Cody McMahon (South of Sunset)

Created by John Byrum and Stan Rogow

This Eagle didn’t fly…

But it sure landed.

Once upon a time the airwaves were inundated with private eyes, but by the Fall 1993 TV season, the pickings were getting mighty slim.

There were exactly two P.I. shows scheduled on American television: Moon Over Miami, a frothy but occasionally amusing romantic comedy with only tentative claims to being a P.I. show, and South of Sunset.

The latter was a more traditional offering, featuring stone-faced former-Eagle Glenn Frey, cashing in on the thespian “skills” he had displayed in a few episodes of Miami Vice. Some suit, no doubt, decided he’d be just about perfect as CODY McMAHON, a Paramount studio security chief trying to make it as a Hollywood dick.

Cody had the prerequisite TV private eye cool car, a bright yellow vintage GTO ragtop. He had the snappy wardrobe: jeans (VEGA$!) and Armani suits, and a suitably tough line of patter right out of a million Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte action flicks. In fact, the whole premise of this show seems to have been lifted from Nolte’s 48 Hours, complete with Aries Spears doing his best Eddie Murphy imitation as Ziggy Duane, a young, mouthy (and black) former gangbanger out of South Central who ended up as Cody’s assistant.

Cody also had a secretary/receptionist/gal Friday in the guise of Gina, a young, pretty, aspiring actress, who’s convinced “men are pigs.” Together they made up the entire staff of The Beverly Hills Detective Agency, which was only technically in Beverly Hills–it’s on the town line, and, as one character remarks, they’re definitely “south of Sunset.”

In the show’s debut/pilot, Cody–as always hungry for bucks–has sunk to doing matrimonial work, and in another bit right out of 48 Hours, springs Ziggy from the hoosegow in an attempt to track down bigger prey, in this case a gang leader wanted for grand theft auto who’s jumped bail. Of course, middle-aged “ofay” Cody and would-be homeboy Ziggy don’t exactly get along, and the predictable sparks, allegedly comedic, allegedly fly, but deep down, they hold a–what else?–grudging respect for each other.

So, by the end of the episode, Cody decides to hire Ziggy as his assistant, claiming he’s “been looking for some sleaze bag to help (him) with the matrimonial work.” Ziggy jumps at the chance. And so we have the beginning of a beautiful friendship, between two men who “almost trust” each other.

Ziggy got off a few mildly amusing bits, and Frey managed to avoid embarrassing himself too much. And he wrote and performed “Call on Me,” the opening and closing themes, and they were pleasant, instantly forgettable Eaglesque ditties about being P.I.s. Not that any of it amounted to a hill of beans — the show was cancelled after one episode.

One episode.

And that episode didn’t even air in Los Angeles — it was pre-empted by live news coverage of wild fires in Malibu.

Scheduled against Home Improvements and featuring an almost totally unknown cast, and premiering well into the new season (CBS had waited until after the World Seriesto wrap up), the show never really had a chance. It ranked 85th in that week’s U.S. ratings, and scored a measly 6.1 Nielsen rating, at that time the lowest fall debut in major network history. Not since 1969 had a show been yanked after just one airing.

A year or so later, VH1 apparently got the rights to air the show (and a handful of the unaired episodes) for a week during an Eagles reunion.


    (1993, CBS)
    7 60-minute episodes; one aired
    Premiere: October 27, 1993
    7 60-minute episodes
    Created by John Byrum and Stan Rogow
    Writers: John Byrum, Stan Rogow
    Director: Andy Tennant
    Producer: Artie Mandelberg
    Executive Producers: John Romano, Stan Rogow, John Byrum
    Theme Song: “Call on Me” by Glenn Frey and Jack Tempchin
    Performed by Glenn Frey
    A Paramount Television Production
    Starring Glenn Frey as CODY McMAHON
    and Aries Spears as Ziggy Duane
    with Maria Pitillo as Gina
    Guest stars: Season Hubley, Nicholas Surovy, Monique Parent

    • “Satyricon” (October27,1993)
    • “Dream Girl” (unaired)
    • “Custody” (unaired)
    • “Family Affair” (unaired)
    • “Newspaper Boy” (unaired)
    • “Remember Me” (unaired)
    • “Chalk Lines” (unaired)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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