Thoughts with Richard Bleil
For some reason, of late I’ve been on a classic television mystery series kick. When I say classic, I mean circa 1970’s. I’ve recently (within the past few weeks) purchased the complete box DVD’s sets of Columbo, The Rockford Files, and Mission Impossible. All of these have had many seasons, and scores of episodes. I find them somehow calming for me.
Columbo, with Peter Falk, was a detective series, but not really a mystery or adventure. There was rarely (if ever) any action in them. No car chases, and no shootouts, just a detective in a crumpled old trench coat asking questions. It really was not a mystery because you always knew who did it, and in most (if not all) episodes, Columbo would know very early on who the guilty party is, but he would feign ignorance and incompetence. He would just keep badgering, in a very polite manner, the guilty party. The very real question for the audience was simple, how? Not how the crime was committed, but how would Columbo finally find the elusive proof that he needed to arrest the guilty party. It was fun watching him maneuver his prey, just like a chess game into the final position when, inevitably, the guilty person would make that one final mistake.
On the flip side, the Rockford Files, with Jim Garner, was almost the exact opposite. Usually Rockford, a private detective, did not know who was behind whatever it was, and he wasn’t particularly intelligent, but he was cunning and a hard worker. This series was rife with car chases, shootouts and fighting as people would try to scare him off of the case (or outright kill him), and because of his hard work he was just in the right place at the right time. Because of his past, he was also an experienced con artist, so sometimes, if he knew the guilty party, he would set up a con game to entrap them.
The Mission Impossible series, with an ensemble cast, was nothing like the movies. In my opinion, the movies ruined it from the very first one. See, in the television series, it was always a team effort. In the first movie, the main character was part of a team, and the rest of the team was killed off turning it into yet another “sole agent” series like so many others of the same genre. Yes, they tried bringing the team back later on, but the team always seemed like bit characters in the background. In the original series, each member of the team had a different, and unique, talent. They were spies with impossible missions (hence the name) and had to come up with some kind of elaborate ruse the target into defeating themselves. When they would finally reveal their plan, the key player (or players) could have been any of their team members, although all played their parts. It was a very cool ensemble series.
On a side note, they had the best theme songs. If you’re familiar with these series, you probably have your favorite theme song running through your mind right now. It’s like the Pink Panther cartoons. Yes, they were fun and clever, but the theme song by Henry Mancini was always the best part of the cartoons, regardless of how many times you’ve heard it. The Rockford Files and television series Mission Impossible theme songs are much the same.
These box sets were rather expensive. It seems as if I can sometimes happen across one of them, but usually on some network that I rarely ever watch (and recently can’t even access), which leads me to believe that these networks have purchased the rights to them. It’s like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. There were so many of them that different networks have purchased the exclusive rights to air just certain episodes. Now, when I happen on one of these cartoons on a local station when I’m traveling, it’s usually one that I haven’t seen in quite a long time, including some that are, honestly, sometimes moderately inappropriate in this day and age. But they’re still very funny, so I, personally, can forgive some political incorrectness. But I have to go work in maybe an hour and would love to get one more Columbo episode in before I go, so I guess that’s all for now. I do like Peter Falk, though. I do feel as if we lost a great comedic talent when he passed away, and to this day look for many of his other movies and projects, such as Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective, some of which I also have. Yes, he was also in The Princess Bride as the grandfather.