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JoeDoakes

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Nice find! Why did they replace Stephen Brooks with William Reynolds? Salary issues?
I just started with Season 1. I've wondered about that myself. I thought he had a good bit of screen presence and charisma. He appears to have largely disappeared from Hollywood by the end of the 60s. I'm going to buy the book I think.
 

Desslar

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I just started with Season 1. I've wondered about that myself. I thought he had a good bit of screen presence and charisma. He appears to have largely disappeared from Hollywood by the end of the 60s. I'm going to buy the book I think.
Perhaps he had health issues. At the start of the first season they're building him up to be the future husband of Zimbalist Jr's daughter, but this doesn't seem to come up later on.
 

ponset

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Good Question Desslar. I don't know why Brooks was replaced.

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JoeDoakes

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Good Question Desslar. I don't know why Brooks was replaced.

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I just watch the season 2 episode The Ordeal. Brooks acting was excellent. He had terrific screen presence. As far as I can guess, he could have had a long Hollywood career unless (1) he met an heiress who diverted him; or (2) there was some off screen drama that doomed him. He was really talented regardless
 

Jack P

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There is 900 page book on the show (unfortunately not available in a Kindle format) and even that book can't find an explanation for why Brooks left the show. He never gave any interviews on the subject and no one reported it in depth at the time. The only thing the book scrounged up was a letter to a TV critic in one newspaper 1967 asking what happened to Brooks and the answer given was something about "enlisting in the Army" which makes no sense since Brooks continued to act in guest shots on other shows the following season (including his "Star Trek" appearance).

The book does explain that Martin's decision to drop Lynn Loring and the other elements meant to humanize Erskine more came about because of the reaction he was getting from the fans who didn't want to see Erskine and the FBI people as having domestic problems of their own, but that they wanted to see them as the perfect dispensers of justice. He felt he was reacting to what the audiences of the time wanted and much as I liked the elements that humanized the character more, it certainly didn't hurt the show given how long it then ran.
 

Desslar

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There is 900 page book on the show (unfortunately not available in a Kindle format) and even that book can't find an explanation for why Brooks left the show. He never gave any interviews on the subject and no one reported it in depth at the time. The only thing the book scrounged up was a letter to a TV critic in one newspaper 1967 asking what happened to Brooks and the answer given was something about "enlisting in the Army" which makes no sense since Brooks continued to act in guest shots on other shows the following season (including his "Star Trek" appearance).

The book does explain that Martin's decision to drop Lynn Loring and the other elements meant to humanize Erskine more came about because of the reaction he was getting from the fans who didn't want to see Erskine and the FBI people as having domestic problems of their own, but that they wanted to see them as the perfect dispensers of justice. He felt he was reacting to what the audiences of the time wanted and much as I liked the elements that humanized the character more, it certainly didn't hurt the show given how long it then ran.
Thanks for the insights! I have very mixed feelings about the decision to downplay the Erskine character. On the one hand, this allows for deeper focus on the villains and victims, and they are typically terrific guest stars giving great performances. Recently saw episodes featuring Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall - amazing!

But on the other hand, they don't give Erskine and his colleagues anything to do except pop up once in a while to read off a couple lines of exposition about the state of the investigation, and then run/drive around and fire a couple shots in the final minute. Their dialogue is so dry and devoid of character that I am surprised Zimbalist Jr did not fall asleep in mid-sentence. It's a real waste of his talents. 77 Sunset Strip showed he's got charisma to spare - they should have let him use it on The FBI past the first season.
 

Jack P

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Yeah, I have to admit that it would have been nice if the show had found a better blend. I think early on, Martin erred in thinking that Erskine's domestic situation could be an equal part of the storytelling which is why initially he had the element of his daughter being engaged to Rhodes, which he objected to because he didn't want his daughter to marry an FBI man etc. He should have dialed it back so that maybe we could have seen Erskine's daughter pop up once or twice a year as an occasional glimpse at what kind of man Erskine was (in the same way that Darleen Carr was only a once or twice a year presence as Karl Malden's daughter on "Streets Of San Francisco") and if it had been like that, I think audiences would have bought it. I'd note that one other problem he had at the outset was that Zimbalist wasn't keen on playing a character with a young adult daughter (even though his oldest daughter from his first marriage was the same age; Stephanie Zimbalist by contrast was just nine) and had to be talked into accepting the premise so that may have also weighed on Martin's decision to drop the elements once he got early feedback from audience mail that they didn't like those elements. Still, it would have at least helped to have just a throwaway line once in a while to acknowledge that yes, Erskine still has a daughter somewhere who we just don't see any longer and not make us think she became a Chuck Cunningham forerunner!

