User Reviews (13)

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  • lotsafun10 January 2006
    I have very warm memories of this short lived Nero Wolfe TV series starring William Conrad and Lee Horsley. I was a kid when this TV program aired and it really made an impact on my youthful imagination. I was hooked from the moment I first saw it. William Conrad and Lee Horsley were both highly enjoyable and made a great team. I never missed an episode and enjoyed all of them. Nero Wolfe was fun and exciting stuff! Because of the TV series I began reading the excellent Nero Wolfe stories of the great Rex Stout. I'd love to see this TV series again. Just thinking about it makes me smile! It's too bad it isn't available on DVD.
  • This was my introduction to Nero Wolfe, starting a happy 3+ decade relationship with Rex Stout's detective fiction. While this series didn't use the period settings that the later A&E series did, it has my affection for a number of reasons.

    First, William Conrad. He is certainly a less gifted actor than Maury Chaikin, but his voice is marvelous, and he uses the declarative, falling cadence that Stout's punctuation indicates. "Archie. I read it because it is a book. And I read books." Chaikin too often uses a rising cadence, which took getting used to, for me.

    Second, most, if not all (I am going from memory here) the episodes were, as with the A&E series, adaptations of actual Stout stories and novels, which was also welcome for me as a new reader.

    Sure, one could say I like the series because it set the tone of the characters for me, and that likely has a good bit of truth. But I've noticed that, among my acquaintance, the greatest fans of the books are the least enthusiastic about the A&E series, and more tolerant of this series. My husband won't watch the old series when we find it on TV, and doesn't like the books. He loves the A&E series. I also am fond of the A&E series, mostly for the affection with which it was so obviously made, for the period sets, and for the wonderful repertory-ensemble cast, with best acting honors to Kari Marchett, who makes every episode she is in sing.

    But see this series for a different and valid take, and the best-voiced Nero Wolfe I know of.
  • Lee Horsley was the perfect Archie Goodwin. I'm a big fan of the books & when I read them I can see only Horsley as that character. He can come & rescue me anytime!!! William Conrad was also very good as Wolfe. I wish that they still showed them on tv so I would have a chance to tape them .
  • It is beyond understanding why this show was canceled so quickly. The appearance and attitude William Conrad gave his Wolfe was just about perfect. He was the "seventh-of-a-ton" detective thousands of readers of the novels probably imagined. But not only Conrad was superb, the rest of the cast was as well, from George Voskovec's Fritz to Allan Miller's Inspector Cramer, with whose fits anyone could feel along.

    Some edges of the characters were taken out, which is especially true for Archie Goodwin, and was most probably done to assure mass compatibility. Both Goodwin and Wolfe are described as chauvinists par excellence in the books. But besides that, there wasn't much more an avid fan of the novels could have asked for.

    Very noteworthy is the great care about every little detail of the "old brownstone." That was marvelous work and the production crew should be applauded for that. Probably they had a number of Wolfe fans among them.
  • wkozak2212 July 2015
    I enjoy this series over the latter series with timothy Hutton. I found this series to have more texture than the latter series. It was and is fun to see all the actors interacting with each other. There was also a fun sense of humor to this series. Watching inspector Cramer getting out of a chair without using his hands and Wolfe's reaction each time to it. Also all of the actors in this version seem to enjoy their roles. I do like the latter series also but I prefer the first series most. I wish the series would have lasted longer. It seems that series such BONES, NCIS, CSI can go on and on add nauseuem. I prefer detective series were you have to think to find the guilty without major shoot outs, car chases etc. . I find that well written series do not last long at all on TV: Nero Wolfe,(both series), Ellery queen, probe, Spenser: for hire to name the major ones. It was a good series. Luckily I can watch both versions whenever I want to at my leisure.
  • Prismark101 January 2014
    I read a Nero Wolfe story as a kid and found this series intriguing. It starred William Conrad who was better known from his previous TV role as the portly detective Frank Cannon.

    This is another QM production made in the early 1980s but the series was short lived. Nero Wolfe is a clever detective but would rather eat and tend to his orchids than hit the streets doing detective work.

