1 April 2004 | cariart
Rotund Detective with Taste for Food, Crime-Busting...
"Cannon", one of the many gimmick-driven series produced by Quinn Martin Productions in the 60s and 70s, was an inspiration for every 'weight-challenged' fan who ever fantasized of chasing down bad guys, solving crimes, and even, occasionally, winning the girl. The series' star, short, rotund William Conrad (as Frank Cannon), suffers the humiliation of being discharged by the police for being overweight, yet has the last laugh, as he frequently solves cases law enforcement agencies have given up on.
William Conrad (1920-1994) had built a long career around his low, powerful voice, and was best-known for his radio work as the original 'Matt Dillon' in the long-running series, "Gunsmoke" (the role James Arness would inherit, when the series moved to television). A successful character actor in many films of the forties and fifties (including a flashy role as Kasar, one of John Wayne's brothers, in the infamous THE CONQUEROR), the bulk of Conrad's TV work, prior to "Cannon", was as an off-screen narrator ("Rocky and Bullwinkle", "The Fugitive", "The Invaders"). "Cannon" was created specifically for Conrad, not only acknowledging his physical stature, but his skills as a chef, his occasionally prickly temperament, and his child-like joy of solving puzzles. Living well in a beautiful balconied apartment, he still spent most of his time behind the wheel of his sedan, en route to another case requiring his special skills.
With a bouncy, upbeat theme song (featuring a tuba, yet another 'reference' to his girth), "Cannon" was a lighter series than "Mannix" or "Barnaby Jones", but still provided occasional opportunities for Conrad to use his fists, and to even do a climactic foot chase, or two (the least believable moments of the series!).
While the actor would enjoy another successful detective series, as the more abrasive, slovenly 'J.L.' McCabe, in "Jake and the Fatman", "Cannon" remains Conrad's best-loved role, and a popular series in syndication, to this day.