Philip Abbott's character I think suffered the most because as the years went by his participation basically amounted to just one scene of rattling off exposition over the phone and that was it. The book indicates that initially around S3 or so Abbott was annoyed with how much his role was being cut back but eventually he came to accept it when they gave him episode directing assignments and as the years went on he found that the steady paycheck for less actual work freed him up to do more area theater projects. William Reynolds likewise, when he came aboard had no qualm with the limitations of his character because he'd been struggling with getting parts for two years prior (he said when he turned down doing the lead in a pilot project, producers suddenly stopped calling him) and had just gotten his real estate license when Martin offered him the part without having to audition, and he also felt over time that the show lasted much longer because it was devoid of soap opera gimmicks for the leads.

From a storytelling standpoint though, I think there is a "jump-the-shark" element that kicks in sometime around Season 5 and is in full bloom by Season 6. Owing to pressure group concerns over violence on TV, you will notice that by then NO ONE ever gets fatally shot or dies in an episode. In fact you can have a drinking game by that point when Erskine or someone will give a variant on the line, "He lost a lot of blood but he'll make it" if it's a guard shot or something like that, and after awhile this really gets tiresome, It also has the ripple effect of meaning we don't get episodes about actual murderers any longer (unless they're established as maybe someone who committed a murder before the episode starts to unfold) and IMO this robs the show of one of its vital areas of storytelling. After awhile it really starts to get boring in the later seasons when the villain schemes are less interesting in order to meet the demands of the "less violence" edict that Martin was following for this show (which didn't apply to his other shows during this time. I have to read more of the book to find if the Bureau might have influenced this) that its easy for me to understand why a show like "Hawaii Five-O" come the 70s seemed fresher. If the show had to be less violent then IMO the show should have started to become more "process" oriented like we saw in some of the earlier episodes by showing things like the lab work etc. and a little more pondering things out (maybe even having a couple episodes where we don't know who the guilty party is until the climax. There was one episode around S8-9 I think that did this and it was a nice change of pace)
 

Desslar

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Yeah, I have to admit that it would have been nice if the show had found a better blend. I think early on, Martin erred in thinking that Erskine's domestic situation could be an equal part of the storytelling which is why initially he had the element of his daughter being engaged to Rhodes, which he objected to because he didn't want his daughter to marry an FBI man etc. He should have dialed it back so that maybe we could have seen Erskine's daughter pop up once or twice a year as an occasional glimpse at what kind of man Erskine was (in the same way that Darleen Carr was only a once or twice a year presence as Karl Malden's daughter on "Streets Of San Francisco") and if it had been like that, I think audiences would have bought it. I'd note that one other problem he had at the outset was that Zimbalist wasn't keen on playing a character with a young adult daughter (even though his oldest daughter from his first marriage was the same age; Stephanie Zimbalist by contrast was just nine) and had to be talked into accepting the premise so that may have also weighed on Martin's decision to drop the elements once he got early feedback from audience mail that they didn't like those elements. Still, it would have at least helped to have just a throwaway line once in a while to acknowledge that yes, Erskine still has a daughter somewhere who we just don't see any longer and not make us think she became a Chuck Cunningham forerunner!

Philip Abbott's character I think suffered the most because as the years went by his participation basically amounted to just one scene of rattling off exposition over the phone and that was it. The book indicates that initially around S3 or so Abbott was annoyed with how much his role was being cut back but eventually he came to accept it when they gave him episode directing assignments and as the years went on he found that the steady paycheck for less actual work freed him up to do more area theater projects. William Reynolds likewise, when he came aboard had no qualm with the limitations of his character because he'd been struggling with getting parts for two years prior (he said when he turned down doing the lead in a pilot project, producers suddenly stopped calling him) and had just gotten his real estate license when Martin offered him the part without having to audition, and he also felt over time that the show lasted much longer because it was devoid of soap opera gimmicks for the leads.

