August 2009

Q is for Quincy

"Gentlemen, you are about to enter the most important and fascinating sphere of police work: the world of forensic medicine". 'Quincy, M.E.' featured Jack Klugman in the title role, a heavily principled Medical Examiner who frequently worked outside his coroner's role to play detective in order to solve his cases - ruffling more than a few feathers in the process. The show later introduced themes of social commentary, one of the first US shows in the Eighties to openly further a social agenda.

16 August 2009

P is for Perry Mason

Perry Mason is a fictional Los Angeles defence attorney who originally appeared in 82 novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, but perhaps is better known today as an Emmy-winning American TV series that originally ran between 1957 & 1966 and played by actor Raymond Burr. A further 30 TV movies were produced between 1985 & 1995. He never lost a case!

15 August 2009

O is for Outland

Yet another SF-themed detective in my list - however it's not surprising, is it? 'Outland' is an Academy Award-nominated 1981 film that written and directed by Peter Hyams. Set on Io, one of Jupiter's volcanic moons, it stars Sean Connery as Marshal William T. O'Niel, who is assigned to a one-year tour of duty in Con Am 27, a titanium ore mining outpost on Io. O'Niel's investigation of a series of violent deaths of miners leads him to discover the use by the mine management of dangerous drugs that increases the miner's productivity but eventually causes psychosis. The investigation culminates in a 'High Noon' style shootout. An intriguing 'space western', where the real threat comes not from the extra-terrestrial location but from inside the dark hearts of men.

14 August 2009

N is for Nuns & Priests (Father Dowling)

'Father Dowling Mysteries' is a TV detective series, based on the adventures of the title character created by Ralph McInerny (Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Jacques Maritain Centre) and Michael P. Grace (Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame). Father Frank Dowling is a Catholic priest who acts as an amateur sleuth in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He is assisted in his investigations by Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski, a streetwise nun who was born on a rough housing estate in the city. There were three series made, with Tom Bosley playing Father Frank Dowling, with Tracy Nelson as Sister Stephanie.

You may be interested to know Ralph McInerny's original novels were about Father Roger Dowling - and that's not the only change they made when they adapted the show for TV! Fans of 'clerical detectives' may wish to check out this link:

13 August 2009

M is for Monk

Once a rising star in the San Francisco Police Department, Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) was legendary for using unconventional means to solve the department's most baffling cases. However, after the tragic (and still unsolved) murder of his wife Trudy, Monk developed an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now consumed by peculiar obsessions and wracked with hundreds of phobias, Monk has lost his police badge and struggles with even the simplest everyday tasks.

However, Monk now has the help of a personal assistant, Sharona Fleming (seasons 1-3, played by Bitty Schram), and later Natalie Teeger (from season 3, Traylor Howard) to help him in his new role as a private consultant. His former boss and loyal friend Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) still calls upon him to provide unique insights into cases that have the cops stumped. Eager Lieutenant Randall Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Monk's therapist Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel) complete the regular cast.

Although Monk battles against his own fears and the most impossible of crimes, he still has two goals that elude him - to solve his wife's murder, and to regain back his position on the San Francisco police force. Can he win through?

This show is one of my favourites!

12 August 2009

L is for Little Grey Cells (Poirot)

Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. With the possible exception of Miss Marple, Poirot is arguably Christie's most famous character, appearing in 33 novels and 51 short stories that were published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era. The character is regularly seen on TV and film, and perhaps the best known modern incarnation of the character was portrayed by David Suchet (pictured). The character's almost fanatical neatness borders on the obsessive, however his logical approach to solving crimes is represented in his vocabulary by two common phrases: his use of "the little grey cells" and "order and method".

11 August 2009

K is for Kojak

"Who loves ya, baby?" - Telly Savalas played the bald New York cop Theo Kojak during the late seventies, and was such a regular on TV schedules that his surname became a nickname for bald men the length and breadth of the country. Although the character smoked heavily in early shows, this was at the start of the modern anti-smoking sentiment and the writers soon had Kojak quit smoking, and his use of lollipops as a substitute led to a trademark of the character. The show lasted for five seasons and a series of TV movies. A recent attempt to relaunch the character, played by Ving Rhames, only lasted one season.

10 August 2009

J is for Jessica Fletcher

Jessica Beatrice Fletcher is a fictional mystery writer and amateur detective who featured on on the American TV series 'Murder, She Wrote', played by actress Angela Lansbury. The show ran for twelve seasons and subsequently in four TV movies. The character is said to be based on a combination of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple character and of another Christie character called Ariadne Oliver (from the Hercule Poirot mysteries).

A retired English teacher, Ms Fletcher lives in Cabot Cove, a coastal town in Maine. The relentless appearance of dead bodies in this little town has given rise to the term "Cabot Cove Syndrome". It's not a place to settle down - The New York Times calculated that almost 2% of Cabot Cove's residents died during the show's run. It's not a place to visit, either - more visitors to Cabot Cove died than residents.

9 August 2009

I is for Inspector Gadget

Wowsers! One of the leaders in the fight against crime on kids TV is 'Inspector Gadget'. The original animated show is a co-production by DIC Entertainment in France and Nelvana in Canada. Gadget is a bionically-enhanced detective, using the various gadgets built into his anatomy to fight crime. Unfortunately, he is clumsy and absent-minded. Fortunately, his niece Penny and her dog Brain are always there in the background to save the day.

