RARA-AVIS: Re: Johnny Staccato

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 20 Oct 2010

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    Dick wrote:

    > I realize I'm probably on the minority side of this discussion, but, except
    > for the soundtrack and a look at a lot of good New York actors, including
    > Cassavetes, the show was a bit over the top. Overly sentimental.
    > Melodramatic. Sort of East Coast frantic jazz as opposed to Peter Gunn's
    > West Coast cool.

    You're not totally alone. I agree -- many of the shows were so completely over the top they were laughable. All style, very little substance. And while Cassavetes would become a great actor, too often he just chewed ripping big hunks of scenery in this show. And some of the shows he directed -- his first directing gigs, I believe -- were even funnier.

    One particularly memorable episode had Johnny theoretically talking down a suicide jumper off a rooftop, but Cassavetes' performance was so strident and overblown that I can't imagine anyone -- even someone not previously suicidal --- not being inspired to consider taking a running leap.

    A very erratic show, swinging from one extreme to another, too self-conscious, staggering too often under the weight of its pretensions at the expense of the story it was trying to tell. But other episodes could be quite good. The use of New York location shots was well done, and the grittiness (when it wasn't overdone) was quite effective.

    Not that PETER GUNN didn't have its clunkers as well, but overall it was far more consistently entertaining and certainly better written (Blake Edwards also created radio's Richard Diamond). And every bit as hard-boiled as the self-conscious STACCATO. The violence in PETER GUNN could be startling, and the relationship between the unmarried Peter and Edie, while occasionally a trifle too cute (think Nick and Nora in the movies or latter day Spenser and Susan), was nonetheless decidedly adult -- a brave move for TV in that era.

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Back from the dead... sorta"

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