Created by Ron Clark & Tim Conway
Down these mean streets a man must stumble, bumble and fumble. And that man is… ACE CRAWFORD, PRIVATE EYE.
Not the first–and certainly not the last–time that television served up a parody of the traditional tough guy private eye, this one poked light-hearted, gentle fun at the genre’s conventions. It was supposed to be a laugh riot, starring one of the era’s most beloved comedians, fresh off a long run on The Carol Burnett Show.
Tim Conway played Ace in Ace Crawford, Private Eye, in the short-lived 1983 series. Outwardly, he was your typical TV hard-boiled dick, and he seemed to have it all: adoring women, a faithful sidekick who idolized him, and a beautiful girlfriend madly in love with him. Plus a reputation for being scrupulously honest and one of the best P.I.s in town. He even came adorned with the obligatory trenchcoat and fedora. Ace lacked only one thing.
You see, Ace was a total incompetent, a bungler and stumblebum who left nothing but disaster in his wake. He was completely inept, and he owed all his success to pure dumb luck and unbelievable coincidences. And nobody seemed to notice. Nobody except for his long-suffering foil, Police Lieutenant Fanning.
Of course, like any TV eye worth his salt, Ace had a hangout, somewhere he and his sometime-partner, the intellectually compatible Toomey, a full-time CPA, could wet their whistles and discuss their cases at the end of a long day. For Ace, that place was “The Shanty,” a waterfront dive run by a midget called Inch (played by veteran actor Billy Barty). Ace’s sweethart, Luana, worked as a singer there with her blind accompanist Mello (jazz great Bill Henderson).
But only five episodes were ever aired. Not that the show was completely horrible, but it wasn’t very good. It relied a bit too heavily on tired schtick and Conway’s affability, and not enough on the actual writing. Conway admitted years later that the show probably needed canned laughter so audiences would know when to laugh–a pretty surprising admission, given that Conway himself was credited as one of the writers. Still, after the success of Get Smart and the Pink Panther movies, the idea of a bumbling crimefighter who always landed on his feet was no longer as novel as it must have seemed on the drawing board. It didn’t help that most of the jokes were ancient and obvious and set-ups ponderous, and after the big screen success of things like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Airplane!, the bar for this kind of humour had been raised considerably .
Chalk up yet another disappointing flop for the likable Conway, an accomplished comedian who just could never seem to get a hit on his own. But even adding Harvey Corman to the cast probably couldn’t have saved this turkey.
- ACE CRAWFORD, PRIVATE EYE
Premiere: March 15, 1983
5 30 minute episodes
Creators: Ron Clark and Tim Conway
Writers: Mickey Rose
Producer: Ron Clark
A Conway Enterprises Production for Viacom
Original Music by Hughie Cannon and Peter Matz (theme)
Starring Tim Conway as ACE CRAWFORD
Also starring Joe Regalbuto, Shera Danese, Billy Barty, Bill Henderson, Dick Christie
- “Murder at Restful Hills” (March 15, 1983)
- “Bull Bates” (March 22, 1983)
- “Inch in a Pinch” (March 29, 1983)
- “The Microchip Caper” (April 5, 1983)
- “The Gentleman Bandit” (April 12, 1983)
- ACE CRAWFORD, PRIVATE EYE | Buy this VHS
Included the first three episodes: Murder at Restful Hills, Bull Bates and Inch in a Pinch.
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- The Casting Ouch
Unlikely Private Eyes (No, Really…)