Wednesday, June 05, 2013

It's always a gas watching television programs that were produced before the Great Emasculation of the seventies, and BOURBON STREET BEAT's no exception. Part of the ABC prime time lineup from back when the perennial third-rate network was trying to climb outta the gutters with the help of Warner Brothers, BOURBON STREET BEAT didn't help 'em out too much being but a one-season wonder but the shows they left (at least evidenced by the ones appearing on a disque sent courtesy Bill Shute) were certainly top notch settle down entertainment for the era.

Basically part of the same WB formula as their other detective seriess such as HAWAIIAN EYE, 77 SUNSET STRIP, THE ROARING TWENTIES and of course that hunka hunk winner SURFSIDE SIX, BOURBON STREET BEAT took place in the typically exotic (but kinda rundown-looking if you ask me) locale of New Orleans and basically featured a carbon-copy patented Warner Brothers detective show cast with Andrew Duggan as the older and perhaps more wizened Cal Calhoun and Richard Long as his good looking and younger partner Rex Randolph. Van Williams as Kenny Madison was clearly the Kookie of this batch while Arlene Howell as secretary Melody Lee Mercer was basically Jacqueline Beer without the French accent or switchboard for that matter.

However while the other WB private eye series were comparatively light and cookie-cutter fluffy in comparison with the competition BOURBON STREET BEAT was noticeably heavy. Maybe Warners was trying to cop a Deep South grit to the show without too much of a humorous and lighthearted outlook. Maybe these earlier shows were just tough by nature and, after becoming successful, Warners decided on a more teenybop approach to their dramas. But whatever, this series really lives up to its reputation amongst "real" GOLDEN AGE tee-vee freaks (1958 to 1967 and don't let anybody tell you different!) even though very few tried and true aficionados of the form have had the opportunity to cop this 'un the way ANDY GRIFFITH or I LOVE LUCY have been drilled into our skulls for years on end.

In all, a straightforward and even violent enough series that probably would have gone the teen idol route had it stayed on. At least stars Long and Williams (yeah, the future Green Hornet as I've repeatedly tried pummeling into your brains!) were able to cop roles on STRIP and SURFSIDE respectively (playing their original BOURBON STREET characters too!) once this 'un got the ax.

Tee-vee fanatics will want to eyeball this for a glimpse or two of their favorite once and future stars, including Mary Tyler Moore (as "Mary Moore") in her pre-lift days back when her terminal cutsiness wasn't quite evident. Another big surprise will be the presence of black people in the series which I guess was something that hadda've been dealt with considering the locale. One of 'em who briefly appears happened to be none other than Spencer "Andy Brown" Williams himself as a butler, a mighty comedown for a guy who only seven years earlier was front and center with his own series but was reduced to minuscule roles such as this. Well, at least he was working, but as a butler? Too bad they couldn't have him driving a cab like in the old days which really would have brought a whole lotta old-timey tee-vee memories closer to our hearts!

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