1 9 7 6 (USA)
13 x 60 minute episodes
Running to a mere 13 episodes and dismissed when it first appeared in 1976 as a Chinatown knock-off, City of Angels was a handsomely-mounted period piece that showcased the writing and producing talents of two masters of the TV detective show – Roy Huggins and Stephen Cannell.
Jake Axminster (Wayne Rogers in his first post-M*A*S*H role) was a tough private eye looking out mostly for himself in the corrupt Los Angeles of the mid-1930s. He worked out of the Bradbury Building (a real-life LA landmark frequently used in films and TV series).
There he shared space with his flaky blonde receptionist, Marsha (Elaine Joyce) who ran a switchboard service in the outer office for call girls.
Jake played all the angles for himself and (on occasion) his clients, invariably running afoul of Lt. Quint (Clifton James), a stocky, sweaty, thoroughly corrupt cop who frequently beat Jake with a rubber hose, keeping him alive only because Jake occasionally paid him off.
Quint swore he would eventually kill the slippery detective.
Jake’s only real ally in his efforts to stay out of jail and alive in the corrupt cesspool of a city, was attorney Michael Brimm (Philip Sterling) who encouraged Jake not to take so many chances but, at the same time, conspired with him to get the best of Quint and the other corrupt cops, politicos and power brokers they encountered.
At some point in every case, Jake realised he was in over his head and quit, abandoning his client. He lied, bribed, cheated, stole and even fought dirty. But he ultimately showed courage and intelligence – and even a sense of responsibility for his clients.
Sadly, City of Angels was a ratings failure. Wayne Rogers himself became disillusioned with the series, complaining that the show was “a classic example of convoluted, disconnected, bad storytelling”.