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Mike Connors, who played private detective Joe Mannix on the TV series "Mannix" for eight seasons from 1967 to 1975, passed away yesterday of leukemia. He was 91.
KC's View:
"Mannix" started out with a premise that was revolutionary, even prescient for the mid-sixties - Joe worked for a big corporate detective firm called Intertect, where most of the detecting was done by enormous mainframe computers; Joe, however, was a two-fisted private eye in the classic tradition, which brought him into constant conflict with his boss, Lew Wickersham.

The ratings during that first season were mediocre, and CBS was about to cancel the show when the person who ran the studio that produced it intervened. That person was Lucille Ball, and the studio was Desilu ... which produced not just her show, but also a couple of other shows you may have heard of called "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible." Lucy liked "Mannix"and thought that Connors had the makings of a major TV star, and so it was decided that "Mannix" would be renewed and reformatted, with Joe now off working on his own. (He lived and worked at 17 Paseo Verde in Los Angeles, and had a great secretary named Peggy Fair, played by the luminous Gail Fisher.)

And then, for seven seasons, "Mannix" got terrific ratings, and Connors became one of the best-paid stars on television. While the show was criticized at the time for its violence, these days it looks tame. (The Hollywood Reporter notes in its obit that "by one count, Mannix was shot 17 times and knocked unconscious 55 times on the show.")

It also, by the way, had one of the best-ever opening title sequences and musical themes on TV, composed as a waltz by Lalo Schifrin (who also did the "Mission: Impossible" and Bullitt themes).

I tell you all this not just because I know a lot of trivia. The fact is, I loved "Mannix." It was my favorite TV show, hands down. I loved the convertibles Mannix drove, the fights he won and lost, the crazy sports jackets he wore, the apartment that he lived in over his office, and even some of the dumber plots. (And some of them got dumb, and repetitive. You can't make 194 one-hour episodes of anything without repeating yourself. That's the equivalent of 97 movies.)

Here, just because I know them, are the six best episodes of 'Mannix"...

• "The Man Is Mannix" ... the very first episode, which introduces the character, and sends him to Palm Springs to track down the kidnapped daughter (Barbara Anderson) of a mob boss (Lloyd Nolan). A good, sold plot, with the added attraction of Mannix being chased by a helicopter.

• "End Game" ... in which Mannix has to enter a booby-trapped abandoned apartment building to rescue a policeman friend, and deal with the ravings of a guy who served with him in the Korean War, but who betrayed his unit to the enemy. Steve Ihnat is great as the bad guy, and the episode is tautly written and shot. (Season Two, Episode 19.)

• "Return To Summer Grove" ... the mystery plot is secondary in this episode, as Mannix goes back to his hometown to confront his estranged father, played by the great Victor Jory. Vera Miles plays his old girlfriend. (Season Three, Episode Three.)

• "The Sound of Darkness" ... Mannix is blinded by an assassin, and then has to figure out how to defend himself when the bad guy comes back to finish the job. (Season Three, Episode 10.)

• "A Ticket To The Eclipse" ... another vengeful Korean War buddy comes back to hunt down Joe, but this time he's played by Darren McGavin, who is crazy good in the role. Plus, he seems like a real match for Mannix. (Season Four, Episode One.)

• "The Mouse That Died" ... Joe is given a slow-acting poison, and he has to figure out who is trying to kill him and why. A terrific performance by Connors. (And Hugh Beaumont, of "Leave It To Beaver" fame, even has a supporting role.) (Season Four, Episode Five.)

I have the entire eight seasons of "Mannix" on DVD, and for me they are like comfort food. I'm on the road right now, but when I get home, a little binge watching is going to be called for.

RIP, Joe.