And instead of sitting at the computer typing away, I decided to watch that episode of MANNIX, Season 6's 21st episode, "Search For A Whisper." In addition to William Shatner, the episode featured two actresses noted for their turns in sci-fi-type shows.
Susan Flannery, who played Shatner's wife in this episode, had turns on a couple of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA episodes early on when females were still welcome on that show. And she had an important role in THE TIME TUNNEL's "The Day The Sky Fell In", that show's well-regarded Pearl Harbor episode.
Yvonne Craig was, of course, Batgirl on the Batman series, and also had a turn in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA in a first season episode that's somewhat infamous for its use of footage from Irwin Allen's THE LOST WORLD. Ms. Craig also showed up in green paint on a third season STAR TREK, "Whom God's Destroy." Stories I've read online suggest that Ms. Craig was rather annoyed at William Shatner's antics during the filming of that STAR TREK. One can only imagine her dismay at being cast in an episode of MANNIX that also featured Mr. Shatner - but luckily the two had no scenes together.
Also present in "Search For A Whisper" are some well-known character actors. Philip Pine appeared in just about everything including THE OUTER LIMITS, STAR TREK, THE FUGITIVE and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA in one of that show's finest hours. And Noam Pitlik's face is well known throughout television shows of the era as he guested on just about everything, from comedies to dramas.
And we get to see Albie again after a bunch of years, but this time he's played by yet another well-known character actor, Milton Selzer, whose resumé must be as long as Mr. Pitlik's.
Don't you just love the '70's lackadaisical attitudes regarding airport runways? Mannix just drives onto the tarmac to greet his client. No security - nothing. Those were the days...
But, you didn't tell us the most bizarre thing about this episode!
It is, almost line for line, the same exact script as "Skid Marks on a Dry Run" which is episode #002, production #003, of the entire series.
Yep, the show plagiarized itself, relying upon the low ratings for season 1, and thinking that people who watched season 1 would not remember this story five years later.
Why did they do this? Someone made mention of a writer's strike around that time. But, I really don't know why. Maybe someone else can shed some light?
What this winds up doing is a kind of rare thing. You get to see how the main character plays himself so differently, five years later, virtually the whole evolution of the series later. Well, sort of. This is kind of a thin script, not giving MC much to do, really. So he has only limited ability to do that. Maybe that is why they picked this script to plagiarize -- it is utterly un-memorable.
But, the head to head comparisons that exist are kind of interesting.
One is the poolroom scene. That one is almost worth playing back to back with the 1967 version. MC is more laid back, confident, less edgy. But the lines and scenes are utterly the same.
Another thing worth noting is that the 1967 version contains the scene where Joe punches the guy out that graces the opening of Mannix, the scene shot from multiple angles. They did not re-do that scene in the 1972-73 version, instead having Joe jump down from the balcony of the Paseo to get the bad guy. So, that got softened a bit.
But, they left the cringe-worthy line in there where Joe says, "They say every secretary is just a little bit in love with her boss."
That line was just fine when Joe said it in the context of his working for Intertect. But, what the heck was he doing saying that after Peggy worked for him for five years?
What he admitting something there???
And yes, this episode points out the whole Albie thing.
My memory may not be exact on this, and others can check me on this. But, I believe that, other than this episode, Albie appeared only in season 2, and was played by another actor then. Albie was mentioned in other seasons, when Joe would say something to Peggy like, "We can use Albie on this." Then, Albie would come up with something -- but you would never actually see him. After season 2, he became a kind of phantom presence.
I guess maybe the writers were originally uncertain of how they were going to build scripts with only Peggy out there when they used to have Lou and then maybe Parker or some other Intertect employee to act as foils for Joe. And maybe they also initially thought Peggy would not be a strong enough foil for Joe, so they brought in Albie.
