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Written By:

Alan Boon
Four in One, 1970

Ah, telephemera… those shows whose stay with us was tantalisingly brief, snatched away before their time, and sometimes with good cause. They hit the schedules alongside established shows, hoping for a long run, but it’s not always to be, and for every Street Hawk there’s two Manimals. But here at STARBURST we celebrate their existence and mourn their departure, drilling down into the new season’s entertainment with equal opportunities square eyes… these are The Telephemera Years!


The arrival of a new decade brought with it some significant changes in the network television schedules. The Fall 1970 season was the final time viewers could sit down to enjoy The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan’s Heroes, and Green Acres, all staples of CBS’s 1960s line-up, with The Newlywed Game and High Chapparal also saying their goodbyes as the year went on. Still, Here’s Lucy ensured that Lucille Ball was still a constant in American homes, while Ironside, Gunsmoke, and Marcus Welby MD all had strong showings in the year-end ratings.

New shows arriving on the scene that would leave a lasting impact included The Odd Couple, The Partridge Family, and Monday Night Football on ABC, The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS, and the debut of a new Black comedy star on NBC in The Flip Wilson Show. There were slim pickings for fans of genre television but at least Alias Smith and Jones and The Young Rebels upped the action quota across the week. Those were all shows that found an audience, though; what about those that didn’t? This is the story of four more lesser remembered shows…

The Immortal (ABC): Based on a novel by (not that) James Gunn, The Immortal starred Christopher George – fresh off Dirty Dozen cash-in The Devil’s 8 – as Ben Richards, a race car driver who discovers the reason for his youthful looks and strong constitution: he is immortal! When his secret is revealed after a blood transfusion saves his wealthy boss’s life, Richards goes on the run, determined to avoid being literally liquidated as an asset.

The show was developed from Gunn’s story by Robert Specht, who would later find fame as the writer of Tisha: Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness but at this point was a jobbing scriptwriter, with credits for The Outer Limits and My Three Sons. Producer Howie Horowitz had worked on Batman but brought a different sensibility to this show, which quickly developed into a “wandering the Earth” affair.

The Immortal, 1970

The big bad in the pilot was billionaire Jordan Braddock but actor Barry Sullivan did not return for the series and so Braddock was killed off between episodes. In his place, another evil rich man (the first word is probably redundant there) – David Brian’s Arthur Maitland – hires bounty hunter Fletcher to track Richards down, eager to sell his blood to the highest bidders.

The Immortal began its run on Thursday nights, opposite The CBS Thursday Night Movies and The Dean Martin Show, and while ratings were not terrible they left a little something to be desired. After Christmas, a move to Wednesdays – where it was up against Hawaii Five-O – proved disastrous and the show was cancelled with its fifteenth episode, shorn of a proper finale. Maybe Ben Richards is still out there, a Fugitive well into his nineties?

Storefront Lawyers (CBS): Tired of taking rich people’s money, David Hansen quits his law firm to start up on his own, a non-profit outfit serving the people of Century City, California. Enlisting his former colleagues Deborah Sullivan and Gabriel Kaye (as well as a law student Roberto Alvarez), their new firm took cases involving domestic abuse, affirmative action, illiteracy, and outright poverty, a world away from their former life.

Stage actor Robert Foxworth – who one day would turn down the role of JR Ewing before Larry Hagman was cast – made his TV debut as Hansen, backed by Sheila Larken and David Arkin, two other relative unknowns. The case of the week format allowed for plenty of guest stars, with Anne Archer, Edward Andrews, William Conrad, Barry Morse, and a young Kurt Russell among those either in or causing trouble for the lawyers to solve.

Storefront Lawyers, 1970

Creator David Karp, who’d written for The Untouchables and The Defenders, envisaged a different kind of legal show and the early episodes were certainly a wild ride, but network pressure saw the three lawyers return to their old firm with episode fourteen, in order that they could take rich clients, too. This watered things down somewhat, but the final nine episodes still saw their share of bleeding-heart causes.

Storefront Lawyers ran its full run of twenty-three episodes but was not renewed for a second season. Karp came back two years later with Hawkins, a rural legal drama starring James Stewart that was cancelled after just eight episodes because Stewart didn’t think it was much good. He finished his career writing the odd episode for shows like Hunter, Nero Wolfe, and Quincy, ME, his final credit coming on – yes – legal drama The Mississippi in 1983.

