Amos Burke was a Los Angeles chief of detectives who was also a millionaire with a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, a mansion, and a high-wheeling lifestyle. The hallmarks of this series were glamorous, sophisticated settings, unusual twists on formula homicide plotlines, and big-name guest stars. After a couple of seasons, its format was radically revamped. Burke left the police force and became an agent for US Intelligence. At that point, the show's name changed to "Amos Burke--Secret Agent". Burke's adventures were briefly revived in 1994, under the original title.
Before "The Mod Squad,",before "Charlie's Angels",and before "Fantasy Island",and "The Love Boat",a young producer named Aaron Spelling helped mount a fun and atmospheric early 1960's mystery show called "Burke's Law",which was basically a detective series based on the characters created by Frank D. Gilroy. "Burke's Law" was the granddaddy of mystery shows which depended on a weekly group of star cameos to keep it fun and interesting. "Burke's Law" had several gimmicks that made it successful. One was the premise: Gene Barry's Amos Burke was a Beverly Hills millionaire who also the chief of detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department.,who was chauffeured around to solve crimes in his Rolls-Royce. The show had stylistic similarities to Barry's previous series,"Bat Masterson",in which he had played debonair dandy Bat Masterson in the Old West.
During the opening credits,as the title flashed on screen,a woman's voice was heard seductively pronouncing the words,"It's Burke's Law!" The title also reflected the character Burke's habit of dispensing wisdom to his underlinings in a professional manner,e.g. "Never asks a question unless you already know the answer,Burke's Law." Each week's show would open with the discovery of a body,then cut to Burke at his mansion,romancing some gorgeous woman--whom he would leave behind to drive to the crime scene in his Rolls-Royce. The other gimmick that made "Burke's Law" successful was the suspension of whodunnit,with a weekly "great cast" of stars from which Burke would have to find the killer. It was a light and very sophisticated murder mystery that was more comedy than drama,and not to mention plenty of action. It was the first and one of the original "all-star" cast whodunits which was created by some of the people responsible for the success of this show: Richard Levinson and William Link,the creators who were also responsible for "Mannix","Columbo",but later on for "Murder,She Wrote" wrote many of the scripts for this series along with Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts,and Harlan Ellison. The suspect mix was basically consisted of old-time movie actors(Steve Cochran, Gloria Grahame, William Demerest),and at the time newly minted people(Barbara Eden,Carolyn Jones,Paul Lynde,Anne Francis,and The Smothers Brothers),not to mention even Ronald Reagan was a suspect once. Out of the 81 episodes that were produced for ABC-TV from the premiere episode on September 20,1963 until it's demise on January 12,1966. All in classic black and white under Four Star Films.
For the first two seasons of "Burke's Law",each episode consisted of the title "Who Killed---?",and with each episode Burke provided assistance with his partner Detective Tim Tilson(Gary Conway,who would go on to become a bigger star later on in "The Land of the Giants,produced by Irwin Allen for ABC),Detective Les Hart(Regis Toomey),and Sergeant Ames(the lovely Eileen O'Neill). Only the first two seasons of the show were simply brilliant,but as the 1960's progressed,and this was during the show's third season,somebody(Was it Gene Barry? Aaron Spelling? ABC?)had the not-so-bright-idea to jettison all the guest stars and convert the show renamed "Amos Burke:Secret Agent" to compete with "The Man From UNCLE" and the like. During the 1965-1966 season the supporting cast from the first two seasons were dropped with Barry portraying a James Bond type character who worked for a secret government agency headed by someone whom they called The Man. The episodes were horrible which included "A Balance of Terror"(episode 65,airdate 9/15/65),and the series ended with a two-parter episode titled "Terror in a Tiny Town"(episodes 80 and 81,airdate: 1/5/66 and 1/12/66). The reason? During Season 3,the network put this show opposite the greatest of all spy shows, "I Spy",which was produced by Sheldon Leonard,filmed in locations all over the world and it was in color for NBC and also opposite the situation comedy series "Green Acres" which was on CBS. As a result,the show took a quick decline in the ratings thus having ABC to pull the plug after three seasons in January of 1966. I already commented on an episode of "Burke's Law," which had Jill St. John as a guest. Those comments basically apply to this show. This is a really superb show that deserved a lot better. This show was perhaps the granddaddy to "Columbo," "Murder She Wrote" and "Diagnosis: Murder," though the first one had already been created as early as 1960.
As I mentioned in my other review, "Burke's Law" was truly an ensemble effort. Gene Barry carried quite a bit of his Bat Masterson persona over into Amos Burke, and does so with his usual flair. I would rather have him arrest me than Joe Friday anytime!!! Gary Conway, Leon Lontoc and Regis Toomey are also fun, as are Eileen O'Neal and Michael Fox.
Unlike "Bat Masterson," though, there is a fair amount of comedy as well as mystery and mayhem. Amos Burke and his crew certainly run into their share of kooks and nuts, and it provides welcome comic relief.
My only gripe about the series is that it was not shot in colour. Had the show been in colour, and had it retained its glitzy/kooky élan, it would have stayed on the air longer. And I think the show could have adjusted well to the late 1960s and to the growing counterculture environment. Changing the format to a spy series in 1965 was a huge mistake. Ironically, it last ran on Wednesday, 12 January 1966, the same night "Batman" premiered.
Still, this is one show that did Aaron Spelling proud, and it was ahead of its time as well as of its time, for its unconventionality. It is also of its time in portraying the Los Angeles of the 1960s, and it is a sort of successor of "77 Sunset Strip" when it came to mystery shows.
This show deserved better! 646f9e108c
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