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  • The original BURKE'S LAW from the 1960s was, in it's day, as much a popular detective series with "style" as THE AVENGERS were. That does not mean it was as well written as the best AVENGERS episodes were. The best BURKE'S LAW episodes concentrated on the mystery plotting rather than the social satire of Steed and Ms Peel. But the central idea, about a millionaire Police Chief in L.A. was picked up and reused within a decade in MACMILLAN AND WIFE with Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James. The use of dozens of Hollywood movie figures as suspects in the plots of the BURKE'S LAW episodes would become a model for such later shows as COLUMBO and MURDER SHE WROTE.

    To keep up with changes in the audience (in the wake of the James Bond phenomenon), the network changed the original to a spy series starring Gene Barry again as Amos Burke, but that turned out to be a flop. So it left the screen. Barry would soon return to television with Robert Stack and Tony Franciosa in THE NAME OF THE GAME, so his career continued to flourish.

    Than, in 1994, BURKE'S LAW returned for a new season. The only difference was that Amos was now a widower with a grown son named Peter, played by Peter Barton. The basic character of the Chief of Police was kept by Barry, who mingled brains, elegance, and a sly wit (culminating in his "interpretations" or "popularizations" of rules of law) when explaining some situation confronting his solving a case with his son's assistance.

    Again there were many familiar faces, but now many were from the first two generations of television (understandably, as the old Hollywood faces who appeared in the 1960s were dead or dying our). In one episode, a Judge who realizes the short-comings of the criminal justice system (with a degree of humor) was played by Sherman Helmsley of THE JEFFERSONS. But what showed the limitations of the revival was only apparent to people who watched the original. They were reusing old screenplays and story lines.

    For example: One episode dealt with a famous magician who was performing a Houdini like escape by being sealed in a coffin, and sunk into a pool for twenty four hours. The coffin is brought to the surface, but the hotel doctor notices something odd when the coffin is opened. He goes over to the magician and examines him - and announces the magician has died, but from being shot. As the pool had underwater cameras trained on it, nobody can figure out how the magician got murdered.

    Now this happened to be a very fine episode on the original series. The hotel doctor in that episode was Paul Lynde, who naturally played the part for every drop of humor that could be squeezed (he keeps moping about the fact that he has just started working at this luxury hotel, and his bosses will not like that his first claim to public attention was this garish murder case). The actor playing the magician was not a well known one.

    But when it was remade in 1994, the magician was played by John Astin, and instead of only appearing at the very start of the episode only, Astin made a surprise second appearance in the later part of the episode as a kind of visual trick. The hotel doctor was played by Tom Bosley, but with more seriousness than Lynde showed in the original. Other actors (including Roddy MacDowell) popped up in the episode as rival magicians who may have killed Astin. The solution, however, remained the same as in the original version.

    Another episode was a repeat of the story that was in the original series where Anne Francis popped up as female detective Honey West. Francis's West would go on to have her own series on television for a year or two as a result of the appearance in the first series.

    Of course the scripts had to be rewritten to give Peter Burke as much to do as his father Amos. But the fact that the episodes became retreads of originals showed that the series had not been well thought out after all. For old time fans it must have seemed a let-down to see the old tales repeated (especially as you could guess the solutions). For new audiences, there was the problem of attracting new fans with characters they could get involved in. Barry and Barton tried, but the father and son team did not work very well. It was entertaining enough, but not as memorable as the original had been.
  • I liked the show and wished it could of lasted longer than it did, although I suppose it is a miracle that such a high styled campy escapist detective show like this would even have been revived in the mid-Nineties and went for 27 episodes! In the Fifties to the Seventies this sort of entertainment designed for the small screen went over reasonably well, but now I suspect that there are more humorless TV viewers than ever who possess little patience and even less appreciation of anything with a sense of old school style and flair that BURKE'S LAW had in abundance. Such folks enjoy formulamatic fare like the nightly news, Fox News and CSI and a million copycat shows, they don't and won't try to get something like BURKE'S LAW, which is too bad...

    Such easy to understand and digest TV shows around at the same time like MURDER SHE WROTE and MATLOCK were designed to appeal to similar tastes, but with BURKE'S LAW you had to have a more fine tuned appreciation of wit, well timed sarcasm and style plus a tongue in cheek sense of humor to fully appreciate the gifts and sheer force of personality and presence that Gene Barry brought to the screen in his role and to enjoy the campy proceedings at hand. Despite being at the helm of other successful series and in many films, Gene Barry IS Amos Burke, he owns that role!

