Television Anthology Series
The NBC Mystery Movie was a “wheel show”, airing several programs within the same period throughout the season. In its first season, 1971–72, it featured McCloud, McMillan & Wife and, most famously, Columbo, by far its more successful of the series, although each of the initial three lasted the entire run.
After that season’s initial success, the show was split in two, and became known as The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie and The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.
The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie only lasted a couple of seasons, but gave birth to Faraday and Company, Banacek, and Tenafly, with only Banacek lasting two seasons. Having failed to duplicate the success of the original Mystery Movie, NBC pulled the plug on the second night of mysteries all together.
In fact, except for the last season entry Quincy, M.E., which went on to spawn a successful weekly series that ran for several years, NBC could never quite clone the populairty of that original McCloud/McMillan & Wife/Columbo combo and they pulled the plug on the entire concept in 1977.
Still, right from the start this was a landmark series, introducing several notable detectives, as well as a handful of private eyes.
Not that the idea behind the show was forgotten. In 1989, Universal Television (which had produced the original NBC Mystery Movie, teamed up with ABC to revive the format with The ABC Mystery Movie. The network brought back Columbo, with Peter Falk returning in the title role, and added two new series:, Gideon Oliver, starring Louis Gossett, Jr. as a crime solving anthropologist, and B.L. Stryker, with Burt Reynolds as a South Florida private investigator. And NBC itself had another crack at it in 1993 with The NBC Friday Night Mystery.
- THE NBC MYSTERY MOVIE
(aka “The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie,” “The Wednesday Mystery Movie”)
Theme composed by Henry Mancini
The Wednesday Mystery Movie theme composed by Quincy Jones
Starring Dennis Weaver as a rural New Mexico cop “temporarily assigned” to the NYPD). Inspired by the Clint Eastwood 1968 film Coogan’s Bluff.
Starring Peter Falk as a stumbling, bumbling LA homicide detective, he of the shabby raincoat, who was actually always the smartest guy in the room. Particularly if the room contained a killer. After the demise of The NBC Mystery Movie, the show was continued on ABC from 1989 to 2003.
- McMILLAN & WIFE
Starring Rock Hudson as a San Francisco police commissioner, and Susan Saint James, his quirky, charming and impulsive wife. Clearly based on the old Thin Man movies, ut the rare example where the leads actually had chemistry and charisma.
- HEC RAMSEY
Starring Richard “Have Gun Will Travel” Boone as a frontier forensic detective in the Old West. Produced by Jack Webb.
Starring George Peppard as Thomas Banacek, possibly the world’s smuggest detective, a free-lance Polish-American insurance investigator in Boston.
- COOL MILLION
Starring James Farentino as an ex-CIA agent turned (very) high-priced troubleshooter.
The legendary Richard Widmark reprised his 1968 feature film role as a hard-boiled NYPD homicide dick. detective of the New York City Police Department.
- FARADAY & CO.
Starring veteran song-and-dance man Dan Dailey as a private detective who returns to Los Angeles after twenty-eight years in a South American jail.
Starring James McEachin as an African-American private detective and family man. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link.
- THE SNOOP SISTERS
Starring Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as two elderly sisters who routinely found mysteries which they solved.
- AMY PRENTISS
Starring Jessica Walter as the chief of detectives for the San Francisco Police Department. A spinoff of Ironside.
Starring Tony Curtis as a professional con-man/thief who scams criminals out of their ill-gotten gains. Roscoe Lee Browne played a nightclub comedian, who was part of his team.
- QUINCY, M.E.
Starring Jack Klugman as a medical examiner in the L.A. County Coroner’s office. Lasted only one season as part of The NBC Mystery Movie lineup, but was soon retooled into a one-hour weekly series that ran for seven more seasons, coming to an end in 1983. The show was created by Glen A. Larson and Lou Shaw.
- LANIGAN’S RABBI
Starring Art Carney as a small town police chief who depends on his best friend, Rabbi Small (played by Bruce Solomon), to help solve cases. Based on the books by Harry Kemelman. The successful pilot film, based on Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, the first novel in the series, aired in 1976, and had starred Stuart Margolin (yes, Angel from The Rockford Files, as the rabbi.
- How America Once Fell In Love With Mystery “Wheels”
Jefferson Pierce on The Name of the Game, The NBC Mystery Movie and more. May be worth reading just because of the photo of shit-eating grin of George Peppard as Banacek. (July 2020, CrimeReads)
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.