Gadget is voiced by Don Adams in the animated series, with obvious comparisons to the character of Maxwell Smart from the live-action 60s spy series 'Get Smart', which Adams also portrayed. A live-action film was made in 1999 which starred Matthew Broderick, and a sequel which starred French Stewart.

8 August 2009

H is for Holistic (Dirk Gently)

Perhaps eclipsed somewhat by his better known creation 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy', Douglas Adams was also the writer of what is described as a "thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic". 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' is a humorous fantasy detective novel, first published in 1987. A surreal novel, probably because the plot is non-linear, the central concept being the fundamental interconnectedness of everything. The book touches on Chaos theory, holism (hence the title) and references to quantum mechanics.

Dirk makes use of these concepts to solve his cases, by running up large expense accounts and then claiming that every item (such as needing to go to a tropical beach in the Bahamas for three weeks) was, due to the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things", actually a vital part of the investigation.

7 August 2009

G is for Ghost (Randall & Hopkirk)

"Only You Jeff, Only You"

'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)' was a late 1960s British TV series which starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope as the private detectives Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk. The series explored new ground as the show's first episode saw Hopkirk murdered in the line of duty, returning as a white-suited ghost that only Randall was able to see or hear. The show was one of the ITC shows that dominated Sixties' TV in the UK, and was one of the better offerings. Only one series of 26 episodes was shot, however the show was repeated many times. A remake was made in 2000 starring British comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, but it's the original show I remember most fondly.

6 August 2009

F is for Fraud (Psych)

Our next detective is clearly pretending to be someone he's not! 'Psych' is an American comedy TV series starring James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a young crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Shawn is the son of a cop, his father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) having trained him as a child in observation and deduction.

One day Shawn contacts the police with a tip on a crime covered on the news. They become suspicious of his apparent 'insider knowledge' and are about to arrest him when he uses his observations to convince all present that he is psychic. With no choice but to keep up the pretence, he teams up with his lifelong friend Gus (Dulé Hill, playing 'straight man' to Roday's eccentric 'psychic') and they form a pyschic detective agency, called 'Psych', working closely with the local police to solve cases.

5 August 2009

E is for Sue Thomas F B Eye

'Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye' was one of the few TV series to have featured a deaf lead character working a regular job. The show was loosely based on the true experiences of the real Sue Thomas, a deaf woman whose lip-reading skills landed her a job with the FBI doing undercover surveillance. The show featured deaf actress Deanne Bray in the lead role. The series picked up fans from two sources - those who were deaf or interested in issues affecting the deaf, and those who were interested in the issues raised by the show - such as international terrorism, slavery, or domestic abuse.

In addition, the Sue Thomas character's explicit Christianity received much attention in the dialogue. This is something that the actual Sue Thomas would have appreciated, since after leaving the FBI she became a missionary. The show can be seen on the Hallmark Channel in the UK.

4 August 2009

D is for Drebin (Police Squad!)

The popularity of the detective genre makes the subject prime for a parody or two. Probably one of the best TV detective spoofs only lasted six episodes. 'Police Squad!' was created by the comedy filmmaking trio Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, who had previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Packed with visual gags and non sequiturs and spoofing three decades-worth of TV detective shows, the show was quickly cancelled by ABC after just six episodes, doubtless because of its surreal quality. The show gained a strong cult following through repeats, leading to a film version in 1988 entitled 'The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!' and two further sequels. Leslie Nielsen starred as Detective Frank Drebin in the series and all three films.

3 August 2009

C is for Columbo (just one more thing...)

Imagine the whole idea of a detective show turned on its head - in almost every episode you know 'who did it' at the very start of the show. The show would then centre on how the murderer would finally be exposed and arrested by the detective.

The character of Lieutenant Columbo first appeared in 1960, but it was as part of the 'NBC Mystery Movie' series in 1968 that the character caught the public imagination, with a superb performance by Peter Falk. Columbo's rather scruffy appearance and absent-mindedness hide an excellent eye for detail and a meticulous and committed approach to his work which always succeeds. This show is one of my personal favourites.

Oh yes, and to answer the eternal question - yes, Columbo does have a first name - it is "Lieutenant".

2 August 2009

B is for Blade Runner

Loosely based on 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by SF author Philip K. Dick, 'Blade Runner' was a 1982 hit film by Ridley Scott. Set in 2019, the film depicts life in a Los Angeles where genetically manufactured beings (replicants) are used for dangerous and degrading work 'off-world'. However, following a replicant uprising, specialist cops called 'blade runners' hunt down and 'retire' (kill) escaped replicants on Earth. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a retired blade runner brought back for one final mission. Rutger Hauer and Sean Young also star.

The film touches on a number of delicate issues, such as overpopulation, globalisation, climate change and genetic engineering. Plus it's a darn good detective story!

1 August 2009

A is for Alien Nation

'Alien Nation' was a 1988 SF film written by Rockne S. O'Bannon and directed by Graham Baker. The concept was used as the basis for a subsequent TV series.

The initial premise of both film and TV series is the crash-landing of a spaceship in the Mojave Desert - a ship that was carrying enslaved aliens. The story starts some three years later, by which time Los Angeles has become a new home for the aliens or 'newcomers'. The LA police assign detective Matthew Sykes (James Caan) with a newly-promoted Newcomer detective called Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). The main villain of the film is an ambitious Newcomer businessman (Terence Stamp) who is dealing in drugs. The TV series followed more or less the same premise and starred Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint (pictured).

Although essentially a police detective series with an SF premise, the show's storylines gave room to develop modern-day morality plays on the evils of racism and bigotry.