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Questions about series pilots from the 1960s & ‘70s (1 Viewer)

Vic Pardo

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I have box sets of Dragnet (1967-70), Ironside, Hawaii Five-O, Kung Fu and The Rockford Files that include the feature-length series pilots for each. The series pilots for Ironside, Kung Fu and The Rockford Files all premiered months before their respective series premiered. The Hawaii Five-O series pilot aired six days before the series premiered in Sept. 1968. Dragnet 1967’s series pilot, originally titled Dragnet 1966, didn’t air until 1969, well into the third season of the show. An NBC TV movie, Fame Is the Name of the Game, aired in 1966 and later spawned a TV series, The Name of the Game, that premiered in 1968.

Questions:

1) What other series from this time period (late ’60s to early ’70s) began with pilot films that aired as feature-length TV movies? Are any of these available as box sets with the series pilot included?

2) How many of these were made as TV movies and not as pilots and only later turned into TV series? How many of these were made as pilots designed to introduce the series?

3) Why were some shown months in advance of the series, while Hawaii Five-O was shown only six days earlier? The onscreen text introducing the H5-O pilot on the DVD says “The adventure film inspired the television series, which premiered 6 days later on September 26, 1968,” which makes no sense to me unless the pilot was indeed produced long before the series and not intended as a pilot and then delayed its broadcast premiere until the series was ready to air.

4) When the Dragnet series pilot finally aired in 1969, was it aired under a new title, Dragnet 1969? Or did it indeed run in 1969 as Dragnet 1966? Which strikes me as odd.

5) IMDB says this about the Dragnet 2-hour series pilot:
This tele-movie was to serve as the pilot episode of Dragnet 1967 (1967). However, it didn't air as originally planned, as Jack Webb decided to change the pace and tone of the series from this film. Webb finally decided to allow the pilot to air during the series 3rd year, in 1969.

Is this true?

Thanks.
 

FanCollector

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I think that in some cases, like Hawaii Five-O, the pilot was produced as a pilot, but the network wanted to use the movie to generate interest in close proximity to the premiere. It would have been done earlier but held back if the network decided to buy the show upon seeing the pilot and not waiting to see the response to the airing. McMillan and Wife worked similarly. The pilot movie aired 12 days before the series premiere. Part of the explanation was that in those days, the networks had tons of two-hour movie slots, and so they would put the pilot in one of them, rather than breaking up whole prime-time schedules during premiere week/month.

Columbo was a 1968 tv-movie not intended as a pilot at all. Then when the idea to make it a series resurfaced, NBC wanted another movie as a pilot, so they did a second one that aired six months before the show premiered. McCloud’s and Banacek’s pilot movies aired months earlier than the series premiere also. Other NBC Mystery Movie programs had pilot movies that aired the previous season, while some had pilots that aired shortly before the series premieres in September. If you’re interested, I can give you more details about those.

Apart from the Mystery Movies, Cannon, The Outsider, Longstreet, Hawkins, The Magician, Young Maverick, Matlock (I know that’s a later series than you’re discussing) and Ellery Queen had tv-movie pilots that aired the previous season. All were indeed planned as pilots. (There’s a funny story about Fred Silverman misunderstanding and thinking he was buying a pilot with ROBERT Conrad, not William. Don’t know if I believe it, but it’s a fun story.) Generally, the ones that aired much earlier were not necessarily greenlit to series before the airing, whereas the ones that aired days before had been bought upon receipt of the pilot, so the network wanted to maximize the audience draw value. Hart to Hart had a tv-movie pilot that aired a few weeks ahead of the premiere, as did The Law and Harry McGraw, so those shows sold before the pilots aired.

Kolchak famously originated in two tv-movies not intended as pilots that preceded the series by a year or two. Harry O had two tv-movie pilots also, both of which aired well ahead of the series. I do believe they were intended as pilots, though.

All of the pilots I have mentioned here are available with their series, or the first season thereof, on DVD except for: The Outsider, which is totally unavailable on DVD. The Law and Harry McGraw is only available from Australia. One of the Harry O pilots is included with the series and one is sold separately. The Kolchak tv-movies are only available separately from the series.

There are lots of other tv-movie pilots from the era; these were just the ones that sprang to mind. I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to your Dragnet question.
 

AndyMcKinney

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There were the three "Six Million Dollar Man" TV movies. I don't recall, but I'm pretty sure that the first one at least was just meant to be a "movie of the week".

Also, I think when "Battlestar Galactica" was being shot (possibly after the first movie was in the can), the idea was to be a mini-series of three 2-hour movies, then sometime late in production, the network decided it wanted a weekly series instead.
 

The Obsolete Man

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Basically, NBC and Universal came to Webb for a new two hour Dragnet movie, and it turned into a series. It was supposed to debut in the 1967-1968 season, but they needed a midseason replacement show as of yesterday, so Webb got something like three months to get Dragnet 1967 ready for a January premiere and the movie went on the shelf.

IIRC, the movie was just called "Dragnet", no '66 or '69 appended to the title, when it aired. Unofficially, though, it's Dragnet 1966 for those who like discussing the show.
 

Vic Pardo

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Thanks, gentlemen. Thanks for the reminder of NBC Mystery Movie, FanCollector. I'd forgotten about that series, even though I watched a lot of them in their first season. I don't think I've ever seen either of the Columbo pilot films, but I'd very much like to. And the Longstreet box set intrigues me because of the Bruce Lee connection. Never saw any of it when it was on. The Outsider intrigues me because I keep hearing good things about it. (Never saw it.) Here's hoping someone puts it out.