    For that he has his assistants to do the legwork such as Lee Horsley who played Archie Goodwin who also provides the muscle to go with Nero's brains. The episodes were enjoyable and its a shame we did not see more. Maybe US viewers were still pining for Frank Cannon.
  • pchristle18 June 2019
    This is a competent, if mediocre, detective show, but it is not Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. The 2001 A&E series with Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton came closer to the spirit of the novels, although ultimately failing. I have read all of the Nero Wolfe novels and stories at least twice and am on my third go 'round. As a huge Wolfe fan, I am happy to view and even purchase all the cinematic Wolfe attempts, just because. But if anyone is looking for the true Nero Wolfe on film, he hasn't appeared yet.
  • oxie_h14 February 2009
    I thought Lee Horsley was the definitive Archie Goodwin, and I'd like to know if this series will ever be released on DVD. Although I like Timothy Hutton (in the AE version), he's a little too polished for the role of AG and Maury Chaykin a little too vehement for Nero Wolfe. I had not seen the AE version of Nero Wolfe until recently when I checked the DVDs out of our local library. I enjoyed them, but I'm a real fan of the Nero Wolfe books; and the characterizations of Wolfe and Goodwin were just a little "off." I remember the 1981 series set me to reading the books, and I had no difficulty visualizing Lee Horsley as the wise-cracking Archie. I would love to see this older series again.
  • Lee Horsley stands out (without his "Matt Houston" mustache) as just about the only on-target bit of casting. Conrad, as Wolfe, was large but neither tall nor imposing enough to play the part - to say nothing of the fact that in only one adventure of his 41-year literary career did he ever cultivate a beard, which he shed as soon as the case was over. Nor was Wolfe openly sentimental. Only Archie, with his keen observational acumen and intimate knowledge of his employer's habits, moods and faults, could see its expression. Wolfe himself, in a comment reported to Ken Darby, author of "The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe", may have been willing to accept Raymond Burr or Orson Welles to play him, but not without reservations. George Wyner as Saul Panzer was even worse. Having played too many comic - make that doofus - roles, he came far short of portraying Panzer's suave acumen, street smarts and hard edge. He also looks too wimpy. Furthermore, three whole novels, "In the Best Families" (1950), "Before Midnight" (1955) and "If Death Ever Slept" (1957) became a single, mistitled, one-hour episide, "In the Best of Families" (ep. #1.7). It was in "If Death Ever Slept" that Wolfe breifly let his face sprout and starved himself to a normal weight.

    The only excuse I could ever give myself to watch this show was that any Wolfe on TV was better than no Wolfe.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe is a literary detective in the classic sense. Like Sherlock Holmes, he's unsociable; and, weighing an eighth of a ton he has an intermediary doing his leg work and also telling his stories: Archie Goodwin. It's of the school of mystery writing where all the suspects are gathered together at the end and sit quietly until Wolfe points to the murderer.

    In this series, Archie Goodwin is played by Lee Horsley, before he tried to be the new James Garner. While Rex Stout makes Archie Goodwin a first-class wisenheimer and wisecracker, Horsley's Archie is written in that 1980s kinder, gentler way (compare Horley's Archie to Tim Hutton's brash and hilarious Archie in the later A&E Nero Wolfe series). Still, Horsley's a good enough actor to pull it off.

    William Conrad ("Cannon") is shaped a lot like Stout's Wolfe. Compared to Archie he looks a trifle short, but he carries the proper amount of weight; and Conrad's beard makes his Wolfe even more intimidating. Conrad (believe it or not, once narrator of Bullwinkle and Rocky) has a commanding voice, which one would expect from Nero Wolfe.

    All the Wolfe trappings are here: the orchid obsession (and this series, unlike the later A&E series, actually has Theodore Horstman, Wolfe's live-in botanist, played to perfection by Robert Coote). And Fritz, Wolfe's live-in chef, is pretty well captured by George Voskovec (who unfortunately did not survive the show by long).

    Weakness seeps in with the lower end of the casting, with George Wyner's Saul Panzer and Allan Miller's Inspector Cramer. In the 70s and 80s Wyner was sort of an all-purpose schlub, a low-rent Austin Pendleton. Plugged in for comic relief, Wyner is hardly the tough, almost infallible human bloodhound of Rex Stout's stories. Allan Miller, another busy actor of that period, is hardly the image of hard-as-nails, cigar-chomping Cramer, who in the stories keeps threatening to run Wolfe and Goodwin in. Miller's a competent actor but this isn't his role.

