(The 12th entry in a month-long series about American TV crime dramas that debuted with fanfare, but are now largely forgotten.)
Title: McClain’s Law
Starring: James Arness and Marshall Colt
Original Run: 1981-1982 (16 episodes), NBC-TV
Premise: Former Gunsmoke star Arness played Jim McClain, a veteran detective with the police department in San Pedro, California, who had retired after being injured, then spent a decade and a half working on a fishing boat. But when his fishing partner is murdered, McClain--long known as a rule-breaker who prefers to conduct his investigations “by the gut”--pushes for reinstatement on the force in order to solve that homicide. Afterwards, he remains on active duty, much to the dismay of his new boss, Lieutenant Ed DeNisco (George DiCenzo), as well as his 30-year-old, by-the-book partner, Detective Harry Gates (Colt), who McClain doesn’t particularly like, but who seems destined to learn a lot from the elder lawman.
Created by Eric Bercovici
Additional Notes: According to TV Guide, “NBC bought this series without a pilot or even a script. What they had was a Living Legend and a Concept.” Sadly, that wasn’t good enough to make McClain’s Law a hit. Maybe Arness should have found more excuses to get out of his car and up into a saddle, where viewers expected to find him.
Above: The write-up on McClain’s Law from the September 12-18, 1981, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge it.) Below: The program’s opening sequence, with an episode preview.