Created by Jay Tarses
“Speaking of crime terminology, what the hell do they mean by ‘forensics’? And what exactly is a ‘bunco squad’? Police talk, I hate it.”
Originally, Black Tie Affair, a 1993 thirteen-part summer mini series was supposed to be titled “Smouldering Lust,” but the powers-that-be at NBC chickened out. To add insult to injury, they scheduled the show in a the “death spot” of a late Saturday night time slot, and then premiered it over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Talk about dead in the water. Which is too bad, because this was an intelligent, tasteful, witty little show, was a real treat for fans of creator/producer/writer Jay Tarses, of Buffalo Bill and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd fame.
Young, flaky, reluctant Jewish private eye DAVE BRODSKY (played by Bradley “West Wing” Whitford) ran his part-time San Francisco detective agency out of his used record store. He only begrudgingly takes the occasional detective gig to keep the record store going. As Dave puts it, “I do insurance fraud, polaroids, and 33 1/3 LPs. Two things I don’t do? Compact disks and murder.”
Aiding and abetting the slacker sleuth in his used record emporium is the long-suffering Cookie (played by Maggie Hahn, who was great in Murphy’s Law. Guess what? She was great again). Besides putting up with Dave’s erratic business sense, she has to deal with the messes he gets into in his other line of work. And these are some considerable messes.
In the first episode, Dave is hired by Margot Cody (Kate Capshaw), a sexy, ambitious socialite who’s the real brains behind the very successful outdoor clothing catalogue business she runs with her husband, Chris (John Calvin). Seems she suspects ol’ Chris of playing footsie with one of the catalogue models, Eve Saskatchewan.
Guess what? He is.
But it soon turns out that that Dave and Margot aren’t above a little physical friction, either. Not that any of this bed hopping leaves anyone guilt-free. There’s enough neuroses bopping around in this thing to fill a Woody Allen retrospective weekend. And when a stiff (er, dead body) pops up in the darnedest place, things really get messy. Yet, when all about her are losing theirs, only the ever-faithful and level-headed Cookie seems to be capable of keeping her head.
But that’s only a guess.
Because the show was thrown into the no man’s land of television scheduling (late Saturday night) after being kept on a shelf for over six months, the show wasn’t even allowed to die a natural death. The plug was pulled after only four (or possibly five) episodes, so I have no idea how it all ends up.
Too bad. This show didn’t need to iron out any difficulties–it was good from the start; a slow-burn charmer. Dave’s voiceovers pointed gentle fun at private eye conventions, and it was certainly never meant to be taken too seriously. As People put it, it was “more Seinfeld than Sam Spade.”
Witty, fairly sosphisticated, mildly satiric, the show was definitely a class act. No wonder it was doomed.
WAIT! MAYBE IT DIDN’T DIE OF NATURAL CAUSES, AFTER ALL…
- “…all 13 episodes that were shot. Unfortunately, there was a major blunder during the first two days of shooting and a feud (erupted) between Jay Tarsus and NBC. This resulted in the show airing after the options on all of the primary characters’ contracts had expired, which meant there was no possible way to continue the series.
… the first two days of shooting were over exposed by about 2-3 f-stops. What this translated to was that the image was washed out and extremely bright. Since reshooting the first 2 days was not an option, the first 4 episodes (4 weeks of shooting) all had to be shot at the same exposure setting. I’m sure that this is the reason why NBC wanted to not even air the show, but I think that Jay took it personally.
— a crew member on IMDB.
- BLACK TIE AFFAIR
13 30-minute episodes; alas, only four (or was it five?) were aired
Premiered May 29, 1993
Created by Jay Tarses
Writers: Jay Tarses, Richard Dresser, Russ Woody
Directors: Jay Tarses, Lesli Linka Glatter
Produced by Richard Dresser
Supervising Producer: Elaine Arata
Executive Producer: Jay Tarses
Starring Bradley Whitford as DAVE BRODSKY
and Maggie Hahn as Cookie
Also starring Kate Capshaw, John Calvin, Allison Elliot
- A PI Television Episode Review: Black Tie Affair
On the other hand, Steve Lewis hated it. (July 2020, Mystery*File)