Friday, September 10, 2010

Killed in the Ratings: “The Devlin Connection”

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

Title: The Devlin Connection

Starring: Rock Hudson and
Jack Scalia

Original Run: 1982 (12 episodes), NBC-TV

Premise: Brian Devlin (former McMillan & Wife star Hudson) was a highly valued military intelligence agent before settling into civilian life as the head of a prosperous private detective agency. After selling that business, he moved into a dramatically different role as director of the Los Angeles Cultural Arts Center, a position that gives him ample excuses to wear tuxedos and hobnob with entertainment “royalty.” But his once-peaceful existence has been upset by the unexpected appearance of Nick Corsello (Scalia), a 28-year-old son Devlin never knew he had. (Shades of Faraday and Company.) And what do you know--Corsello’s a private eye, too, though he’s quite a bit more rough around the edges than his old man, and he supplements his P.I. income with work as a racquetball pro at a local health facility. With the best of intentions, but mostly on the sly, Devlin uses his connections in L.A. and elsewhere to help his son make it as a sleuth. He even (reluctantly) assists Corsello on some of his cases, living a sort of double life in which he alternates between the highbrow crowd and low-order criminals. Corsello initially chafes at this interference, still being resentful of the fact that Devlin was nowhere to be seen when he was growing up. However, the two slowly make the “connection” of this show’s title, discovering they have more in common than anyone expected.

Created by John Wilder

Additional Notes: The Devlin Connection was originally supposed to be part of NBC’s new prime-time line-up for the fall of 1981. But Hudson’s health problems--culminating in emergency quintuple heart bypass surgery in November 1981--delayed the series’ debut for a full year. After it finally did start running, critics were quick to dub it McMillan & Son, drawing conceptual and storytelling comparisons between this series and Hudson’s earlier NBC Mystery Movie hit, and remarking on the reappearance of Hudson’s mustache, which had been so prominent during McMillan’s freshman year. Despite strength in Devlin’s screenwriting department--both Cliff Gould (who’d written for The Streets of San Francisco) and Howard Rodman (the creator of both The Man and the City and Harry O) worked on some of its episodes--the show failed to justify NBC’s patience in finally getting it on the air.

Above: The Devlin Connection’s write-up in the September 11-17, 1982, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge the image.) TV Guide’s previous description of the program, in the fall of 1981, can be found here. Below: The show’s opening title sequence, with theme music by Patrick Williams.


RJR said...

There's a t.v. network called Trio that does a series called "Brilliant But Cancelled." I recently bought a bootlegged version of the entire season of Johnny Staccato, which was taped off of this network.

Similar to what yoy're doing. very enjoyable. Thanks. So far I have seen ALL these shows when they were first run. God, I'm old. Are you gona do COOL MILLION with James Farantino? TENAFLY with James McEachen? THE OUTSIDER with Darren McGavin? Bill Pronzini and I agree that The Outsider is one of te best P.I. t.v. shows ever done. Max Collins thinks one of the best P.I. shows ever done was CITY OF ANGELS.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

Hey, Bob:

I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying this series so far. It was a lot of fun to put together. I am not sure that all of the series I'm recalling qualify as "brilliant," but they certainly were canceled--some of them much earlier than they deserved.

I am sticking here with shows that I don't think I would otherwise write about in The Rap Sheet. So I'm staying away from the NBC Mystery Movie components--including Cool Million and Tenafly--which I enjoyed immensely, but will likely tackle separately in the future.

And I'd like to write about The Outsider, but I don't find any video from that series on the Web. Nor do I have the TV Guide Fall Preview edition from 1968, in which a write-up about The Outsider would have appeared. Furthermore, I've never actually seen an episode of that long-ago Darren McGavin series. Maybe someday I shall procure a bootleg copy, but for now I know The Outsider only by name, not from any viewing experience.

Thankfully, though, I do have copies of the City of Angels episodes, and agree with Max that it deserved a much longer run on NBC than it enjoyed.


Brian R. Sheridan said...

Jack Scalia = the kiss of series death.

Anonymous said...

If you are still looking for "The Outsider," you might include "The Forty Eight Hour Mile" in your search. This was a movie created for syndication from two episodes of the series. Oddly, it re-edited the episodes so that Darren McGavin works both cases (serving a subpeona to a Howard Hughes-like billionaire, and searching for a woman's twin sister) simultaneously. As I recall, there was some new narration from McGavin to make this work.