This is obviously an old series I started brushing up on in the last week or so. I’m only about six episodes in but I think I got the hang of it.
Peter Gunn, played by the late Craig Stevens (who mostly did television from the Incredible Hulk to Fantasy Island, etc) is a laid back, skinny-tie wearing, cool jazz appreciating, private eye with a quick trigger finger. He also tends to solve most of his problems with his fists, though, many of those problems basically require that assault. The last episode I watched was a curious one about a bald-headed cult leader dressed vaguely Asian, and I was curious as to weather it was an early allusion to our fascination with the Hindu gurus, but instead it was intended to be more Chinese. For some reason no East Asian enough actor was apparently white enough for America’s prime time, though Peter Gunn features many black and non-white Jazz personalities, so I’m not sure why this would be. It could be the intention was to be vague and not directly insult any particular group with the “cult” and it’s lack of identity. The episode is notable also for featuring Buddy Baer the massive younger brother of heavy-weight champ Max Baer (defeated by the Cinderella Man James Braddock) who often played giants in old movies.
Another favorite episode has a framed Jazz xylophonist imprisoned for the death of a pianist. Gunn’s discussion with him, while he finds cool sounds on the bars of the cell with his mallets, is artsy fun. What is revealed is that while the pianist was a solid technician he lacked the imagination to create his own tunes and caused upset by stealing his riffs and melodies.
The Noir style filming, heavy contrast black and white, along with many dame beauties, both damsel and femme-fatale, make this show a very enjoyable period piece. And no one can forget the fantastic theme music. A collaboration of Blake Edwards (known better for his outrageous comedies from Pink Panther to 10) and Mancini’s musical talents.
There is a shocking amount of shooting, bombing, and random killing in these old series. I remember revisiting Rat Patrol at some point years ago and realizing the almost Ilyad-like mercilessness of the war waged for entertainment. We still like our violence I’m just not sure it’s as popular as a television serial anymore.
Free on Prime if you’re ready to swing cool, daddy.