1 9 6 5 – 1 9 7 4 (USA)
236 x 60 minute episodes
No other TV show had portrayed the cool, professional operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation quite so thoroughly as this long-running ABC series starring Efrem Zimbalist Jnr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine of the FBI.
Zimbalist personified the calm, business-suited government agent who always tracked his criminals down, scientifically and methodically and with virtually no emotion at all.
For the first two seasons, Agent Jim Rhodes was Erskine’s associate and boyfriend to his daughter, Barbara. Agent Tom Colby was Erskine’s sidekick for Season’s 3-8 (1967-73). He was replaced by Agent Chris Daniels.
All the principals answered to Agent Arthur Ward, the assistant to the FBI director and the man to whom Inspector Erskine reported. Erskine was a man of little humour and a near-obsessive devotion to his duties and was haunted by the memory of his wife, who had been killed in a job-related shoot-out.
Barbara Erskine, his daughter, appeared only during the first season, later being written out. Erskine discouraged his daughter from becoming involved with an FBI agent, hoping to spare her the same pain.
But his capacity for compassion ended there. Neither he nor his partners allowed themselves to become emotionally involved in their work which focused on a range of crimes, from bank robbery to kidnapping to the occasional Communist threat to overthrow the government.
The cases were based on real FBI files and ranged across the United States and involved counterfeiters, extortionists, organised crime, Communist spies, and radical bombings. The programme always portrayed the agency in a favourable light.
The FBI won the commendation of real-life FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who gave the show full government cooperation and even allowed filming of some background scenes at the FBI Headquarters in Washington.
Many telecasts closed with a short segment asking the audience for information on the FBI’s most-wanted men (including, in April of 1968, the fugitive James Earl Ray).
The FBI was the longest running series from the prolific offices of Quinn Martin Productions, the production company guided by the powerful television producer of the same name.
Martin professed that he did not want to do the show, primarily because he saw himself and the Bureau in two different political and philosophical camps.
But through a series of meetings with J. Edgar Hoover and other Bureau representatives, and at the urging of ABC and sponsor Ford Motor Company, Martin proceeded with the show.
Shortly after the series left the air, Martin produced two made-for-television films, The FBI Versus Alvin Karpis (1974), and The FBI Versus the Ku Klux Klan(1975).
Inspector Lewis Erskine
Efrem Zimbalist Jnr.
Special Agent Jim Rhodes
Special Agent Tom Colby
Agent Chris Daniels