Series / Ellery Queen
was an American television detective mystery series that ran for one season from 1975 to 1976 on NBC. It starred Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen, and David Wayne as his father, Inspector Richard Queen. Other characters include Sgt. Thomas Velie (Tom Reese), Inspector Queen's right-hand man; Simon Brimmer (John Hillerman), a radio sleuth who tries to solve the crimes before Ellery does (and always fails); and Frank Flannigan (Ken Swofford), a newspaper columnist who greatly annoys Inspector Queen by inserting himself into murder investigations looking for the latest developments.
Set in post-World War II, the show closely followed the format of the early Ellery Queen
mystery novels, where just prior to the presentation of the solution to the mystery, a "Challenge To The Reader" was issued, in which the suspects and clues were reviewed and the reader challenged to guess the solution to the crime. In the show, this tradition was preserved by having Ellery Queen break the fourth wall and speak directly to the viewer prior to the commercial break that led into the final act. The final act always employed the time-honored detective cliché of calling together all the suspects, with Ellery Queen presenting the solution to the group, frequently upstaging and skewering the solution proposed by whichever rival sleuth was also in the episode.
Tropes used in Ellery Queen include:
- Absent-Minded Professor: Ellery
- Adaptation Decay
- In "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader", Ellery is not pleased with a comic book series about him.
- In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", the script based on Ellery's novel is said to be not only horrible, but getting worse with each revision.
- Adorkable: Ellery
- Alice Allusion: "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" is full of them.
- Amateur Sleuth
- And Starring: The opening titles of Simon Brimmer episodes always end with "And John Hillerman as Simon Brimmer".
- Asshole Victim: Most of the victims were not nice people.
- Several characters in "The Adventure of the Wary Witness" think that Lin Hagen should be acquitted of the murder of Nick Danello, not because they think Lin is innocent, but because they believe Nick was such a scourge on society that killing him was a public service.
- Ate the Spoon: In "The Adventure of the Disappering Dagger", Ellery uses a trick spoon designed to dissolve in hot water to explain how the crime was committed.
- Bad to the Last Drop: Ellery's coffee. In one episode, Ellery's father (who, it should be pointed out is a homicide detective and therefore used to bad coffee) takes one sip and pours his cup down the sink. After a moment's thought, he follows this by pouring the entire pot down the sink.
- Beneath Suspicion: The killer in "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse". This was one of only two episodes where the killer was not one of the suspects named in the opening monologue. (The other was "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog".)
- Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: How the suspect claims his prints got on the murder weapon in "The Adventure of the Wary Witness".
- Book Snap: In the two hour pilot "Too Many Suspects", Ellery does it when a girl he agreed to watch for her parents gets upset at his continually having his nose in a mystery book and tells him who the murderer is.
- The Boxing Episode: "The Adventure of the Sunday Punch"
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ellery's Once an Episode "Challenge to the Viewer".
- Burlesque: In "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils", the Victim of the Week is an impresario re-opening a burlesque theatre, and the suspects include several burlesque dancers.
- Busman's Holiday:
- In "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog", the Queens go upstate for a fishing trip. A murder takes place, and one of the locals recruits Inspector Queen and his son to investigate.
- In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", the Queens visit Hollywood to observe the filming of a movie based on one of Ellery's novels. The star of the movie is murdered, and Ellery takes it upon himself to find the killer.
- Canon Foreigner: Simon Brimmer and Frank Flannigan were original characters created for the television series, not part of the Ellery Queen literary canon.
- Chess Motifs: Toyed with, punnily, in the opening titles. These show a series of period- and place-establishing objects laid out on a checked surface. The next-to-last image is a pawn sitting next to a typewriter; the last is a broken, overturned queen. (The DVD menus continue this, with a silhouetted queen superimposed on the currently-selected title on the episode selection screens.)
- Cigar Chomper: Sgt. Velie is rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth or hand.
- Citizenship Marriage: A major plot point of "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument". Magda is an illegal alien; Edgar Manning knew about this and held it over her, which is what provides her potential motive for his murder. When Magda reveals that Cliff Waddell had proposed marriage to her, Ellery realizes that Cliff also knew Magda was in the country illegally, and used this knowledge to frame her for Manning's murder.
- Clear Their Name: In "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep", Velie is accused of the murder and Inspector Queen and Ellery have to clear his name.
- Clock Discrepancy: In "The Adventure of the Hard-Hearted Huckster", an important clue is that the victim always had his watch set 5 minutes fast, and his secretary did too because her boss did it.
