Created by Ron Clark and 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 offered a parody of the traditional private eye, this one poked light-hearted, gentle fun at the genre’s conventions. But at least this time it was intentional.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Tim Conway played Ace in Ace Crawford, Private Eye, a 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 (his long-suffering accountant) 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 schtick and Conway’s affability (he’d just come off a long, successful run on The Carol Burnett Show) and not enough on the writing (Conway admitted years later that the show probably needed canned laughter so audiences would know when to laugh). 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 unique as it must have seemed on the drawing board. Of course, it didn’t help that most of the jokes were ancient and obvious.
Chalk up yet another failure for the likable Conway, an accomplished comedian who just could never seem to get a hit on his own.
- 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 Casting Ouch
Unlikely Private Eyes (No, Really…)