11 February 2005 | rcj5365
The Longest Running of the Warner Brothers produced detective shows
"77 SUNSET STRIP"-A Detective Drama produced by Warner Bors. for ABC-TV First Telecast: October 10,1958. Last Telecast: September 9, 1964
THEME: "77 Sunset Strip" by Mack David and Jerry Livingston
77 Sunset Strip was the prototype for a rash of glamorous private-detective teams in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Half the team was Stu Bailey(Efrem Zimbalist,Jr.),a suave,cultured former OSS officer who was an expert in languages. An Ivy League Ph.D.,he had intended to become a college professor but turned private investigator instead. The other half was Jeff Spencer(Roger Smith),also a former government undercover agent,who had a degree in law. Both of them were judo experts. They worked out of an office at No. 77 Sunset Strip,in Hollywood California.Though their cases took them to glamour spots all over the world.
Next door to No. 77 was Dino's,a posh restaurant whose maitre d,Mario was seen occasionally in the series. Seen often was Dino's parking lot attendant,a gangling,jive-talking youth named Kookie(Edd Byrnes),who longed to be a private detective himself and who often helped Stu and Jeff on their cases. Kookie provided comic relief for the series,and his "Kookie-isms" became a trademark. Other regulars included Roscoe the racetrack tout(Louis Quinn)and Suzanne(Jacqueline Beer),the beautiful French switchboard operator. But it was Edd Byrnes' character of Kookie who caught the public's fancy and propelled the show into the top ten. In the first telecast of the 1959-1960 season he helped Stu Bailey catch a jewel thief by staging a revue,in which he sang a novelty song called,"Kookie,Kookie,Lend Me Your Comb". The song was released on record as a duet between Byrnes and Connie Stevens(who also starred on another Warner Bros. detective series,"Hawaiian Eye",which was on the same network),became a smash hit making Byrnes' character of Kookie,the "Fonzie" of his day,making him a very popular celebrity.
Unsatisfied with his secondary role in the show,the young actor demanded a bigger part and eventually walked out. Warner Bors. first replaced him with Troy Donahue(of "Surfside Six")as a long-haired bookworm,about as far from the Kookie character as you could get. But Byrnes came back a few months later and was promoted to a full-fledged partner in the detective firm at the start of the 1961-1962 season. His permanent replacement at the parking lot was J.R. Hale(Robert Logan). Previously for a single season,Rex Randolph(Richard Long)had been seen as the third partner in the firm. Kookie was not the only one who tried paralaying the show's success into a hit record. The fingersnapping theme music from the series was into a best-selling album.
By 1963 the novelty had worn off,and the show was in decline. In an attempt to save it,Jack Webb was brought in as producer,and William Conrad as director and drastic changes were made. This was at the start of the 1963-1964 season,which was the final season for the series. The entire cast was dropped with the exception of Efrem Zimbalist,Jr.,who became a free-lance investigator traveling around the world on cases. Lavish production values were featured. The final season of the series opened with a five part chase thriller featuring two dozen big-named guest stars and written by eight top writers. The rest of the season was spend on the road as well,with Stu Bailey requiring a permanent secretary named Hannah(Joan Staley)didn't help. On September 9, 1964,the series "77 Sunset Strip" came to an end after six seasons on ABC-TV. This was the longest running of the Warner Brothers produced detective shows that came during the late 1950's and ended toward the early 1960's. This one outlasted them all.