Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Killed in the Ratings: “The Delphi Bureau”

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

Title: The Delphi Bureau

Starring: Laurence Luckinbill

Original Run: 1972-1973 (7 episodes, plus pilot), ABC-TV

Premise: Glenn Garth Gregory (Luckinbill) is a very unusual sort of spy. In fact, he’s not really a spy at all. He’s just a good-looking guy with a photographic memory (maybe “just” isn’t the proper word to use there), who works for a vaguely defined U.S. government agency that ostensibly does research for the president. OK, so he’s an intelligence operative, but not in the super-suave, lady-killer, James Bond sense. Even Gregory is not very clear on some things, like exactly what his employer, the Delphi Bureau, does, or where it’s based, or who his bosses are. All he thinks he knows for sure is that his liaison with the Bureau is an enigmatic Washington, D.C., socialite, the flirtatious Sybil Van Loween (Anne Jeffreys). She lets our reluctant hero know when he’s needed--and he’s needed a lot, it seems. Unlike Agent 007, explains, Gregory “doesn’t use secret weapons, and would rather not use a gun (though he does on occasion), preferring instead to rely on his photographic memory, powers of observation, and ingenuity to solve cases.” Sometimes that’s not enough, though, which is when he calls on Van Loween for help. After all, Gregory insists, “All I do is research.” Yeah, right, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you, cheap ...

Created by Sam Rolfe

Additional Notes: The Delphi Bureau was one of three series broadcast under the umbrella title The Men; the other two were Assignment: Vienna, starring Robert Conrad as an international spy, and Jigsaw, which put James Wainwright into the role of a California investigator specializing in missing-persons cases. As I recall, Luckinbill (who later married Lucie Arnaz) pretty much nailed the role of somebody who didn’t always know what he was doing or what to expect next, but was less credible as an espionage agent. “Critics and journalists,” recalls, “generally dismissed the show as being gimmicky and scraping the bottom of an already tired genre (spies), because of the photographic memory angle, but it had some very creative, clever plots (at least for the time).” Maybe so. We just didn’t get to see many of them, as The Men vanished from the airwaves after one short season.

Above: The write-up about The Men, including The Delphi Bureau, which appeared in the September 9-15, 1972, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge the image.) Below: A scene from the series’ March 1972 pilot, guest-starring Joanna Pettet. If you really need to see it, a very mediocre version of this show’s opening title sequence can be found on YouTube.

READ MORE:A TV Review: The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment (1972),” by Michael Shonk (Mystery*File).


Tom Mason said...

"From the Capitol came a young uncover some worms in a can."

I love the pilot. One of my guilty pleasures. I taped it off of some superstation about 15 years ago and despite its late 60s-early 70s quirks, I think it still holds up. All star TV cast too - Bob Crane, Dean Jagger, Cameron Mitchell, Dub Taylor, + Pettet.

The basic premise could still make a good movie in the current Bourne Identity style.

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Naomi Johnson said...

I remember liking this show, but to be honest, that's all I remember about it.

michael said...

Sam Rolfe was one of my two favorite writers from the 60s-70s (the other was Roy Huggins). Delphi Bureau was one of my past favorites I always wanted to see again.
Shows such as this series are the type of shows I wish TVLand could find time to rerun.

RJR said...

I liked both Aassignment; Vienna and Jigsaw. NOT Delphi. Sorry, but I was never a Luckinbill fan.