- Cold Cash: In "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs", a search of the Queens' apartment fails to find the files the searchers were looking for because Ellery had absent-mindedly placed them in the refrigerator.
- Compromising Memoirs: The compromising memoirs Colonel Nivin is planning to publish provide the motive for his murder in "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs".
- Contract on the Hitman: In "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep", the killer provides the police the location of a hitman who had bungled an earlier attempt on the victim, knowing that the hitman will shoot it out with the police rather than being taken alive. The killer does this so the hitman won't identify them as the person who hired him.
- Couch Gag: Every episode started with an offscreen narrator saying "This (current episode's victim) is about to be murdered. Was it the ( list of suspects )? Match wits with Ellery Queen and see if you can tell...Whodunit?" (This opening was Edited for Syndication for the A&E reruns, but was restored for the DVD release.)
- Dead Artists Are Better: In "The Adventure of the Two-Faced Woman", the victim-to-be's husband scoffs at her for bidding on a painting whose artist is still alive.
- Dead Man Writing: "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils" opens with a group of people being attending a funeral and then being shown a film in which the dead man says that if they are watching this then he has been murdered and that one of them is the killer.
- Dead Star Walking: The most recognizable name in an episode's cast would often be the person playing the victim. A prominent example is George Burns in "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils".
- Death in the Clouds: "The Adventure of the Disappearing Dagger" involves a man being stabbed to death while on a plane in flight.
- Detective Mole: The killer of "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog" turns out to be the sheriff in charge of the murder investigation.
- Disconnected by Death:
- In "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne", the Victim of the Week is stabbed in the phone booth while trying to phone his lawyer to disinherit his relatives. Rendered unable to speak, he uses his final moments to phone a complete stranger for reasons nobody can fathom. Once Ellery arrives on the scene, he deduces almost immediately that the victim had dialed his killer's name. Ellery proves this was indeed the case when he calls the stranger's house without being told the phone number.
- In "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument", the Victim of the Week is on the phone to Ellery when he is murdered.
- Discreet Drink Disposal: In "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse", Inspector Queen discreetly pours a cup of Ellery's awful coffee down the sink, and then follows it by pouring the entire pot out. Ellery then attempts to refill his cup from the empty pot and only notices anything is wrong when he takes a sip from his cup and finds it empty.
- Drives Like Crazy: Ellery's distractedness causes him to ignore minor details like red lights.
- Dying Clue: Used frequently. Ellery even refers to it by name in "The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance" when he realises that a dying clue that should have been there is absent.
- Mentioned by name in the two hour pilot "Too Many Suspects". Inspector Queen catches up Ellery as his son arrives at a murder scene where a victim pulled a plug out of the wall, stopping both her clock and tv.
Inspector Queen: "Almost as far fetched as one of your books...a dying clue which makes absolutely no sense...which means of course it's right up your alley."
- Subverted in "The Adventure of the Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley", when the alleged dying clue turns out to be a red herring planted by the killer.
- Played with in "The Adventure of the Black Falcon". The victim grabs a particular bottle of wine from the racks to indicate the person who killed him, but he was unaware that the racks had recently been rearranged, causing him to grab a different bottle of wine from the one he intended.
- Elevator Buttons Mash: In "The Adventure of the 12th Floor Express", the victim pushes certain buttons in an elevator to indicate the office number of his killer.
- Eureka Moment: Once an Episode
- Everybody Did It: Not everybody, but in "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader", three of the five suspects end up being guilty of the murder.
- Everyone Is a Suspect:
- Even Ellery is arrested in "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader". (Inspector Queen doesn't want to do it, but Ellery turns himself in so as to spare his father public humiliation.)
- In "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep", most of the evidence seems to point to Sgt. Velie as the killer. Velie doesn't actually get arrested, but he does turn in his badge when the case against him seems hopeless. (Ellery does, however, tell the viewer that Velie didn't do it in his challenge to the viewer segment.)
- The opening narration of "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne" lists Guy Lombardo (who is shown leading the orchestra but plays no actual role in the episode's plot) amongst the suspects.
- In "The Adventure of the Lover's Leap", Ellery, during his challenge to the viewer, jokingly includes Simon Brimmer in the list of suspects.
- Averted in "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs", when Ellery tells the audience that the killer is definitely not Jenny.
- Expy: Simon Brimmer would eventually be retooled into the character Jonathan Higgins from Magnum, P.I. (also played by John Hillerman).
- Fairplay Whodunnit: The clues necessary to solve each case are always fairly presented within the body of the episode. Often, Ellery will helpfully recap them for the viewer near the end of each episode.
