TV Review: Mannix
Hey, a show I actually remember watching first-run! Private eye show Mannix ran from 1967-75. It had a memorable opening sequence with a jazzy tune in waltz time and split-screen credits reminiscent of a monitor bank.
Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) was an Armenian-American Korean War veteran, a little rough around the edges. In the first season, he worked for Intertect, a high-technology detective firm with dozens of operatives and the latest in computers. Mannix often clashed with his long-suffering boss Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella), since his casual look and hands-on methods often conflicted with the agency’s buttoned-down image.
The ratings weren’t so good, so the show was remodeled for the second season. The computers, which the writers had never used well in the first place, and Intertect were gone, Joe Mannix was his own man, and he hired a black secretary (remember, in 1968, a black woman having a job as prestigious as secretary or glorified telephone operator was progressive.) The decent run of the show indicates that this might have been a wise move.
The Mill Creek DVD had two first-season episodes.
“Nothing Ever Works Twice” An ex-girlfriend of Mannix hires him to work on her divorce case. While this is a huge part of real private detective work, Mannix is the top agent, so normally doesn’t have to do it, but the ex sweet talks him into it. One ambush later, Mannix finds himself framed for the husband’s murder.
It turns out that the husband was fronting for a gambling ring, so there’s plenty of suspects, including the conniving wife. Mannix gets beat up some (a recurring theme in the series) and while the computers are no help, the high tech car phones Mannix and Lew have are instrumental in helping solve the case.
The first thing I noticed going from Fifties shows to this one was the much shorter skirts. (The opening credits have a young woman twirl so we can see her underwear.) Mannix smokes, he almost does this in the computer room at the office. The transfer on this episode was sub-par; Mill Creek may have worked with an inferior master.
“The Cost of a Vacation” Another ex-girlfriend, this one a model, hires Mannix to find her missing boyfriend. This is made somewhat difficult by the fact that he’s been living under a different name, and neither of these may be his real one. Eventually, Mannix ties this to an assassination plot.
We learn that between the Korean War and becoming a private detective, Mannix spent some time as a mercenary in Costa Verde. He gets beat up and shot at some more. The model (after he has saved her from a sniper) points out that Mannix gets shot at a lot and opines that it’s probably one of his friends. (This becomes funnier over time as over half Mannix’s old war buddies that show up try to kill him.)
Mannix’s old war buddy in this episode doesn’t try to kill him, but is involved in smuggling illegal aliens into America using a charity as a cover. The model spends most of the episode in a bikini, and there’s a bit of creepiness with Lew doing the voyeur thing with the office cameras. (But not long; he’s shut off the cameras by the time she decides to leave.)
The ending is kind of a downer. Mannix fails to stop the assassination or learn who hired the assassin, plus his war buddy and a random private eye get killed. He does manage to save the model, but this is despite her lovelorn stupidity being what puts her in danger in the first place.
Mike Connors is great as Mannix, and the other actors are good too. The show could really have done with a writer who would really explore the uses of computers in detective work. Worth looking up.