    If you are reading this, then chances are you already know about the original BURKE'S LAW and what it is about, and as others have already written about how the storyline was updated for the 1990's. On this 1990's version, Burke was still as sharp as ever, big name guest stars abounded just like in the Sixties, and for a little while CBS looked like it had showcased a nice revival of a classy Sixties favorite to its lineup. Too bad they didn't order another season
  • Amazingly,producer Aaron Spelling brought back his most famous show which produced 27 episodes and ran for one season on CBS from 1994-1995. The title again became "Burke's Law",and Gene Barry was back in his most famous role as Chief of Detectives,Amos Burke,who was still head of operations for the Los Angeles Police Department. This time around,Burke is assisted by his son,Peter Burke(Peter Barton). The revival,even more than the original program,was widely regarded as camp,but it was still a good murder mystery with a cast of "whodunits" leading up to Burke and his son to solve the crime and catch the killer. Also,Gene Barry's character was back chasing crooks in his fabulous Rolls-Royce only this time the producers along with some of the writers including Richard Levinson and William Link along with Harlan Ellison,Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts along with Ernest Kinmoy dusted off the original scripts for this new incarnation. Only on occasion did we see the old spark of creatively that made the original show from the early 1960's so great. Some of these episodes did have a touch of a 90's retrospective,such as a victim freezing to death on the hottest day of the year;an ambulance chasing lawyer getting run over by an ambulance. Who would have thought of bringing back guest stars such as Efrem Zimbalist,Jr. as a greedy tycoon accused of murder while practicing his golf swing from the roof of a building and doesn't care who it falls on?

    And other stars such as Brian Keith,as an ex-marine turned novelist accused of first degree murder,who puts on a dress just to get into the mood to write? And other stars as suspects such as Hugh O'Brian, Richard Crenna,Stella Stevens,and Carolyn Jones to name a few. This show also featured guest appearances by many of Gene Barry's peers from the 1960's spy-fi genre including Patrick Macnee(The Avengers), Robert Culp(I Spy),David McCallum(The Man From UNCLE),Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain(Mission:Impossible),and Anne Francis(Honey West). It also have some well-known detectives including Mike Connors(Mannix)and Karl Malden(The Streets of San Francisco). After one season on the air,CBS cancelled it and replaced it with the Dick Van Dyke mystery series "Diagnosis Murder",which was the greatest travesty of its kind and to say CBS kept it on the air for seven years killing one of the greatest mystery shows of all time.
  • I love detective stories. I saw them all: Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, even the short-lived Blacke's magic. The revived Burke's Law would have been a welcome addition, if not for the derivative style. It's the same plot device over and over again, a murder, one suspect leading Burke and Son to another suspect, then finally calling all suspects in one room and Burke eliminating the non-murderers before naming the real one. Even Agatha Christie knew how to manipulate the storyline so it wouldn't be the same story as the last one. Sadly, the new Burke's Law was just trying to be the next Murder She Wrote without the variety. It feels like it's trapped in the 1930's, like those cozy murders in an English cottage.

    The only positive thing: it's in color!
  • As a child, I remember sitting with the folks and watching the original"Burke's Law" series in the 1960's. I recall being intrigued with the character's signature, "It's Burke's Law" witticisms each episode. Fast forward thirty years, and Gene Barry was every bit as dashing as before, and the witticisms were still pure entertainment.

    Watching Amos Burke, now a widower with a grown super handsome son, Peter Burke, allowed the testosterone to flow nicely. I certainly enjoyed watching the show in color, and the story lines, while not always fresh, were certainly engaging. Guest appearances by some top notch actors and actresses kept the episodes fresh. Dom DeLuise in his recurring guest role was the cherry on top.

    I truly believe the revival series could've last a couple of more seasons easily. It was a mid-season replacement, premiering on Friday,January 7, 1994, in the 9 p.m., also known as the "Friday Night Death Slot," so the series had two strikes against it going in.
  • Well, maybe my summary will take place of puurakek's, but he (or she?) is totally right! (so read this summary) In one episode (the one w/ Robert Vaughn) there was an identical twin brother who took place of the murdered one, and I only thought, please, don't let this be the one who is believed to be the murdered one and who took his brother's place after he murdered him. Guess what? But somehow I like that show, I don't think it's a total waste of money like "Baby Talk". I don't think, I could stand this show for more than one season, this was enough, but for one season the show was fine. I would have wanted a second or third season of Mr. Merlin, or a new concept.
  • I well remember the first incarnation of Burke's Law with Gene Barry as the rich old money cop who came to crime scenes in his Rolls-Royce and after an hour of time visiting the guest star lineup inevitably solved the crime. It was a great show for two seasons and then someone had the bright idea to make Amos Burke a secret agent. Show never made it after that.

