9 August 2005 | TVholic
Too short a season
"Gideon Oliver" was part of a rotating group of series on ABC's Monday Mystery Movie, along with a "Columbo" revival and Burt Reynolds' star vehicle "B.L. Stryker" (and perhaps another show that I don't recall). The Monday Mystery Movie was based on the NBC Mystery Movie format from the '70s. Alas, "Gideon" was the shortest-lived of the three series, lasting only five episodes. "Stryker" coasted on Reynolds' wisecracks, attitude and fisticuffs, but it couldn't last more than twelve episodes, either. Only longtime stalwart "Columbo" survived longer, outlasting the Monday Mystery Movie franchise, although it was no longer as fresh and original as it was during its NBC Sunday Mystery Movie era.
Gideon Oliver, as portrayed by Louis Gossett, Jr., was an excellent role model for African- Americans. Inquisitive, intelligent, caring, committed to justice. Able to hold his own in a fight, but preferring to outwit his opponents. It was one of Gossett's best characters. It was also much better than a later try at a brilliant black crime-solver, 1995's "Cosby Mysteries."
Whole episodes were often filmed in NYC with exterior location shots because Professor Oliver taught at Columbia University. This made it better in that respect than "McCloud," which, while set in NYC, relied on an obviously fake, backlot New York street for many of its shots.
While I'm not African-American, I was taken by this series. After not seeing it since the 1989 network run, I suggested it to the only cable channel I thought might be interested in picking it up, Superstation WGN. After all, they often filled prime time with their own Mystery Movie weeks, showing "McCloud" and "McMillan and Wife" episodes. And the five-episode size of this series would make it easier to buy the rights and fit into their schedule. Luckily, they seemed to take my suggestion, although they may have been doing it or planning it all along. In the past three years, WGN has run a Mystery Movie week featuring "Gideon Oliver" at least once a year. It's worth catching if you haven't seen it before.