Originally Posted by filmklassik
"But, this really was new then -- especially for a series already about a combination of action and mystery."
Yeah, maybe it was new back then... or at least, practically new. I think THE FUGITIVE was known for blending suspense with literate, sharply-etched character stuff too, but I'm not 100% sure (Full disclosure: I've never actually watched the show, only the more action-oriented feature film).
Anyway, maybe the folks behind THE FUGITIVE did it great, like MANNIX did. But it's hard to imagine them doing it better.
The Fugitive did what it did very well, and the show also has a lot of fans on this site, deservedly so. It was certainly innovative in that the reason for tuning in had a lot to do with affinity for the central character.
It was also certainly about a hero who did a lot of good, even if he was in those situations in the first place because of a fate he did not want, not his own choice. Presumably, when the running stopped, so did the brand of heroism he became known for.
But, I'm not sure I would classify it as a mystery. It was about suspense and, to a certain extent, action.
But Mannix draws upon some combination of Sam Spade and James Bond -- the mystery and action were built right into the premise, with this Joe Mannix guy doing what he did by his own choice -- not the least bit reluctantly. That is essential to strong character, in my opinion.
And, his response to all of that was also unique -- he wasn't either Sam Spade nor James Bond, but something different, ultimately both emotional and more positive even as he was getting beaten up all of the time. That was where the genius came in. He was getting beaten up, shot, drugged, run off of cliffs -- and, not only was he not moody, but he asked for more! And you wound up liking the guy.
If you watch it enough, and just think about it, it all makes sense -- the way we self-evaluate really does boil down to the good we do on purpose and which also comes at a price. We are the best judges of our own character, and, when it all comes too easy or seems accidental, we don't quite reach the same level of self-evaluation as when we are comfortable that we let ourselves get hurt along the way because we realize that is a part of the process of leading a good life. That also leaves us far more comfortable getting hurt the next time -- which is a much better way to live life than pretty much any other.
The Fugitive wanted to find the one-armed man. Whatever good he did was as a by-product of his being where he was. Joe got up each day and seemed to welcome whatever came his way -- his sole purpose seemed to be engagement and doing good.
Beyond that Mannix always had multiple regular and semi-regular characters, even as the show was framed around a single hero. This is structurally important, because most people identify with the hero, but those other regular and semi-regular characters framed the hero for the viewer. Some of the best scenes in Mannix are in the context of what Joe was doing, viewed through the eyes of Peggy.
This notion of putting yourself into situations where you will likely get hurt due to being completely invested in doing good -- doing it on purpose, being stubborn in pursuit of doing the right thing -- that is the stuff of character. And, we used to be more about character than about owning all sorts of stuff -- just enough more to make a big difference to what we are as a society.
Character is the only thing that outlasts all manner of situations -- that is why strong characters in TV are so powerful to us, because we see them in situation after situation. They reveal character to us better than any other means.
If you've followed this site, you know that people get very defensive about their heroes. That makes perfect sense -- and just re-enforces how much they matter to us in the first place -- more than we probably realize.
Presuming they are not all created equal, we really should pay more attention to them than we do.
BTW, one reason for all of the writing on this thread was because Mannix was not getting nearly the attention of shows like Rockford, The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii-Five O, etc... It was virtually lost before that Washington Post article in 2007, and its releases even stalled at one point -- and that started me to thinking about why since I know Mannix was very popular in its first run (it was also always touted for the number of countries it was shown in first-run -- over 70)... even as I so wanted to see it all again.
And so, I can't thank you enough for your wonderful comments about Mannix.