Series: Burkes Law

From right to left: Sergeant Hart, Detective Tilson, and Captain Burke.
"It's Burke's Law!"
Sultry Female Announcer, Once per Episode

A Lighter and Softer, slightly Campy Detective Drama that ran for three seasons from 1963 to 1965 (sort of; see below) on ABC, Burke's Law followed the adventures of Amos Burke (Gene Barry), a snarky and debonaire LAPD captain who also happened to be a multimillionaire. Accompanied by his sidekicks, the youthful rookie Detective Tim Tilson (Gary Conway) and the world-weary veteran Sergeant Les Hart (Regis Toomey), Burke would ride between crime scenes in a Rolls Royce limo driven by his faithful chauffeur Henry (Leon Lontoc) and investigate lurid murders among the Hollywood glitterati with his trademark wit and style.

Although quite popular in its first two seasons, the show fell victim to Executive Meddling just prior to its third. Network executives at ABC, hoping to cash in on the super-spy craze touched off by by the James Bond films and The Man from UNCLE, demanded a Genre Shift. Over the heated objections of Barry and producer Aaron Spelling, the show was retitled Amos Burke, Secret Agent, the entire main cast was fired except for Barry, and Burke became a jetsetting spy on the payroll of the federal government. The sweeping changes went over like a lead balloon with audiences and the show was canceled 17 episodes into the season.

In 1994, a Revival (also produced by Spelling) was broadcast on CBS, with Barry reprising his role as Burke, now a widower and the Chief of Police who solved crimes in tandem with his grown son, Detective Peter Burke (Peter Brandon). The new series was canceled after just one season.


