Barkley Nunn (Hollywood Detective)

Created by Scott Curtis
Pseudonym of Brian Alan Lane

“Hollywood finally came up with a cure for writer’s block”

Not to be confused with the made-for-TV standalone flick The Hollywood Detective, starring Telly Savalas (or the Dan Turner pulp magazine), this mini-series was just Hollywood Detective (no “the”). Billed at the time as basic cable’s first hour-long prime-time dramatic series produced in America (it was filmed in Utah), the six-parter ran on A&E in the early nineties, and was a rare attempt to do something a little different, adding a bit of intelligence (or literary pretension) into the TV P.I. genre. It didn’t always succeed, but it did get points for trying.

It’s the Depression, and Prohibition is in full swing. Not that it seems to bother happy-go-lucky BARKLEY NUNN (played by Tony “son of Gregory” Peck), an aspiring writer suffering from writer’s block, who works as a full-time private snoop in 1930s Tinseltown. Somehow keeps running into writers. In this six episode run of this series, he manages to work for, or run into Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald and even Hardy Boys “creator” William Stratemeyer.” Suffice it to say that, despite the law of the land, drinks are drunk, and wisecracks are tossed back and forth with alarming frequency. Tony displays some of his dad’s style and stage presence, and his real-life wife at the time, model Cheryl Tiegs, is along for the ride as a raunchy bar maid.

Of course the premise is ridiculous, but it could have been a lot of wink-wink fun. Unfortunately, they pushed it too far — the convoluted, excessively florid dialogue, dream sequences and all those big name writers dropping by tended to grate on folks after a while, as if the producers didn’t know when to pull back, and the result was as off-putting at times as it was fascinating. Me? I sorta liked it. But in a train wreck sort of way.


  • “Juggling such an abundance of genres — detective, Hollywood, literary lions and Depression era — the show is impossibly jumbled and silly. And irresistible.”
    — People Magazine
  • “(Hollywood Detective is) trying hard to re-create the spirit of those old ’30s detective movies – too hard. It’s pompous, over-written, underacted and just not much fun to watch.”
    — Deseret News
  • “There just isn’t a mass audience out there for a series that follows the escapades of a writer-cum-private-eye in Hollywood in the 1930s – especially one that’s longer on atmosphere than action…. but the sleuthing is secondary. Hollywood Detective is about 30 percent mystery and 70 percent artful ambience and nostalgia.”
    — Orlando Sentinel


    (19991, A&E)
    6 episodes
    Created by Scott Curtis,
    Writers: Scott Curtis, W. Reed Moran, Steven L. Sears
    Directors: William Tannen, Joel Oliansky, Kevin Cremin
    Producer: Barbara Black
    Starring Tony Peck as BARKLEY NUNN
    and Timothy J. Nelson as Lt. Carstairs St. John
    Also starring Ian Buchanan as F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Marisa Berenson as Dorothy Parker
    and Cheryl Tiegs as Cecilia Peck

    • “The Muse” (April 8, 1991)
    • “The Write Stuff” (April 15, 1991)
    • “Romanoff à Clef” (April 22, 1991)
    • “Blind Faith” (April 29, 1991)
    • “Chasing the Goose” (May 6, 1991)
    • “Barring Disaster” (May 13, 1991)
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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