Friday, September 03, 2010

Killed in the Ratings: “Leg Work”

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

Title: Leg Work

Starring: Margaret Colin

Original Run: 1987 (10 episodes), CBS-TV

Premise: Claire McCarron (Colin), the daughter of a policeman, used to be employed by the New York District Attorney’s office. But she quit to become a mini-skirted private eye. Now she wheels around the city in a Porsche 911 she can’t really afford (and which is perpetually in for repairs), solving cases and keeping her life more or less together with help from her best friend, Willie Pipal (Frances McDormand), who still works as a prosecutor with the DA’s office, and her brother, Fred (Patrick James Clarke), a lieutenant with the New York Police Department.

Created by Frank Abatemarco

Additional Notes: The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sun-Sentinel called Leg Work “the best and brightest of CBS’ new series” for the fall of 1987. Yet a mere half-dozen episodes were shown on Saturday nights before the network abruptly canceled Leg Work, conceding the 9-10 p.m. timeslot to NBC’s pairing of The Golden Girls and Amen. Four additional installments were ultimately broadcast on the cable network TV Land. I remember thinking at the time that this show deserved better treatment, and that’s apparently not my opinion alone. Joe Meyers, an entertainment reporter with the Connecticut Post, opined earlier this year that Leg Work was “an extremely well-written and well-acted series. Because it was produced in Manhattan, the show was able to draw on the city’s theater acting pool. Up-and-comers Lisa Banes, Marisa Tomei, John Pankow, and Angela Bassett were just a few of the actors I had already seen in plays and was pleased--and surprised--to see on TV. ... The writing [was] as sophisticated as anything on HBO or Showtime right now, and one of the episodes CBS didn’t air--‘Life Itself’--[dealt] with the AIDS crisis in a way that Hollywood wouldn’t even contemplate until Philadelphia came out six years later.” Meyers concludes: “What a shame that this fine show was never given a real chance to connect with the TV public. It was just five or ten years ahead of its time.”

Above: Leg Work’s write-up in the September 12-18, 1987, Fall Preview edition of TV Guide. (Click to enlarge the image.) Below: The program’s opening title sequence.

READ MORE:Make a List: American TV Series with Female Licensed P.I.s,” by Michael Shonk (Mystery*File).


RJR said...

I enjoyed LEGWORK from the first moment I saw it. It made me a Margaret Colin fan and it was no much better than Angie Dickinson's C.C & COMPANY.


Anonymous said...

I don't recall this, but I really liked an earlier show called LEGMEN about two college guys who do the grunt work for a P.I.

Tony said...

It was a great TV show! Margaret Colin was fine to look at... and she could really act, too. Shame LEGWORK was cancelled, and that it's not available on DVD.

Anonymous said...

Margaret Colin was hot! Her legs drove me, along with all the male population of earth, INSANE!!!

Anonymous said...

This was an extremely well-written show - the time slot was bad and there wasn't the violence one normally associates with a P.I./New York City scenario. Even today Hollywood still cannot get the right formula for a female lead P.I. show and that's a shame.