This series provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Burke. The only time he ever loses at anything is when the other person cheats.
  • Always Gets His Man: Burke, all the way.
  • Always Murder: Well, he is the captain of the Homicide Squad.
  • Asshole Victim: Usually, in order to make it believable that Everyone Is a Suspect.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The usual milieu of the investigation. The victim was almost always a celebrity of some variety, and thus so would the suspects be.
  • Big Fancy House
  • Bluffing the Murderer: In "Who Killed Everybody?"
  • The Butler Did It: Hart is convinced this is the case in "Who Killed Cassandra Cass?" Turns out, he's right.
  • Camp
  • Catch Phrase/Title Drop: After delivering a witty aphorism, Burke dubs it "Burke's Law."
  • Cool Car: Burke's 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II. It had a prominently featured car phone and, during the show's Spy Fiction phase, bulletproofing.
  • Credits Gag: The Episode Title Card for "Who Killed The Surf Broad?" reads "Who Killed The Surf Board?" with "Board" crossed out and "Broad" written beneath it in a different font.
  • Deadly Delivery: Subverted in "Who Killed Molly?"
  • Detective Patsy: Tilson in "Who Killed the Horne of Plenty?"
  • Domestic Abuser: One of the victims in "Who Killed Everybody?"
  • Electrified Bathtub: Used in "Who Killed the Starlet?" A woman is the bath while listening to some music, when a killer sneaks in and drops her boombox into the bathtub, killing her. It turns out that the killer and lady are merely actors on a movie set, and they're filming a murder scene. Then it turns out the boombox had been plugged into a live outlet by an unknown party, and the actress in the bathtub really is dead.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Every episode, and sometimes playfully exaggerated. In "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?", the trope reaches its natural extreme when the suspects who aren't booked for the murder end up getting booked for attempted murder instead. In "Who Killed the Eleventh Best Dressed Woman in the World?", meanwhile, the killer invited all of the victim's other enemies to be present and even paid their way just to be sure there'd be a lot of suspects cluttering up the investigation.
  • The Exotic Detective
  • Fair Cop: Both Burke and Tim Tilson.
  • Faking the Dead: "Who Killed Purity Mather?" is more like "Who Did Purity Mather Kill And Make People Believe It Was Her Who Bought It?"
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Burke does this in "Who Killed Marty Kelso?" Mind-bogglingly, he does this knowing that the drug he's tasting was probably used to poison the victim.
  • Gentleman Detective/Gentleman Snarker: Burke on both counts.
  • Girl of the Week: Burke had a new girlfriend in every episode, who would usually only appear at the beginning and then at the very end before disappearing off into the ether. In "Who Killed The Card?" it's Tim, for once, who gets the girl.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Subverted in "Who Killed the Eleventh Best Dressed Woman in the World?" Everyone seems to know how the victim died.
  • Identical Grandson: Burke's Irish Uncle Pat ("Who Killed The Grand Piano?") is played by Gene Barry with a blonde wig and moustache.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: For the first two seasons and the revival, each episode was entitled "Who Killed [Weekly Victim's Name/Occupation]?" When the show underwent its Genre Shift in Season 3, this was dropped, too.
  • Internal Affairs: Captain Metcalfe in "Who Killed the Horne of Plenty?"
  • Jail Bake: Attempted in "Who Killed Cassandra Cass?"
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: A girl who does this at a stag party where all the guests were murdered becomes a particularly irritating (and clingy) witness in "Who Killed Everybody?"
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: When Anne Francis guested on the revival as Honey West (whose series was spun off from an episode of the original), the character had to be called Honey Best since Spelling Entertainment didn't have the rights (unlike Capt. Burke, Honey came from a series of novels by Skip and Gloria Fickling).
  • Lighter and Softer
  • Marry Them All: When Burke ends up with two girls of the week in "Who Killed Cassandra Cass?", he simply goes out on a date with both of them.
  • Millionaire Playboy: Burke had a day job, of course, but otherwise he fit this to a tee.
  • Mushroom Samba: One of the suspects is having one as Burke and Tilson question her in "Who Killed Cassandra Cass?"
  • Mystery of the Week
  • Nasty Party: In "Who Killed Cassandra Cass?", the victim made it a habit to invite all of her Blackmail victims to an annual dinner party.
  • New Meat: Tim Tilson, for which he was often the subject of Burke's good-natured ribbing.
  • No Name Given: "The Man," Burke's mysterious boss when he became a secret agent.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Burke, of course.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Used in "Who Killed the Starlet?". A woman is the bath while listening to some music, when a killer sneaks in and drops her boombox into the bathtub, killing her. It turns out that the killer and lady are merely actors on a movie set, and they're filming a murder scene. Then it turns out the boombox had been plugged into a live outlet by an unknown party, and the actress in the bathtub really is dead.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In "Who Killed Marty Kelso?", the murderer plants a cufflink at the scene to implicate an innocent man. After the police fail to find it, she plants its mate. When Burke finds both of them, he figures that one cufflink is a clue and two is an obvious frameup.
  • Overt Operative: Even after he became a secret agent for the government, Burke kept the fancy tailored suits and the silver Rolls Royce. He also never bothered with false names or disguises.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Who Killed the Jackpot?" was one of these for Honey West.
  • Rasputinian Death: A standard twist to lead in to the second commercial break, but never more faithfully done than in "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?", in which the victim was revealed to have been shot, stabbed, and poisoned before finally being impaled.
  • Recursive Canon: In The Stinger for "Who Killed Purity Mather?" the Girl of the Week watches an episode of Burke's Law on our hero's limo TV.
  • Recycled Premise: The original's "Who Killed The Toy Soldier?" led to the revival's "Who Killed The Toy Maker?"
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Tim Tilson and Les Hart, respectively.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Burke always dressed to the nines.
  • Shoe Phone: During the Amos Burke, Secret Agent era, Burke had quite a few of these, like a pen that unfolded the stairs in his private jet.
  • The Snark Knight: Les Hart often filled this role.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Gene Barry's previous star vehicle, Bat Masterson, which was also about a wealthy, urbane, and snarky lawman, except set in the Wild West rather than present day Los Angeles.
  • Tap on the Head/Waking Up Elsewhere: Burke falls victim to both in "Who Killed the Eleventh Best Dressed Woman in the World?"
  • Technology Porn: The car phone in Burke's Rolls was featured prominently.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: The Amos Burke, Secret Agent episodes.
  • The Unreveal: The source of Burke's wealth. In one episode, an IRS agent presses him to explain how he can afford his lavish lifestyle. He snarks that he's an avid coupon clipper.