    Thirty years later Amos Burke is with the LAPD again and is now a senior consultant as befitting a senior citizen. He got married and widowed in the interim and had a son. The son grew up to be Peter Barton and he's now a homicide cop with the LAPD.

    Now they both go to crime scenes in style. At least Gene Barry does. Barton preferred more understated modes of transportation.

    It was a nice show, but I guess it was too late to get this souffle to rise again.
  • This was my first exposure to Burke's Law...I had never seen the original until a few years ago (I could tell you why I passed up opportunities in the past to see the original, but it's a ridiculous reason not to watch a TV show, you'd laugh, I'd have to kill you, and I really don't want to do that). I did, however, watch and enjoy other shows with Gene Barry (Bat Masterson, Name of the Game, even The Adventurer), so I was looking forward to seeing the still-dashing Barry race to the scene of the latest homicide in the flashy Bentley (and yes, it IS a Bentley and not a Rolls, as one episode in this series makes a point about it). I found out that Aaron Spelling was trying as early as 1981 to get Barry to reprise the role.

    So...what do we have here? A lot has changed in the almost-30 years since the original series ended...apparently, Amos quit the spy business (which is what he was involved in when the series was canceled midway through the '65-'66 season), returned to the force and worked his way up from Captain of Homicide to Chief of Detectives. We're also led to believe that he gave up his freewheeling bachelor ways, settled down, got married, had a child, became a widower (one of the most poignant scenes in the series occurs when Amos and his son visit the grave of his late wife, Sarah, at the end of one episode). Speaking of his son, Peter (played by Peter Barton of Powers of Matthew Star and The Young and the Restless) is a real chip off the old block...he's handsome, quite a draw for the ladies (just like his old man), and most importantly, he's a cop as well, and is his dad's sidekick, doing all the physical stuff that Tim Tilson and Les Hart did in the original series.

    The series in itself features the same quirky murder mysteries that the original did...a hated fashion designer killed by a tiny arrow from an ice sculpture, a 'celebrity' lifeguard drowned in his own pool, a temperamental tennis star named Spider being fatally bitten by a black widow spider, to name a few. One story, Who Killed Alexander the Great?, about a magician who goes into an airtight coffin in a pool very much alive but is dead from a gunshot wound when the coffin is opened, was lifted from the original series (where it was done as Who Killed Merlin the Great?). The episode's writers, Richard Levinson and William Link, also used it as the pilot for their short-lived magic/detective series Blacke's Magic. The new version adds a couple of interesting tweaks, but on the whole, cannot compare to the original.

    And that is what seems to be the case for the entire show...there are interesting story ideas, but once you've seen the original (which I finally did), this is an awful pale comparison. Occasionally, you will see folks who guested on the original series dusted off to make an appearance (Rita Moreno, Anne Francis, Edd Byrnes, Marty Ingels, Frankie Avalon), but mostly it's a huge sea of familiar TV faces, including some of Barry's fellow action stars (Mike Connors, Robert Culp, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), stunt casting (Downtown Julie Brown, Dusty Rhodes) and a heaping helping of Spelling's 90210/Melrose Place gang. It seems like one of those kids is moonlighting in every episode of the show, including not one but TWO appearances by Tori Spelling, one of those an uncredited cameo.

    And to the poster who mentioned people like Hugh O'Brien, Richard Crenna, Karl Malden, Patrick Macnee, Barbara Bain, Peter Lupus and Karl Malden...what show were you watching anyhow? I saw every episode of this series, and I can tell you, unless they were cleverly disguised as scenery, NONE of those actors appeared on Burke's Law! And while Carolyn Jones (the former Mrs. Spelling) did appear on the original series, it would've been some trick if she appeared on this version, as she'd been dead for a decade by the time it debuted.

    Final thoughts...it's OK viewing, fun to see 75-year-old Gene Barry still looking dapper and dashing off quips and Mary Worth-like advice to everyone he meets, but the original, in glorious black-and-white, is still the one to seek out for all-star casts having a ball with quirky mysteries. My grade...6 out of 10.