26 March 2004 | cariart
Connors' Finest Role, as Rugged P.I.
Despite over thirty films to his credit, Mike Connors will be best remembered for his television work. In 1959, he created a sensation as the undercover agent with the hidden gun behind his back, in "Tightrope", and in 1967, at 42, he introduced one of the most popular detectives in television history, "Mannix".
The initial concept of the series was intriguing; a high-tech investigative agency, Intertect, headed by Joseph Campanella, possessed all the tools to analyze and fight crime, except one; a P.I.'s instincts, that ability to play hunches and make correct decisions by 'gut feeling'. So they hired the best veteran private eye in the business, Joe Mannix, and utilized his services whenever the 'human touch' was required, while backing him with all their resources.
While the Intertect episodes were often imaginative, and Connors and Campanella had good chemistry, CBS quickly realized that the program's fans were watching because of the rugged Mannix, who, each week, despite being beaten, tortured, drugged or worse, managed to emerge victorious. So Campanella and Intertect were dropped by the second season, and Mannix returned to more traditional digs, accompanied by a new secretary, Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher), the widow of a cop. With aid from his 'buddies' on the Force (Robert Wood, Jack Ging, and "Brady Bunch" patriarch, Robert Reed), Joe Mannix would take on cases as simple as petty theft, to unsolved murders, while still taking more than his share of abuse each week.
With his chiseled features and thick jet-black hair, Mannix was a hero attractive enough to appeal to women, yet tough enough to keep men watching, as well. Fiercely loyal to his Greek heritage and many friends, a sucker for a 'hard luck' story, and with a well-stocked (and used) medicine cabinet, the series 'fit' like a pair of well-worn, comfortable shoes, and audiences quickly developed a viewing habit that would last seven more seasons, until 1975. The success of "Mannix" would open the door for a whole new generation of 'gumshoes' that followed, from "Cannon" and "Barnaby Jones", to "The Rockford Files" and "Magnum, P.I."
It is a heritage that Mike Connors can be proud of!