- Fashion Designer: In the pilot episode the victim is a successful fashion designer who is killed at home while working on her latest annual line of clothes. Not only does this career give her the wealth to realistically live in her expensive apartment, it also gives the detectives her sketches to serve as clues to her personal history and help them solve the case.
- Finger-Licking Poison: The murder method in "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep".
- Follow That Car: Played straight in "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs".
- Fright Death Trap: The Scared Stiff version is used "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse", with a fatal fright being delivered to a man with a weak heart.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Lamont Franklin in "The Adventure of the Eccentric Engineer".
- Girl of the Week: Ellery had several girlfriends in the series, none of whom appeared in more than one episode.
- Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: This seems to be the case with Simon Brimmer. The actual production of his radio show is always shown to leave him exasperated, but he jumps at the chance it affords him to play sleuth on real cases.
- He Knows Too Much:
- The reason that the title character in "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs" was killed.
- This was also the reason for the main target's death in "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario". Mike Hewitt knew that the killer had been culpable in the accidental death of someone else, and the killer had become fearful that Hewitt would soon decide to talk.
- Horrible Hollywood: "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario" had the Queens, father and son, witness this for themselves when they go on the set of an adaptation of one of Ellery's books. This being an Ellery Queen mystery, this trope's horrible aspects culminate in murder.
- Iconic Item: Ellery's Bear Bryant fedora.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episodes title begin "The Adventure of..."
- Improvised Weapon:
- The title object in "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog". The choice of this weapon ends up being a plot point, as Ellery realizes that it would have been much easier to kill Eben Wright with the nearby fireplace poker.
- Subverted in "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument". It appears that Edgar Manning was killed with the award trophy he received earlier that night. However, the murder was actually the result of a kick to the head with a built up shoe. The killer then smeared blood on the trophy to make it appear to be the murder weapon.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Discussed in "The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance" when Ellery interviews the soap opera writers about their plans for killing off Miss Aggie.
Olivia: Vera Bethune had an exaggerated view of her importance to this program. Her contract was running out and her salary demands were exorbitant.
Alvin: So we were ready to do what we always do: stick the old babe in the hospital with a cold. If she plays ball, the cold gets better. If not... pow, double pneumonia, and out she goes!
- Inspector Lestrade: Simon Brimmer, the host of a radio mystery series who fancies himself a real detective. He proves to have a knack for ferreting out useful information but always names the wrong person as the killer.
- Insurance Fraud: "The Adventure of the Judas Tree" ultimately turns out to be a case of insurance fraud, with two suspects making a suicide look like murder so they can still claim the life insurance.
- Intrepid Reporter: Recurring character Frank Flannigan is a newspaper columnist who has a habit of barging in on murder investigations looking for a hot scoop, much to Inspector Queen's annoyance.
- It Tastes Like Feet: In "The Adventure of the Hard-Hearted Huckster", Flannigan complains about the taste of a cigar:
"You call this a cigar? It tastes like the inside of a lumberjack's boot!"
- It Will Never Catch On:
- In the pilot episode, Inspector Queen grumpily refers to the television set in the victim's apartment and mentions a friend of his who is constantly pestered by guests who want to visit him and watch his new set. Ellery reassures him that TV is a novelty that will never last (which is additionally funny when it happens in a television production).
- When Flannigan's TV show is cancelled in "The Adventure of the Hard-Hearted Huckster", one of the execs suggests that they instead do a Variety Show with Ed Sullivan as the host. Flannigan scoffs at the notion.
"Ed Sullivan? That stone-faced zombie won't last two weeks!"
- In "The Adventure of the Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley", singer Gary Swift is trying out a new song called "Mona Lisa" and is unimpressed. "Who wants to hear a song about a painting?"
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: One of the characters in "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument" is a mystery writer whose detectives tend to behave this way.
Nick: You ever read any of my stuff?
Ellery: Yeah, a little.
Nick: Then you know how the hero gets information from the guy that won't talk, don't you?
Ellery: Yeah, he... punches it out of him. (beat) Nick, did you just threaten me?
- The Killer Was Left-Handed: Ellery says this after surveying the crime scene in "The Adventure of the Judas Tree".
- Locked Room Mystery: "The Adventure of the Disappearing Dagger"
- The Mafia: "The Adventure of the Wary Witness" concerns the murder of the son in a prominent crime family. Mobsters also figure prominently in the plots of "The Adventure of the Sunday Punch" and "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep". In both cases, it's a red herring, as said mobsters have no involvement in the deaths of either victim.