Of course, that was quickly proved wrong, not only was GF great, but Robert Reed came in there and practically re-invented the whole concept of the "buddy cop," laying the foundation for other series as well as for Ward Wood -- and so Adam Tobias and Art Malcolm became the virtual regulars. All of that transitioned -- both the strength of Gail Fisher as well as the introduction of Robert Reed -- around the end of season 2, when Albie disappeared, probably not coincidentally. Of course, both Gail Fisher and Robert Reed were perfect in "The Sound of Darkness" -- taking Joe Mannix to the next level -- and the rest is history.
But, this Albie thing never went completely away.
So, with this script lying around that needed this third banana who was not a cop Buddy, they brought Albie back -- with a different actor -- just a one-shot kind of thing that no longer had anything like the original relationship in season 2.
That's because they didn't need it.
At this point MC grew into the character enough so that he didn't need a bumbling friend for comparison in order to look "larger than life."
In fact, that is one of the great things about this series. MC always had the guts to let his supporting cast not only grab scenes, but even make Joe Mannix look bad at times, with this type of guts starting in "In Need of a Friend" when he gives the scene over to Peggy and then again in "The Girl Who Came in With the Tide" when he gives the scene over to Adam Tobias.
All that did was make Joe look that much bigger, because MC could pull that off -- the beauty of that character was that he could look like the biggest guy in the room even when he was on the ropes. Hence, no need for the much cheaper plot device of placing Joe against a bumbling, lesser buddy in order to make himself look "larger" by comparison. Thus, Albie went away, and Joe went to take on classic, heroic themes instead -- putting himself on the line time and again.
But, this episode, weaker of plot and with the return of Albie, seems out of place -- because it is. It belongs to a different Mannix, before the series found out what it was all about.
Still, note one thing about it.
There is a point in this episode where Joe figures out his client is actually a bad guy. And, I don't recall there ever being mention of his being paid. Now, I could be wrong, and maybe he was paid up front. But, I don't think that normally happened.
But, I got to thinking about this -- and it is yet another thing that makes this series so special.
Joe's clients turn out to be bad guys quite a bit -- not all of the time, but it does happen. And, when he finds this out, he does not stop working to reveal the truth. He is under no obligation to do this, not from the law or certainly from any obligation to his client to put them in jail. A modern-day attitude is to work for the most money one can and, beyond that, simply stop -- certainly not risk anything just for the quaint sake of doing the right thing.
This attitude embodied by this character is a kind of spirit really -- one we often take for granted as still being there in our culture, still what we are all about. Only, spirit is really a matter of degree. We have more or less of that spirit, the more or less it is in our hearts and minds.
Right now, we have less -- this from a whole lot of firsthand experience and a lifetime of that.
I simply took for granted that Joe Mannix did the right thing in these situations, somehow doing the heroic kind of math done by someone who does have to be paid for a living, after all, but who finds that, after a certain point, something else matters more than money.
That decision point ultimately defines our very character -- and the fact that we both (a) need to make a living and (b) have the choice to put something else first is at the very heart of our culture.
That, and only that, is why we are built on the premise of freedom. We have the freedom to work against what seems immediate, towards something that means more to us, even as we (most of us) still have to work for a living, still have to survive.
Heroes are at the heart of making that work -- certain kinds of heroes.
And that -- that -- is a heroic decision.
It is not one this hero is forced into by life's circumstances and it is not puerile, thus unlike so many heroes cut out of a kind of Peter Pan mould.
But, if you think about it -- really take the time to think about it -- the stuff of heroes is right there. even in this relatively tame episode. He makes the calculation that his skills will bring him enough of a decent living, and beyond that, something matters more that simply accruing more and more.
And, the beauty of this is that he is a kind of free agent in this regard, not bound as tightly by the law as the police or even lawyers. He lives at the intersection of belonging to society -- needing a licence to practice and making a decent living -- and deciding that, beyond those things, something matters more -- his freedom to make the choice to follow his own sense of right and wrong, when the time comes for that -- and those times come for all of us.
People used to make that choice far better than they do now.