25 February 2008 | aimless-46
The 70 black and white hour-long episodes of "Checkmate" were originally broadcast from 1960-62 on CBS. Those who only remember Sebastian Cabot as the prissy butler "French" on "Family Affair" will be surprised at his superior acting talent, which was nicely showcased in this series.
"Checkmate Inc." was an unusual organization based in San Francisco, a posh detective agency whose specialty was thwarting crimes "before" they occurred. The plot line for each episode was structured to resemble a chess game, which reflected the series title.
Middle age detective Don Corey (Anthony George) operated the firm out of his elegant Nob Hill apartment. Young Jed Sills (Doug McClure) was the designated hunk of the series. Dr. Carl Hyatt (Cabot) was a trained criminologist who served as the organization's brain trust. The three mostly worked as a team and a lot of the humor came from Cabot's frequent frustration over the dimness of his two associates.
Warner Brothers had hit on a successful formula for the intelligent detective series (insert "Surfside Six", "77 Sunset Strip", etc. here) and Jack Benny's "JaMco Productions" appropriated this and turned it into "Checkmate". At least they eliminated Warner's obligatory weird side-kick/informer and good looking but airheaded singer/girlfriend/etc.
So they basically had a main character targeted at all age levels of the female demographic, with one of which almost any male viewer could identify. And each episode included some attractive young actress(s) and a couple has-been movie stars in the cast.
The early John Williams' theme music was a memorable jazz instrumental for which he received a Grammy nomination. As often happens with these things they tried to get cute between seasons and added Jack Betts to the cast as investigator Chris Devlin and they moved the agency into a normal office suite. It limped through its second season until cancellation.
15 episodes from Season One are now out in a DVD package with the misleading title "Best of Checkmate:Season One". It does not appear that any effort was made to actually cull out the "best" episodes for this release, it looks more like this group was included because they were the only ones to which Edi Video had the rights and/or the only ones in good enough condition for digital re-mastering. The DVD package has no special features and is a relatively low-budget but serviceable effort. A similar collection of Season Two episodes is due for release in March 2008.
Then again what do I know? I'm only a child.