Thursday, April 28, 2016

4/28/1962 The Defenders courts controversy

April 28, 1962.  Perhaps I should not be including this here, because the producers of the The Defenders proudly proclaimed that this was the first TV law show that was not a mystery.  They meant that it was not a whodunit.  Instead the question was usually: was it really a crime, or did the person deserve to go to jail?  And the father-and-son law partners (E.G. Marshall and Rex Reed) argued with each other as much as they did with the prosecutors.  In short, The Defenders was the first modern lawyer series.

And it was not afraid of controversy.  The episode that appeared on this night was "The Benefactor," and it was about a physician who admitted performing 1,500 illegal abortions (while turning down 8,000 women whose reasons he considered insufficient).

Not surprisingly, sponsors ran away from this subject.  But Speidel Watches jumped in where Kimberley-Clark, Lever Brothers, and Brown & Williamson fled, and the show went on, to an audience of 28 million.

Fortunately the Supreme Court settled the abortion issue in 1973 and we have never had to worry about it again. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

4/22/2001 Nero Wolfe comes to A&E

April 22, 2001.  On this date A&E premiered Nero Wolfe, arguably the best media version of Rex Stout's classic private eye tales.  Tim Hutton is a great fan of the books and he organized the series and played Archie Goodwin.  Murray Chaykin played the big man.  In two seasons they faithfully reproduced about one-quarter of the novels and novellas. 

Two odd things about the show: they had an ensemble cast, so an actor playing a suspect in one episode might be a victim in the next.  Second, they generally set the show in whatever decade the book was written, so stories bounced between the forties, fifties, and  sixties.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

4/13/1979 A Mysterious Bookstop opens its doors

April 13, 1979.  On this date Otto Penzler opened the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City.  It is still going, the oldest crime book store surviving in the U.S.A> and the only one in the Big Apple.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

4/2/2012 Greenfellas starts

April 2, 2012.  On this date Sal Caetano orders the killing of a member of his mob family who had made a big mistake.  But Sal's life really gets interesting a few days later when he becomes a grandfather - and discovers that climate change might make his little granddaughter's future unlivable.  So Sal decides to use all his Mafia skills to save the environment.  Hey, how hard can it be?

Friday, April 1, 2016

4/1/1959 The Deaf Man arrives

April 1, 1959.  One of the great villains of crime fiction makes his first appearance on April Fool's Day, appropriately enough, when Ed McBain's The Heckler opens.  The Deaf Man (he uses a hearing aid and always uses pseudonyms that relate to deafness) is brilliant, dangerous, and sexy.  We never learn anything about his background, true identity, or why he takes great glee in harassing the cops of the 87th Precinct.  Like a Batman villain, he will send the cops clues as to his intentions, but his goal is to use their investigations as part of his own elaborate plots. He is usually foiled by accidents and coincidence, not by the actions of our heroes, and then slinks off to rob another day. He appears in six of the novels, making his last escape in Hark! (2004)