Dan August (ABC): By the end of the 1960s, Burt Reynolds’s star was still on the rise but at nowhere near the pace it looked it might acquire early on in his career. In 1962, he’d replaced Dennis Weaver in Gunsmoke, beating over three-hundred other actors to claim the role, only leaving after three years when he realised he’d never eclipse James Arness as the star of the show.

Eager to cash in on a bankable star, ABC created Hawk for the actor, where he played a Native American detective, but the show was cancelled after just seventeen episodes due to low ratings. After a series of misfires, supporting movie roles, and turning down a role in M*A*S*H, he needed something to kickstart his career once more and the offer of $15,000 an episode from producer Quinn Martin was too good to reject. Reynolds was now Dan August.

Dan August, 1970

A detective lieutenant in the fictional California town of Santa Luisa, August worked a homicide beat that was anything but mundane, solving cases that involved wild parties, sabotaged school buses, corrupt union officials, and more, stretching Dan and his partner Charles (Norman Fell) to their limits. In line with other crime shows of the time, guest stars were plentiful and loyal viewers would have seen some of the earliest TV performances from Gary Busey, Harrison Ford, Annette O’Toole, and David Soul.

Despite a not terribly original premise, Dan August was a very watchable show, with – of course – a very watchable star. That said, it was not renewed for a second season but did find a second life in re-runs and TV movies made from several episodes welded together once Reynolds had earned rave reviews for Deliverance in 1982, and the full series was released on DVD in 2018.

Four in One (NBC): The concept of the “wheel series” was developed in 1955 when ABC aired Warner Bros. Presents, a weekly show that presented episodes of King’s Row, Casablanca, and Cheyenne in turn. Cheyenne went on to enjoy a seven-season run and a twist on the concept was wheeled out in 1958 when 77 Sunset Strip featured alternating lead detectives, and again in 1964 when NBC’s 90 Bristol Court consisted of three separate sitcoms set in the same fictional address, although all three aired on the same night.

NBC revived the wheel series in 1968 for The Name of the Game, again with a slight twist as the three segments were all set in the same media corporation, before trying out a pure wheel concept a year later with The Bold Ones, a revolving set of The New Doctors, The Lawyers, and The Protectors (replaced in season two by The Senator). That set the stage for 1970’s Four in One, which took four new shows and gave them six weeks each in a Wednesday night slot.

Four in One, 1970

First up was McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver as the titular detective, brought from the small Western town in New Mexico to dispense justice on the streets of New York. Created by Herman Miller, who wrote the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie Coogan’s Bluff which shares much in common with McCloud, the show was easily the most popular of the Four in One line-up. It was followed by San Francisco International Airport (starring Lloyd Bridges, replacing Pernell Roberts from a pilot which was famously sent up by Mystery Science Theater 3000), Rod Serling anthology show Night Gallery, and The Psychiatrist, the most cerebral of the offerings which gave a young Steven Spielberg some of his earliest directing work.

Night Gallery was spun off into its own series for the Fall 1971 season, eventually running for a total of forty-three episodes, but International Airport and The Psychiatrist disappeared after their runs. For McCloud, NBC created another wheel series – the NBC Mystery Movie – and extended episodes from sixty to ninety minutes, filling the gaps in the wheel with two new shows, Columbo and McMillan & Wife. McCloud remained in this format through April 1977 (when his final outing saw him tackle a vampire!), although there was a one-off return in 1989, by which time Sam McCloud is a Senator in his native New Mexico and has to travel to London to solve the murder of his niece.

Next time on The Telephemera Years: 1970’s unsold pilots and the dawn of The Aquarians!

Check out our other Telephemera articles:

The Telephemera Years: pre-1965 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1966 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1967 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1968 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1969 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1970 (part 1)

The Telephemera Years: 1971 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1973 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1974 (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

The Telephemera Years: 1975 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1977 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1978 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1980 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1982 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1983 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1984 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1986 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1987 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1989 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1990 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1992 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1995 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1997 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1998 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2000 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2002 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2003 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2005 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2006 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2008 (part 1, 23, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Irwin Allen

Titans of Telephemera: Stephen J Cannell (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: DIC (part 1, 2)

Titans of Telephemera: Hanna-Barbera (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Titans of Telephemera: Kenneth Johnson

Titans of Telephemera: Sid & Marty Krofft

Titans of Telephemera: Glen A Larson (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Quinn Martin (part 1, 2)

Titans of Telephemera: Ruby-Spears

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