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Our reviews of Mannix: The Fifth Season (published July 14th, 2011), Mannix: The Final Season (published January 9th, 2013), Mannix: The Seventh Season (published July 12th, 2012), and Mannix: The Sixth Season (published January 25th, 2012) are also available.
Mike Connors is…Mannix!
"Mannix…just want do you think you're doing?"—Lew Wickersham
Facts of the Case
Joe Mannix (Mike Connors, Tightrope) is not a perfect man. He follows his instinct rather than logic and often bends the rules in order to achieve what he wants. The agency he works for would undoubtedly fire him, if it weren't for the fact that he is their best detective. The truth is, when a tough case comes in, everybody knows that Mannix is the guy to turn to. This first season of Mannix turns in the first batch of the charming detective's adventures.
Twenty-four 50-minute episodes are spread across six discs, as follows:
"His Name is Mannix" (Pilot): Against his better judgment, private detective Joe Mannix of Intertect accepts an assignment to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a retired crime figure.
"Skid Marks on a Dry Run": As he is about to make a run for governor, a wealthy businessman with a shady past hires Mannix to get the dirt on him—before his opponents do!
"Nothing Ever Works Twice": Joe is hired by his former flame after her wealthy husband is killed. But instead of finding the killer, Joe finds himself a suspect in the murder.
"The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher": Three Germans hire Intertect to find a former employee, a chemist who fled with a secret formula. But Mannix suspects they are actually Nazi hunters.
"Make Like It Never Happened": A little girl shows up at Intertect wanting to "rent a detective." Mannix discovers she's the young daughter of a convict on death row.
"The Cost of a Vacation": A chatty model hires Mannix to find her Latin lover. Mannix finds out later he's a hired assassin with plans to shut her up.
"Warning: Live Blueberries": After a star basketball player is killed, Mannix suspects a friend's missing daughter, who now belongs to a strange hippie cult.
"Beyond the Shadow of a Dream": After a wealthy woman claims she witnessed a murder, Mannix must determine which of her companions is driving her back into a mental hospital.
"Huntdown": Joe becomes suspicious when he visits the little town of Grandvale to get a man's signature on a document, and the whole town insists the man is dead.
"Coffin for a Clown": A child custody case turns deadly now that everyone's trying to kill a little boy's father, an irresponsible free spirit who may be in line to inherit a fortune.
"A Catalogue of Sins": A safecracker steals notebooks from a psychiatrist's safe and systematically starts to blackmail the patients whose secrets they contain.
"Turn Every Stone": Mannix wonders if a politician was really on the take, or was a phony item planted so that a lawsuit could be brought against a crusading publisher.
"Run, Sheep, Run": The police need Mannix's help in finding an informant, an attractive woman who's ready to finger a bunch of crooked cops tied to a vice ring.
"Then the Drink Takes the Man": Mannix poses as an alcoholic after a woman hires him to investigate the mysterious actions of her father at an expensive health ranch in Mexico.
"Falling Star": A fading actress, about to publish an explosive memoir, finds a bomb planted in her home. But Mannix wonders if it was just a publicity stunt.
"License to Kill—Limit Three People": Mannix tries to get to the bottom of a triple murder—a man, a woman, and a cop—who may have been killed by a newly released mental patient.
"Deadfall" (Part One): After a co-worker's car goes off a cliff, Mannix and his boss, Lew Wickersham, investigate his murder and uncover a shocking conspiracy.
"Deadfall" (Part Two): With Lew now missing, Mannix heads to the docks, where he is convinced a "dead" detective is alive and plans to leave the country.
"You Can Get Killed Out There": Mannix quits his job due to his strong disdain for a client, a boxing manager looking for a necklace. True to form, Mannix gets pulled into the case anyway.
"Another Final Exit": Everyone's after a metal box that a jailed mobster hid in his sister's basement. Then word gets out that Mannix has it, and suddenly everyone's after him!
"Eight to Five, It's a Miracle": A case baffles Mannix when he looks into a possible miracle. A young priest isn't sure it's valid, but an Italian mobster thinks it's a sign from God.
"Delayed Action": A man in a coma has mysteriously left a note for Mannix, hiring him to locate the daughter of a famous bomber from 20 years ago.
"To Kill a Writer": Mannix tries to prevent a murder but isn't helped by the intended victim—a well-known mystery writer who tries to solve the crime himself.
"The Girl in the Frame": Is the girl in the painting real, or is the painting a fake? Mannix tries to locate an artist's model and figure out why someone would steal a phony Renoir.
