Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Killed in the Ratings: “Paris”

(The 10th entry in a month-long series about American TV crime dramas that debuted with fanfare, but are now largely forgotten.)

Title: Paris

Starring: James Earl Jones

Original Run: 1979-1980 (13 episodes), CBS-TV

Premise: Woodrow “Woody” Paris is a particularly sharp and dogged, but also compassionate Los Angeles police captain, an African-American man in his 40s who commands a mixed-race team of impulsive rookie detectives responsible for solving violent crimes. Led by Sergeant Stacy Erickson (Cecilia Hart), that team also features officers Charlie Bogart (Jake Mitchell), Ernesto Villas (Frank Ramírez), and Willie Miller (Michael Warren). When he isn’t off pursuing felons and getting to the bottom of murder cases, Paris teaches criminology to classes of young men and women who might one day replace him and his band of young investigators. In between it all, he gets some exercise (and maybe takes out his aggressions) punching a body bag in his home and enjoys the company of his independent-minded wife, Barbara (Lee Chamberlin), a nurse who’s not above questioning her husband’s crime-solving assumptions.

Created by Steven Bochco

Additional Notes: This police drama was the first TV show in which James Earl Jones served as the series lead. (He subsequently starred in Gabriel’s Fire and Under One Roof). And while it wasn’t the earliest program created by Steven Bochco (later to achieve renown for Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue), it was apparently only the second one on which Bochco served as executive producer. (The short-lived Rockford Files spin-off, Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, was the first.) Critics were generally complimentary of Paris, and the show earned an Emmy Award nomination in the category of Outstanding Music Composition for a Series. But it was unable to survive its dismal time slot, beginning on Saturday night at 10 p.m., especially as it was originally counter-programmed against a promising new ABC series called Hart to Hart. One good thing came of all the work actor Jones put into Paris: Two years later after it was cancelled, he married co-star Cecilia Hart, and they’ve been together ever since.

Above: Paris’ write-up in the September 8-14, 1979, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge the image.) Below: The program’s opening title sequence, preceded by teasers for the episode “Pawn.” The Paris theme was composed by Fred Karlin.

OTHERS HAVE NOTICED: The folks over at Omnimystery News delivered a nice mention of The Rap Sheet’s “Killed in the Ratings” series earlier today. It reads, in part:
Thirteen shows have been selected to be featured, of which (as of this morning) nine have been posted: Serpico, Leg Work, Joe Forrester, Gavilan, The Devlin Connection, Nakia, The Delphi Bureau, Get Christie Love!, and Griff. All of the posts include detailed background information as well as videos of the opening credits.

We’ve been watching crime dramas since way back when, but we have to admit, some of these are new to us! How many do you remember?
Thanks for the generous tout, guys.

READ MORE:Random TV Title: Paris,” by Marty McKee (Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot); “Remembering James Earl Jones as ‘Paris’ (1979) and Louis Gossett, Jr. in The Lazarus Syndrome (1978),” by Emmanuel Akitobi (Shadow and Act).

1 comment:

Lee Goldberg said...

One of Fred Karlin's very best TV themes and scores was for an awful show... THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS.