Saturday, August 15, 2020

A TV Addict Remembered

I never met Michael D. Shonk. Yet I often wanted to be him. For at least the last decade, he wrote about vintage radio shows, music, and mostly TV crime dramas for the Mystery*File blog. Remarkably prolific, he critiqued small-screen programs such as Cain’s Hundred, T.H.E. Cat, The Brothers Brannagan, The Outsider (see here and here), Banyon, Search, Harry O (here, here, and here), Matt Helm, Tucker’s Witch, Remington Steele, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He commented on teleflicks such as They Call It Murder and Marlowe, addressed the burgeoning of TV series remakes and the composing of top-notch TV themes, and late last year revealed his favorite 20 series of the last decade (2010-2019). Shonk also managed to spread his talents around, contributing several pieces to Criminal Element, including this remembrance of the troubled private-eye series The Cases of Eddie Drake, and this one about forgotten TV spy dramas.

He had what seemed like the best gig going.

As a fellow fan of TV crime series, I greeted each new Shonk story as an opportunity to learn more about the genre, and invariably to discover fresh details about even shows that I thought I knew well.

Unfortunately, those days are gone. Steve Lewis, Shonk’s editor at Mystery*File, announced this week that the columnist has died:
I have some bad news to report. Those of you who have been readers of this blog for a long time will recognize Michael’s name for sure. He started out by leaving comments on posts he found interesting and ended up being one of this blog’s most frequent reviewers.

I have been informed by a close friend of his that he passed away on July 17, 2020. He suffered from a variety of serious ailments, including bad vision, extreme diabetes, and heart disease. He was 65 years old.
As I said before, I never had the chance to meet or talk in person with Michael Shonk. Over the years, though, as I wrote about classic TV crime, mystery, and espionage dramas for The Rap Sheet, he’d occasionally drop me an e-mail note or add a comment to a post here and there. I always found him to be kind and generous in his communications. After I remarked, in a 2012 post, that I had never seen a full episode of Darren McGavin’s 1968-1969 NBC-TV series, The Outsider, he sent me a DVD containing multiple episodes, which I greatly enjoyed watching.

I occasionally thought about interviewing Shonk, but never got around to it. Which is sad, because we shared an appreciation for the NBC Mystery Movie as well as for 1970s P.I. series, and my asking him questions about those subjects and so many others would surely have provided us all with entertainment and enlightenment. As he demonstrated in this Mystery*File post about a Season 1 installment of Mike Conners’ Mannix, Shonk enjoyed discussing with other TV enthusiasts the highs and lows of that medium.

Although he’s now passed away—and at a relatively early age, too—Shonk’s work for Mystery*File remains available (though a few YouTube videos he offered have disappeared). Should you have some leisure time coming in the near future, you could spend it in less valuable ways than to revisit his decade’s worth of posts.

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