From a storytelling standpoint though, I think there is a "jump-the-shark" element that kicks in sometime around Season 5 and is in full bloom by Season 6. Owing to pressure group concerns over violence on TV, you will notice that by then NO ONE ever gets fatally shot or dies in an episode. In fact you can have a drinking game by that point when Erskine or someone will give a variant on the line, "He lost a lot of blood but he'll make it" if it's a guard shot or something like that, and after awhile this really gets tiresome, It also has the ripple effect of meaning we don't get episodes about actual murderers any longer (unless they're established as maybe someone who committed a murder before the episode starts to unfold) and IMO this robs the show of one of its vital areas of storytelling. After awhile it really starts to get boring in the later seasons when the villain schemes are less interesting in order to meet the demands of the "less violence" edict that Martin was following for this show (which didn't apply to his other shows during this time. I have to read more of the book to find if the Bureau might have influenced this) that its easy for me to understand why a show like "Hawaii Five-O" come the 70s seemed fresher. If the show had to be less violent then IMO the show should have started to become more "process" oriented like we saw in some of the earlier episodes by showing things like the lab work etc. and a little more pondering things out (maybe even having a couple episodes where we don't know who the guilty party is until the climax. There was one episode around S8-9 I think that did this and it was a nice change of pace)

Thanks for the detailed analysis! I do appreciate the deep dives the show does on the villain and victim characters, and some plot twists that are a little less predictable than similar shows of the era. And as mentioned the guest star casting is amazing.

I am only up to Season 5 so I haven't really noticed the difference in violence level yet. The episode I just watched featured someone dying in a falling elevator, which seemed a fairly violent way to go.

Concerning the FBI "leads" (using the term loosely as they are barely supporting players after season 1), I think what I want is not so much private life soap opera stuff - I think some modern crime shows are so burdened with character issues that they nearly forget there's a crime to solve - but just more expressiveness and charisma from Erskine and company. Some snappy repartee if you will - the kind you might hear from Jim Rockford.

Maybe some producer thought season 1 Erskine was too close to his 77 Sunset Strip persona, and wanted to make The FBI more serious business.
 
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Jack P

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Yeah, I think Season 6 is where the "no one gets killed no matter how badly shot or left for dead they are" element really starts to kick in (and no more are suspects killed in final shootouts by then. Marvin Miller will always tell us that they "recovered from their wounds" etc.)

The problem with the idea of "snappy repartee" though is that I have a feeling with an FBI liaison on the set constantly and all the care that went in to making sure that Zimbalist, Reynolds etc. held their guns properly and never looked disheveled etc. they would have gotten some blowback about how agents are always no-nonsense on the job.
 

Lecagr

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I just watch the season 2 episode The Ordeal. Brooks acting was excellent. He had terrific screen presence. As far as I can guess, he could have had a long Hollywood career unless (1) he met an heiress who diverted him; or (2) there was some off screen drama that doomed him. He was really talented regardless
It's indeed a mystery as to why Stephen Brooks left The FBI series. Sometimes I wonder if there was a salary dispute, between the 2nd and 3rd seasons maybe he requested more money but was rejected and then replaced. I don't know what really happened, just guessing.

Discussing the later seasons of the series, for the most part the stories are still good but I agree the violence gets toned down a bit.
 

Jack P

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A couple other things I picked up from the book as I skimmed through to the finish.

Reynolds was indeed fired from the show outright because of the decision that the show which had taken a hit in the ratings in S8 needed to trend "young" in S9. He said he was very upset that he found this out from his agent and that he didn't hear a word from Quinn Martin about it. The reason why Reynolds did the two episodes in S9 is because he still had a year left on his contract and was being paid for the season anyway, and because he wasn't finding additional acting work when they offered him the two scripts to come back, he said yes just so he could work, but he also said they weren't happy experiences because he felt he was basically playing one of the typical Guest SAC people and not getting a chance to show the same nuance he felt he'd worked hard on playing Colby all those seasons.

The book also says that Martin had prepared a memo in early 1974 suggesting that if the show had made it a 10th season he was considering the possibility of changing the format further by promoting Erskine and having him delegate the authority to a newer team of agents (the S9 episode with Mary Frann as an agent might have been an unofficial backdoor pilot for a S10 template). Nothing came of this because of the show's cancellation, but it again shows that the execs felt things needed to be shaken up further if it was to be continued (Though Reynolds argues that the reason for the bigger ratings drop in S9 after all the changes were made was because the existing audience was now tuning out because the show wasn't in its familiar comfort zone any longer).
 