I just looked up the Longstreet set on Amazon and it's $29.99. Worth it?
What also comes up is The Immortal. That started with a TV movie also and I remember seeing it. Don't recall what I thought of it. That's comparably priced. Is it worth it?

Thanks.
 

Guy Foulard

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I just looked up the Longstreet set on Amazon and it's $29.99. Worth it?
What also comes up is The Immortal. That started with a TV movie also and I remember seeing it. Don't recall what I thought of it. That's comparably priced. Is it worth it?

Thanks.
The video quality is pretty so-so, and I don't think either series is a huge classic--but I bought them. ;)
One thing they have in common with each other: a complete change in supporting cast with the first proper episode.
 

Jack P

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"The Love Boat" had three different "pilots" of a sort in that there were three TV-movies the year before the series began. The first one had none of the future series cast members, the second one had Bernie Koppel and Fred Grandy I think, but only the third one "The New Love Boat" had the familiar cast locked in place (with Gavin MacLeod being introduced to everyone as the new captain in that one). CBS/Paramount only released the last of these in their DVD releases.

"The Rookies" still doesn't have its two hour pilot released on DVD even with the first two seasons released. That pilot had Darren McGavin instead of Gerald S. O'Laughlin.
 

John Karras

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Columbo was a 1968 tv-movie not intended as a pilot at all. Then when the idea to make it a series resurfaced, NBC wanted another movie as a pilot, so they did a second one that aired six months before the show premiered.
If you really want to see the birth of the Columbo character, it can be found as an episode of The Chevy Mystery Show titled "Enough Rope" aired 7/31/60 (NBC) with Bert Freed starring a Lt. Columbo.
 

Pathfiner

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Similar Gene Barry's Capt Amos Burke of 'Burke's Law' earlier appears played by Dick Powell as Lt. Burke in an episode of 'The Dick Powell Theatre'

Columbo's 1968 TV Movie was 'Prescription Murder' starring Peter Falk as a slightly less dishevelled Columbo (a bit more like Edward G. Robinson's persistant investigator figure in 'Double Indemnity' - which is shown on a TV in the second Columbo 'pilot' episode) with Guest Gene Barry as the killer Doctor Sawyer

Gene Barry was then about to begin doing 'The Name of The Game' TV series - which later had Peter Falk as a one off guest lead reporter in 'A Sister From Napoli'

'Fame is The Name of The Game' TV movie in 1966 starred Tony Franciosa as reporter 'Jeff Dillon' but other characters either slightly altered names ('Peggy Chan' later became 'Peggy Maxwell') or were revised - the elderly Glenn Howard (George Macready) was revised to the younger Gene Barry version for the later TV show - while Dillon works for 'Fame' magazine of Janus Publications in the 1966 pilot, but with 'People' magazine (several years before the real one first appeared) of Howard Publications in the 1968-71 TV show

the later series of 'Search' or 'Search; Control' which had Hugh O'Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa as alternating leads has it's pilot TV Movie 'Probe' starring Hugh O'Brian as 'Lockwood' - the pilot is out on DVD but it's not included in the TV version box set

'Western TV series 'Alias Smith and Jones' has it's pilot TV Movie just ahead of the first season while 'Laredo' earlier had debuted in an episode of 'The Virginian' titled; 'We Lost A Train' - 'The Virginian' himself (James Drury) first appears alone in a shorter b/w TV western around 1958 or 59 before the full color series began in 1962
 
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B-ROLL

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Don't ForGet Christie Love!
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Neil Brock

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The video quality is pretty so-so, and I don't think either series is a huge classic--but I bought them. ;)
One thing they have in common with each other: a complete change in supporting cast with the first proper episode.

I disagree. I think the quality of The Immortal is very good, although the DVD is hurt by VEI cramming too many episodes on each disc. After spending decades watching my AFN recordings from off beat to hell 16mm prints, its a great improvement.
 

Neil Brock

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Far too many to name, but a few off the top of my head:

Sarge: The Badge or the Cross (Sarge)
The Whole World is Watching and The Sound of Anger (Bold Ones: Lawyers)
A Clear and Present Danger (Bold Ones: Senator)
Deadlock (Bold Ones: Protectors)
Scalplock (Iron Horse)
A Pattern of Morality (Owen Marshall)
A Matter of Humanities (Marcus Welby)
The City (Man and the City)
Dial Hot Line (Matt Lincoln)
The Psychiatrist: God Bless the Children (The Psychiatrist)
San Francisco International (San Francisco International Airport)
Ironside
Tenafly
The Female Instinct (Snoop Sisters)
The D.A.: Murder One & The D.A.: Conspiracy to Kill (The D.A.)

Tons of others, but I don't have time now to list them all. Not to mention the fact that loads of TV movies were pilots which didn't sell.
 

Charles Ellis

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I remember the Medical Center TV-movie pilot that starred Richard Bradford instead of Chad Everett. Is it included in the Warner Archive first season set of the series?
 

Dan McW

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I remember the Medical Center TV-movie pilot that starred Richard Bradford instead of Chad Everett. Is it included in the Warner Archive first season set of the series?

Warner Archive released "Operation Heartbeat" with Bradford and Edward G. Robinson separately. I don't think it's included with the first-season set, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.
 

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