Claire McCarron (Leg Work)

Created by Frank Abatemarco

“Oh, they do respect her but
They love to watch her strut”
— Bob Seger

New York private eye CLAIRE McCARRON was of the few female private eyes to have her own show, and it was a helluva step up from Honey West and especially Charlie’s Angels, even if some wags felt that the title of the series, Leg Work, referred to actor Margaret Colin’s not entirely unattractive mini-skirted legs.

Which, of course, it did.

But even with the mini-skirts, I had no complaints–this was a great show, smart AND sexy. Claire was a young former district attorney turned private detective who had a real knack for tracking down people and information. She had a good rep, and could easily get away with charging guarantees results and charges $500 a day (plus expenses).

Which came in handy, because the lady had expensive tastes. She liked to dine out (she wasn’t much of a cook), and she drove a a silver Porsche Cabriolet, a dog named Clyde, and a swank downtown Manhattan apartment on 765 East 65th Street, full of rare of pre–World War II toys trains that had once belonged to her father.

She was regularly shown not just tracing skips, but wrapped up in meetings, phone calls, paperwork, interviews and, yes, doing a lot of actual “leg work,” bringing in a little more realism than typically displayed in the genre, particularly on television.

She was an appealingly-human character, a true professional who handled her cases with wit and intelligence.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t so hot at handling her personal life, particulary on the financial side. She was constantly broke, juggling creditors, her credit cards maxed out, and she often had to track down her own clients to get paid. And the Porsche, her pride and joy, was frequently in need of repair.

It was a good thing, then, that Claire had a close circle of friends to rely on, and unconditional support from her brother Fred McCarron, a member of New York’s Finest (in the public relations department). Her best friend was former fashion model Wilhelmina “Willie” Pipal, who had worked with Claire  in the DA’s office and was now one of its to prosecutors (played by Frances McDormand, later of Blood Simple and Fargo fame).

I really liked this show. It was well-written, for the most part, and treated the personal and professional trials and tribulations of a young investigator in a big city with savvy and grace. What it lacked in shootouts and car chases, it more than made up for in intelligent entertainment and some pretty quirky characters.

No wonder it flopped (with a handful of episodes never airing). Sometimes I wonder: did anyone see it but me?

And hey, I’ve gotta admit that, although she may not have been able to afford it, Claire  sure did look good getting out of that Porsche.

TELEVISION

  • LEG WORK
    (1987, CBS)
    10 60-minute episodes
    Created by Frank Abatemarco
    Producer: John Starke
    Executive Producer: Frank Abatemarco
    A Treasure Island Production in association with 20th Century Fox Television
    Starring Margaret Colin as CLAIRE McCARRON
    with Frances McDormand as Willie Pipal
    and Patrick James Clark as Lt. Fred McCarron
    Also starring Robert Dorfman, Sheri Montgomery
    Guest stars: Lisa Banes, Marisa Tomei, John Pankow, Angela Bassett

    • “Pilot” (October 3, 1987)
    • “Things That Go Bump in the Night” (October 10, 1987)
    • “The Best Couple I Know” (October 17, 1987)
    • “All This and a Gold Card Too” (October 24, 1987)
    • “Blind Trust” (October 31, 1987)
    • “The Art of Murder” (November 7, 1987)
    • “Mystery Woman” (unaired)
    • “Life Itself” (unaired)
    • “The American Dream” (unaired)
    • “Peaches” (unaired)

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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