Desslar

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It's indeed a mystery as to why Stephen Brooks left The FBI series. Sometimes I wonder if there was a salary dispute, between the 2nd and 3rd seasons maybe he requested more money but was rejected and then replaced. I don't know what really happened, just guessing.
A salary dispute seems likely, if it wasn't illness. Also, it seems to me that the first season sets up his character as if he may eventually succeed Erskine as the star agent, but that clearly did not happen. So he may have been frustrated over eternally playing second fiddle.

The book also says that Martin had prepared a memo in early 1974 suggesting that if the show had made it a 10th season he was considering the possibility of changing the format further by promoting Erskine and having him delegate the authority to a newer team of agents (the S9 episode with Mary Frann as an agent might have been an unofficial backdoor pilot for a S10 template). Nothing came of this because of the show's cancellation, but it again shows that the execs felt things needed to be shaken up further if it was to be continued (Though Reynolds argues that the reason for the bigger ratings drop in S9 after all the changes were made was because the existing audience was now tuning out because the show wasn't in its familiar comfort zone any longer).

Thanks for your research! I think by the mid-70s the show was too out of step with the times to be viable. The personality-free robotically efficient approach to heroes that The FBI, Mission Impossible, and Hawaii Five-O made popular (for whatever reason) in the 60s had by the mid-70s been superseded by heroes with colorful, larger than life personalities like Columbo, Kojak, and Rockford. Hence the cancellations of The FBI and Mission Impossible do not surprise me.

It is curious that Hawaii Five-O managed to linger on until the end of the 70s despite the changing TV landscape. Perhaps the exotic Hawaii locale was enough to hold on to viewers, or perhaps CBS wanted to keep their Hawaii studio in operation, but hadn't yet cooked up a successor series. So they let Five-O run a few more seasons to keep everyone working until they could switch over to Magnum PI.
 
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Lecagr

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Would have been interesting to see a 10th season of The FBI if the series had continued. Season 9 has 23 episodes which is an odd number so I wonder if maybe a 24th episode was scripted but not filmed. Same goes for season 2, 29 episodes instead of 30, and season 3, 27 episodes instead of 28.

One thing that I've noticed, and this pretty much goes for most of the police/detective shows from that era, starting with the 1972-73 season, episodes begin with the opening credits instead of a scene to begin the episode prior to the opening credits. I would have preferred that this change not have been made, I think episodes are more effective when they begin with an opening scene, then followed by the opening credits.
 
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Jack P

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It is curious that Hawaii Five-O managed to linger on until the end of the 70s despite the changing TV landscape. Perhaps the exotic Hawaii locale was enough to hold on to viewers, or perhaps CBS wanted to keep their Hawaii studio in operation, but hadn't yet cooked up a successor series. So they let Five-O run a few more seasons to keep everyone working until they could switch over to Magnum PI.
Five-O continued to do quite well in the ratings throughout the 70s and also the consensus is that the show hits its peak during the middle of its runs from 72-75. One thing Five-O did that "The FBI" never could was showcase bad guys from *within* the Establishment. Five-O reacted to Watergate in the mid-70s with stories where the bad guy was a crooked tax man, a crooked documents expert etc. the kind of characters who in the late 60s would never be the bad guys in a new story. Also, because it was about a fictional agency it had the flexibility to not be bound by one type of format and could run the gamut from caper show to espionage to serial killer to sex crime without missing a beat. It was capable of adjusting to the times a lot more than "The FBI" could IMO.
 

Desslar

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Five-O continued to do quite well in the ratings throughout the 70s and also the consensus is that the show hits its peak during the middle of its runs from 72-75. One thing Five-O did that "The FBI" never could was showcase bad guys from *within* the Establishment. Five-O reacted to Watergate in the mid-70s with stories where the bad guy was a crooked tax man, a crooked documents expert etc. the kind of characters who in the late 60s would never be the bad guys in a new story. Also, because it was about a fictional agency it had the flexibility to not be bound by one type of format and could run the gamut from caper show to espionage to serial killer to sex crime without missing a beat. It was capable of adjusting to the times a lot more than "The FBI" could IMO.
I was going to say that one advantage Five-O had over The FBI was that it had recurring villains and some continuity. On the other hand, my understanding is most of the regular cast got tired of Lord's iron fist and left the show a few seasons before it ended. So presumably ratings tanked near the end.
 