    Unlike the A&E series, which sets Nero Wolfe in a colorful, neverending 1950s, this series updates the tales to "modern" times (circa 1981). But though it has that run-down, pre-Giuliani New York feel, on the set in Wolfe's office it's like stepping into an earlier and more elegant time. They capture Wolfe's lodgings pretty well.

    While mostly sticking to Stout's stories, it's difficult to do justice to a novel in an hour, including commercials. Updating the stories dumbed them down; and changes were made to some stories to suit early 1980s sensibilities (SPOILER: in one episode, "The Golden Spiders", a character killed in the book is just hospitalized in the series).

    Some familiar faces: Richard Anderson, Darren McGavin, David Hedison, Barry Nelson, etc . . . but not enough to get excited about. This isn't "Murder She Wrote." A few rising stars (Mary Frann, Delta Burke, et al.) but not as many as one might hope to see. Lots of young actors appearing in this series never hit the big time.

    Overall, fairly tepid updatings of Stout's very funny but often brutal stories. Conrad is a very good Wolfe (the Wolfe in the later A&E series is much too abrasive and unpleasant; I know, Wolfe was in the original stories, but Conrad makes him palatable for television). For all that, it's a pleasant and largely innocuous way to waste time. The only real regret is that Archie Goodwin is given too much heart, and his cracking wise is limited.
  • William Conrad starred as Frank Cannon in the above-average QM TV series Cannon, but he was a lousy Nero Wolfe. As a matter of fact, I challenge any viewer to name anything different in his portrayal of those two detectives. Conrad was a limited actor who only ever portrayed one character: William Conrad. (A great radio actor, though; he was Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke on the radio, among other things. What a voice!) Lee Horsley was a good Archie Goodwin, but Alan Miller as Cramer was a hopeless piece of miscasting. The series thankfully was cancelled very quickly, and the Wolfe legend lives on through the novels. (BTW, the A&E series with Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton is quite good and worth watching for cast member Kari Matchett alone.)
  • I had never read any of the Nero Wolfe books before this series aired. I was drawn to it because I like William Conrad. How fortunate that I saw this and thus found the books!

    After reading a number of the novels, I was struck by a couple of things:

    First, the old brownstone was perfectly reproduced. Author Rex Stout made you feel you were really in that building when he wrote the novels, and the set designer followed suit.

    Second, the casting was a mixed bag. Conrad was an acceptable, though obviously softened, Wolfe. The characterizations of Fritz and Horstman were very well done, if mostly background. But Lee Horsley was badly out of place as Archie, as were the choices for Saul Panzer and Inspector Cramer.

    Several years later I saw the movie version with Thayer David and was very pleased. He would have been a letter perfect Wolfe.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had never come across the character Nero Wolfe before, and I had never read any of Rex Stout's books. Then I saw this.

    I had seen William Conrad before in Canon. Here he is playing a different role. He is more selfish and testy than Canon, and barks out orders to the three people who work for him, and is rude to everybody else. Yet he still has a streak of affability that makes him likable.

    To me, this seemed strange. A man who is a private detective, but is obese to the point of invalidity, so he never leaves the house, and travels about the brownstone in an elevator. He hires a younger, fitter man to do all the legwork for him. He has a greenhouse on top of his brownstone, where, with the help of an ex-employee of a British botanical garden, he keeps and cultivates rare orchids. He also employs a chef to cook rich food for him. I must have seen all manner of TV detectives, but I had never seen anything like this before.

    I thought William Conrad was brilliant. He was genuinely funny. As well as a case that had to be solved, there were also the interchanges between Wolfe and the wisecracking Archie. The arguments between Wolfe and Theodore in the greenhouse; and between Wolfe and Fritz in the kitchen are hilarious. The row between Wolfe and Fritz about which portions of garlic and saffron to put into the marinade for the shish kebab is classic. In one episode Wolfe pours a bottle of Dutch beer into a pint mug, then drinks the lot down in one draught. In another episode, Archie tells the police that Wolfe takes his exercise by throwing darts from his bedside, then walks round the bed to collect the darts from the dartboard.

    Sadly they only made one series of this, so maybe the show didn't catch on, or maybe they stopped it because George Voskovec, who played Fritz, sadly died.

    Watch this series. It will change your life!