You remember Mannix, right? The popular CBS detective show featured Mike Connors as Joe Mannix, the intelligent and suave private eye. Mannix regularly received assistance from his secretary, Peggy (Gail Fisher, one of the first African-American actresses to get a recurring role on television), and the local police department. The show was very popular during its run and continued to garner viewers in later years on networks such as TV Land. You remember that, right? Well, just go ahead and forget about that. That Mannix has very little to do with this Mannix.
The first season of the popular detective show is vastly different than the seven subsequent seasons. Instead of being his own private eye, Mannix is a detective working for a large agency called Intertect. He has to take orders from a by-the-book boss. His cases never, ever fail to involve a pretty woman and a gunfight. He has access to some very high-tech gadgetry and other vast Intertect resources. Considering that there was only one season of Mannix in this format, it stands to reason that the later seasons are probably better than this first season, right? Wrong. This first season of Mannix is cool in a way that the series rarely matched in later seasons.
While the later seasons of Mannix felt like a rather ordinary private eye show, this first season is fresh and dynamic. The whole thing has a vibe similar to the earliest James Bond films: cool action-adventures that approach the brink of silliness without ever really slipping into it. The interaction between Mannix and his boss, Lew Wickersham (Joe Campanella, The Bold and the Beautiful), is excellent, a variation on the well-worn Chief/Rogue Agent relationship that became an integral part of every cop movie. Mannix always maintained a reputation for being one of the more violent shows on television during the late 1960s/early 1970s, but I'm pretty sure that this first season tops everything that would follow on that level. Each show introduces a broad cast of supporting characters and often proceeds to pop a cap or two into a good chunk of them before the end credits.
The plots are frequently well-written and often contain some genuine mystery and suspense. Just when you think you've got the ultimate villain of the episode pegged, some violent incident will prove otherwise. The audience is never asked to play dumb; we are rarely a step ahead of Mannix. That's a relief, because too many detective shows offer cases that can be solved within a few minutes…and we spend the rest of the show waiting for the hero to figure out the obvious.
The casting is generally quite impressive. There are only two recurring characters in the show: Mannix and Lew Wickersham. The former is played with rugged charm by Mike Connors, the latter in a knowingly understated manner by Joe Campanella. From there, each episode hauls in a large array of new faces, each one seeming at least a little bit suspicious. I admire the way that Mannix consistently gives each new actor ample time to establish a character. It's fun to examine the sleazy politician, the troubled model, the grumpy gangster, the clean-cut athlete, the bitter banker, etc., and try to figure out which one is behind the devious plot. I didn't recognize most of the bit players who appear in the show, but I was struck by how frequently the show managed to provide some very intriguing characters. One of my favorites was the trippy performance of a young Tom Skerrit in "Warning: Live Blueberries," playing a not-entirely-there hippy.
Music is another big asset. The main theme by composer Lalo Schifrin is written in triplet, very unusual for this sort of program. However, it's a memorable and effective theme. Schifrin and a wide variety of talented composers (including the likes of Jerry Fielding, George Duning, and Jeff Alexander) provide some very strong scores for each episode, fusing then-modern jazz elements with more traditional dramatic underscore. In an era where shows like CSI are scored with nothing more than synthetic drones, it's refreshing to hear such well-crafted music in a television show. The scores here rival those heard on another show from the period, Mission: Impossible (which also featured a popular Schifrin theme).
The show looks fairly solid, with a crisp and clear transfer hampered only a little by a steady stream of light scratches on each show. The mono sound is surprisingly solid, however. There is an assortment of brief extras here that are reasonably engaging. A 20-minute interview with Mike Connors and Joe Campanella (spread across discs one and two) is very charming, with both actors reflecting on this unique first season. There's a five-minute clip of Connors on The Mike Douglas Show, and a two-minute clip from a 1997 Diagnosis Murder episode featuring Connors as Mannix. Two audio commentaries are hit and miss: the Connors/Campanella commentary is lightweight and breezy, while the commentary with producer William Link is slow and uninformative. A few promotional odds and ends wrap up the extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I enjoyed Mannix a great deal, but occasionally the more formulaic elements of the show began to grow a little bit tiresome. After a while, it became evident that pretty much every show would conclude with a gunfight, and the perpetual need to include a young and pretty female in each show works toward making the female roles a lot less colorful and diverse than the male roles in the show.
The first season of Mannix is terrific vintage television, and is well worth a look for fans of older private eye shows. Though Mannix would start to wear down a good deal over the course of its eight-season run, it certainly started on a hot note. This set offers 20 hours of well-written, entertaining material. Recommended.
Mannix had better watch his behavior, but thanks to his valiant work on the (pick your favorite episode) case, he gets his gun and his detective license back. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio intros by Mike Connors for each episode
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