Today I screened 6.18, "Out Of The Night", a Peggy-emphasis episode. There aren't too many episodes of MANNIX that don't feature Joe in just about every scene, but this is one. Typically when a star is de-emphasized for an episode, it's either because they directed the episode, or they were off filming another project. Mike Connors IMDb lists a BEG, BORROW, OR STEAL Telemovie in the same year as this episode aired (1973), so it's possible this episode was constructed to give him more time off.
Guest stars Leonard Stone, Paul Carr, and Oscar Beregi are all well represented in the Irwin Allen shows. Stanley Adams was famous for his turn as Cyrano Jones in STAR TREK's "The Trouble With Tribbles"; and both Beregi and Joyce Van Patten did memorable turns on THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Gail Fisher handles herself well as basically the lead in the episode. Through the device of bugging apparatus, we know that Joe is always close by, but we don't have to view him every minute.
As a record collector, I was fascinated to get a detailed look at the record store wall behind the clerk. It features a number of familiar looking 45s:
(Click picture to see larger version)
I blew it up -- and got "Popcorn" and "Don't ever be lonely." For some reason I think the cover on the RCA one might be familiar, but I can't quite read the title.
Oh, 45's. Stack up about ten or so and let that needle scratch that sound right into your ears! I wonder what happened to my collection...
That "Beg, Borrow or Steal" observation is interesting! I hadn't thought of that. I watched that movie of the week when it first aired -- my memory is that it had MC in a wheelchair, since everyone on the team of robbers was handicapped in some way. I just always had a hard time seeing MC as anything but Joe Mannix -- sheep herder, excepted, of course. In retrospect, I think his career was hurt because he tried to act in a wide variety of roles. For example, I've seen James Garner in a bunch of TV series and movies, and he always played the same character. The same is true of all sorts of "names" -- they just play the same guy, over and over, in different circumstances. But, MC tried to play bad guys, and different kinds of good guys. He fit Joe Mannix so well though -- it was tough to see him doing anything else.
I used to just think that they just tried to give Gail Fisher some more to work with on occasion, sort of as a reward for doing such a good job in otherwise limited airtime. For one thing, in an episode that really isn't dominated by MC, he is still in quite a few scenes. It isn't like he is just there in the set-up, and then the show is given over to GF.
But, you are absolutely right about that bug and the way they set up Joe as being there for her. I think that is brilliant, and just love it.
When I was a kid, I didn't really like that episode -- I wanted to see Joe, and felt cheated when I got too much Peggy, even though I love the two of them together. But, as an adult I can see how they set up scenes in this episode, and the other one GF was in quite a bit, s4's "The World Between" just brilliantly.
"Out of the Night" has three such scenes.
First, there is the scene where they have Joe standing by that record shop, and Peggy has to walk past him undercover, so that she does not acknowledge him. She does so in that great way they both inhabited those characters, with just enough recognition that you can still see Peggy in there recognizing Joe, but oh so subtly. That's one of those "moments" that gets to you when you love those characters. I know of no series where two such characters were able to pull off such consistency when they were pushed to extremes, and even when they were supposed to be playing someone else.
Second, there is the scene where Peggy goes to the cemetery to see flowers that she knows in an instant must have been put there by Joe. And, in that instant of recognition on her face, which moves quickly to the drama of the situation Peggy is in, you get to picture Joe finding out those flowers were needed, and hustling to go get the exact kind Peggy said were there. That scene was set up brilliantly by the two of them meeting in that same spot just a couple of scenes prior, or it would not have had such effect. That's one of those scenes where you see the closeness between these two the most when they are not together -- and, again, I know of few shows that could pull that off so well.
Third, there is the scene where Joe is caught, and held by the two thugs just inside the doorway. Peggy comes to see they have Joe. Notice the look on MC's eyes when he notices Peggy. He looks at her, then quickly looks down, looks away. He acknowledges her in that instant, and then conveys -- using only his eyes, nothing else -- that he recognizes the situation and he needs to make like he did not notice her. He has to pull off both -- with only his eyes -- conveying to the viewer both recognition of Peggy and that he recognizes the situation -- and he has to do so in almost an instant, or else the whole scene does not work. That's brilliant, really. Just slow down those DVDs and take a look at his eyes.
Next, in this same scene, we get to watch Peggy witness Joe getting slapped in the face and punched in the gut -- knowing he would never be in that situation if she hadn't wanted to go undercover in the first place. He is getting hurt like that for her, in essence. He is even caught because he was protecting her, behind the scenes. And notice how she kind of moves as if to take the punch when we hear him taking the punch.
These scenes, in the context of this episode, the plot, are just so small -- they almost go unnoticed. They went unnoticed for the kid in me. But they are simply superb. They convey the underlying heroism that was and is Mannix and do so in such an understated way that you almost don't notice it. But I know of no other show that can pull all of that off.
I wound up loving this episode for that reason, as an adult, getting to see those scenes on the DVDs. It makes you wonder how wonderful Mannix might have been if it was filmed in high-def, or with episodes that ran longer.
By the way, with respect to those bugs, I gotta wonder how well they actually worked in 1973. They would have needed some kind of amplification and multiple relays back to police headquarters. And, tiny batteries could not have lasted very long in those days either. But, hey, lots of movies and TV shows seemed to use them, so they must have been rooted in something practical.
It's been real fun here lately!