Lecagr

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Watched two episodes of The FBI last night from the season 8 DVD set, episodes were Sweet Evil and Memory Of A Legend. From a script/story perspective, Memory Of A Legend was the more interesting of the two, but Sweet Evil has the added bonus of casting the always good looking Jo Ann Harris as a guest star, so both episodes proved to be enjoyable.

In the episode Memory Of A Legend, Geoffrey Deuel is cast as a guest star, he also appears in the Mannix episode Eagles Sometimes Can't Fly, and in both episodes he ends up taking a gunshot to the abdomen area.
 

OttoIsHere

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In re to Stephen Brooks:

I remembered reading something in the Marc Cushman book "These Are The Voyages, Season 2" so I looked that up, and there was a quote attributed to Stephen Brooks (as to why he left The F.B.I.) in the chapter about the making of the episode "Obsession" where Mr. Brooks was a guest star. Unfortunately the quote was edited and also misused, as it was from a TV Guide story published in July 1966 but of course Mr. Brooks left the show after Season 2 of The F.B.I. was completed in 1967. Also note I know there have been a lot of issues with the Cushman books, so I dug a little further.

I found a scan of the TV Guide on the internet archive (from July 23, 1966) and this is the quote that gives some insight as to how the 23-year old actor was feeling at the time:

“Acting is just playing cops and
robbers—it’s basically childish. But
there is still something difficult about
putting one foot in front of the other
when you're on stage or before a
camera. Actors who sit around talking
about their craft all the time bore
me. I avoided them in New York.
I’d sit on the river bank reading a
magazine and sunning myself—getting
ahead in my chosen field.

“I go out of my way not to be
actorish—I try to avoid that syndrome.
But if I’m ever a star, I want to be a
star star. I don’t want to fall into the
TV trap and go from one series to
another. Still I’d like to be an actor
more than a movie star. But nowadays
I seem to spend a lot of time just
following Efrem through doorways or
else trying to remember to keep my
hands out of my pockets like a good
FBI man.”


So he sounds a bit disgruntled after Season One was completed. Perhaps after Season Two he just wanted to move on as he probably knew his role (following Efrem through doorways and keeping his hands out of his pockets) was not going to get more interesting moving forward.

According to his IMDB page, he did keep acting and did another prime-time series a few years later (The Interns, which only lasted one season 1970-1971) but it looks he called quits as a 40-year old (after doing a bunch of Days of Our Lives episodes in 1980-1981), never reaching that "star star" level he was seeking as a 23-year old.

FYI: Attachment is a copy of the TV Guide "dossier" from 07/23/66.
 

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Wiseguy

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Would have been interesting to see a 10th season of The FBI if the series had continued. Season 9 has 23 episodes which is an odd number so I wonder if maybe a 24th episode was scripted but not filmed. Same goes for season 2, 29 episodes instead of 30, and season 3, 27 episodes instead of 28.

One thing that I've noticed, and this pretty much goes for most of the police/detective shows from that era, starting with the 1972-73 season, episodes begin with the opening credits instead of a scene to begin the episode prior to the opening credits. I would have preferred that this change not have been made, I think episodes are more effective when they begin with an opening scene, then followed by the opening credits.
I don't know about other networks but CBS had been getting complaints that their teasers were too violent (especially on Mannix) so in 1972 all teasers were eliminated from hour crime series. This included Mission: Impossible, Cannon, Mannix, Gunsmoke and Hawaii Five-0 (always with a zero).
CBS brought back teasers in 1976 but as 30-second previews rather than full scenes.
 

Desslar

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I don't know about other networks but CBS had been getting complaints that their teasers were too violent (especially on Mannix) so in 1972 all teasers were eliminated from hour crime series. This included Mission: Impossible, Cannon, Mannix, Gunsmoke and Hawaii Five-0 (always with a zero).
CBS brought back teasers in 1976 but as 30-second previews rather than full scenes.
Though not CBS, Rockford Files had teasers I believe.
 

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