Monday, December 26, 2011

“Perfect Defense, Billy Jim”

Several years ago I wrote in The Rap Sheet about the 1973-1974 CBS-TV mystery series Hawkins. For those of you who weren’t around to watch it during its original run, that show starred cinema legend Jimmy Stewart as Billy Jim Hawkins, a deceptively astute country lawyer who hailed from West Virginia, but took on high-profile, typically sordid homicide cases all over the United States, usually with investigative assistance from his less-than-suave cousin, R.J. Hawkins (Strother Martin). The show rotated in a 90-minute, Tuesday-night slot with Richard Roundtree’s Shaft.

I have favorable memories of Hawkins, though I haven’t been able to watch it in years (sadly, the show’s pilot film and seven regular episodes haven’t yet been released on DVD). Only today did I stumble across a short clip from the series’ first Tuesday-night installment, “Murder in Movieland” (broadcast on October 2, 1973). According to The New York Timessynopsis, in that episode “Hawkins arrives in Hollywood to defend the husband of a movie star on a murder charge. The suspect has confessed--to clubbing another man to death, but not to the crime at hand.” Written by Hawkins co-creator David Karp, “Murder in Movieland” guest-starred Sheree North, Cameron Mitchell, and Kenneth Mars.

The clip I found today on YouTube, and have embedded below, gives you a sense of the show’s storytelling tone, as well as a preview of how comfortable Stewart seemed in his lead role. Hawkins’ hummable theme music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who also created the scores for Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, and five Star Trek films.

Let’s hope Hawkins someday enjoys a commercial DVD release.

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