- Mean Boss: Bud Armstrong in "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader", in addition to sexually harassing his secretary, verbally abuses his staff at every opportunity, and taunts them about the fact that they can't quit because of their contracts. No wonder three of them decide to team up and murder him.
- Murder by Mistake: Happens to the first victim in "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario". The killer then tries again and gets it right. To elaborate: the star of an Ellery Queen movie is killed when fake bullets are replaced in a prop gun with real ones. Days later, the stuntman is murdered as well. It turns out that the stuntman was the target all along. The scene with the fatal gunshot was originally to have been filmed with the stuntman, but was changed at the last minute to feature the star instead; the killer had not received the most recent script revision.
- Mystery Magnet: Ellery
- Mystery of the Week
- Mystery Writer Detective: Ellery
- Mythology Gag: In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", Inspector Queen says that he heard that Lee Bowman was offered the role of Ellery Queen and turned it down. Bowman starred as Ellery in the 1950 Ellery Queen television series.
- Never Suicide: Averted in "The Adventure of the Judas Tree", where the death is revealed to be a suicide made to look like a murder.
- Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", a movie is being filmed based on Ellery and the man playing Ellery is killed by a gun that was supposed to be filled with blanks.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Lamont Franklin in "The Adventure of the Eccentric Engineer" appears to have gone senile, wanting to do nothing else but play with his electric trains all day. It's all an act; he's merely pretending to have gone crazy so that he can work on his revolutionary new invention in peace.
- Pandering to the Base: In "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader", Ellery accuses Bud Armstrong of doing this with the unnecessarily violent Ellery Queen comic he is planning.
- Phone Booth: The Victim of the Week in "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne" is murdered in a phone booth. Stabbed in the throat, he attempts to use the phone to leave a Dying Clue.
- Pinkerton Detective: Doyle in "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party"
- Read the Fine Print: In "The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader", Ellery despises the proposed Ellery Queen comic, but he is legally powerless to stop it because a clause in Ellery's contract stipulates that the company can license his likeness to use in any way they see fit.
- Serial Killings, Specific Target: This is what appears to be happening in "The Adventure of the Sinster Scenario". It turns out the first victim was actually a case of Murder by Mistake, and the similarity of the second victim made it look like a case of this trope.
- The Show of the Books: "Too Many Suspects" and "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" are direct adaptations; the other episodes are original stories using the characters.
- Show Within a Show:
- Simon Brimmer's radio program "The Casebook of Simon Brimmer".
- The movie being filmed in "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario."
- Flannigan's TV show in "The Adventure of the Hard-Hearted Huckster".
- Significant Anagram: In the pilot episode, the names of the fashion designer/victim's clothing lines are anagrams of the names of her lovers.
- Spinning Clock Hands
- Spinning Newspaper: Used frequently, especially in episodes featuring Frank Flannigan.
- Suicide, Not Murder: This is what the death in "The Adventure of The Judas Tree" turns out to be. The victim had a terminal illness, and his wife had begun seeing another man. He got revenge by divesting himself of all his assets so she wouldn't inherit anything, then committed suicide so she couldn't collect his life insurance. The wife and her lover, upon discovering the body, altered the scene to look like a murder.
- The Summation: Once an Episode
- Summation Gathering: Likewise, Once an Episode.
- Theme Naming: The series occasionally liked to use the names of famous mystery writers as the last names of characters.
- Third-Person Person: Flannigan often drifted into this trope.
- Vehicular Sabotage: In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", a stuntman is killed when the brakes of the car he is driving in a stunt are tampered with.
- Victim of the Week
- Wag the Director: In-Universe example. Gilbert Mallory in "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario" constantly overrides the director's creative decisions and makes it clear that what he says goes, even forcing the director to apologize for protesting about it.
- Wheel Program: After a decade and a half of obscurity, the One Season Wonder program found a new audience as cable channel A&E included it in its Mystery Wheel in the early 90s alongside fellow 70's shows Delveccio, Mrs. Columbo, and Ohara US Treasury
- Who Murdered the Asshole?: This occurred pretty much every episode. This was to maximise the number of suspects by giving everyone a motive to want the victim dead.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: In "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario", Inspector Queen and Ellery go to Hollywood to watch the filming of movie based on one of Elley's novels that features both of them as characters. Neither is impressed with the casting, and Ellery takes issue with the director's frequent changes to the source material.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Done deliberately in "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep" when mobster Benny Franks puts his arm around crusading prosecutor Erwin Murphy, calling him an old pal and saying he loves him like a brother, knowing this will damage Murphy's reputation.