Dan August is a short-lived Police Procedural that ran on ABC during the 1970-71 TV season.
Produced by Quinn Martin Productions, the series came out of Martin's first TV movie, The House on Greenapple Road, which was based on a novel by Harold Daniels entitled The Red Door Murder. The movie centered on Lt. Dan August (played by Christopher George, who, in the original novel, was named Dan Nalon), a homicide detective for the police force of the fictional California town of Santa Anita, investigating the disappearance and possible murder of a housewife (Janet Leigh). Dan's partner was Sgt. Charlie Wilentz (Keenan Wynn), and their boss was Police Chief George Untermeyer (Barry Sullivan). Rounding out the cast were Sgt. Joe Rivera (Ned Romero) and Katy Grant (Ena Hartman), the Chief's secretary. Tim O'Connor played Leigh's husband, a known wife-beater who was the prime suspect, and Martin cast a number of other familiar faces in the movie, including Julie Harris and Walter Pidgeon (both of whom weren't doing much in the way of television at the time), and many of the 'QM Players', like William Windom, Mark Richman, Burr DeBenning and Lynda Day George.
Martin wanted Christopher George to star in the series, but George had to decline, as he'd already committed to another series for that season, The Immortal (1969). Chris made a suggestion to the producer... hire Burt Reynolds! He showed the producer some episodes of Reynolds' earlier cop series, Hawk, which led Martin to cast the rugged actor in the new series. Additionally, the other two main roles were recast: Sgt. Wilentz would now be played by Norman Fell, and Richard Anderson took over the role of Chief Untermeyer. Ned Romero and Ena Hartman were the only holdovers from the movie.
For such a small town, Santa Anita could easily be the murder capital of California, as there was always a brutal murder for Dan and the others to solve. And since it was a small town, it was very likely that Dan knew at least one person involved in the case, be it a victim or a suspect. Conversely, a lot of folks knew Dan — he'd been a college football star prior to joining the police force. Many times, Dan would subdue a suspect using a football tackle.
The series only lasted for one season and was destined to be forgotten, when all of a sudden, Burt became a superstar with the one-two punch of the hit movie Deliverance and a nude centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine. CBS, sensing an opportunity, bought the rights to the series and ran it during the Summer of 1973, to huge ratings. Two years later, they ran it again, and with Reynolds now the top box-office draw in the country, the ratings were huge once again. A few years later, the Samuel Goldwyn Company acquired the rights to Dan August and spliced together several episodes to make TV-movies out of the series (Richard Anderson was brought in to shoot connecting footage). For a number of years, this was the only way to see any episodes of the series, until GetTV obtained the rights a couple of years ago. Additionally, VEI Entertainment released a DVD set containing the pilot film and all 26 episodes.
Ena Hartman is the only surviving cast member from the series. Norman Fell passed away in 1997, Ned Romero and Richard Anderson in 2017 and Burt Reynolds in 2018.
Dan August features these tropes:
- Always Murder: Well, duh, they ARE homicide detectives! Subverted in "The Murder Of A Small Town". The bus accident was made to look like sabotage after the fact by a Chicano police mechanic in a misguided attempt to help a union organizer.
- Asshole Victim:
- Gabe Redfern in "Murder By Proxy". Even Dan had reason to kill him, because of his dirty tactics on the local race track where they both raced cars, but the murder had more to do with him having an affair with a married woman than anything else.
- Alex Venable in "The King Is Dead" and Arthur Mannering in "Circle of Lies" were both wife abusers who wound up taking a bullet.
- Barbara Winslow in "Invitation to Murder" and Jenny in "When the Shouting Dies", both beautiful girls who blackmailed, respectively, the guy that got her pregnant and the guy she was having an affair with. Barbara was brutally strangled to death, Jenny fatally pushed from her apartment window.
- Billed Above the Title: Not during the original series, but in the 'movies' that were made from spliced-together episodes. The credit on those movies would read as follows: Burt Reynolds in...Dan August: The Jealousy Factor, or whatever the title of the movie was. There were seven movies total that Samuel Goldwyn made from the series, including the aforementioned movie.
- Blackmail Backfire: As mentioned above, blackmail schemes did not end well for a pair of lovely ladies.
- The Boxing Episode: "The Meal Ticket", where Dan and the team investigate the drugging death of a boxer, as well as the murder of the killer.
- Clear Their Name: In the episode "Circle of Lies", Charlie helps out Corey Davis, who saved his life when he was a patrolman. Corey, an automobile test driver, is accused of deliberately destroying a prototype car by his overbearing boss, Arthur Mannering, and then accused of murder when Mannering is found shot to death. Corey's penchant for stretching the truth interferes with Charlie and Dan, who are trying to clear him.
- Compilation Movie: Several 'movies' were made from spliced-together episodes of the series. As mentioned in the main article, Richard Anderson appeared as Chief Untermeyer in new footage, calling Dan to inform him of the latest murder. These movies included:
- Once Is Never Enough, comprised of the episodes "Prognosis: Homicide" and "Death Chain" (both episodes dealing with multiple murders)
- The Trouble With Women, comprised of the episodes "Epitaph For a Swinger" and "The Titan" (both episodes featuring women who kill their lovers)
- Murder, My Friend, comprised of "Trackdown" and "Bullet For a Hero".
- The Jealousy Factor, comprised of "Murder By Proxy" and "The King Is Dead" (both episodes involve love triangles that turn deadly)
- Cop Killer: Dale Hunter in "Trackdown".
- Da Chief: Chief George Untermeyer, played in the pilot by Barry Sullivan and in the series by Richard Anderson.
- Death of a Child: Rivera's niece Maria is the only fatality in the bus crash that starts "The Murder Of A Small Town." Obviously It's Personal for him.
- The Executioner: Dan's after the killers of Sherry Manders in "Death Chain", but so is a cold-blooded sniper who's picking off the suspects and manages to kill two of them before Dan shoots him.
- Fall Guy: Andy, the mentally challenged tow truck driver tricked into fatally shooting Gabe Redfern in "Murder By Proxy".
- He Knows Too Much: Or, in this case, SHE knows too much...the murder victim in "Dead Witness to a Killing" was about to expose a member of her family as a homosexual when she's shot and killed.
- The Informant: Eddie Downs, who claimed to be the witness to the cop killing in "Trackdown", even claiming to have hit on the female member of the gang. Dan reaches in Eddie's pocket, pulls out a packet with heroin inside, and immediately discredits him as a witness.
- It's Personal: The murder victim in "The King Is Dead" is the philanthropist who paid Dan's way through college.
- Not the Fall That Kills You…: Initially, it was assumed that Barbara Winslow's death was caused by a fall off her balcony onto the beach below.
- One-Word Title: "Trackdown".
- Opening Narration: Standard issue with most QM shows, with the great Hank Simms doing the honors..."Dan August...A Quinn Martin Production! Starring Burt Reynolds. Also Starring Norman Fell, Richard Anderson, Ned Romero, Ena Hartman. With Guest Stars Tim O'Connor, Michael Strong, Kaz Garas, Alexandra Hay. Tonight's episode: Invitation to Murder".
- Pilot Movie: The House on Greenapple Road.
- Police Brutality: To run from Dan or fight back is a serious mistake. If you run, he will tackle you like he would tackle a wide receiver. Fight back or resist, he'll punch you out.
- Police Procedural
- Protagonist Title
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Barbara Winslow's dad in "Invitation to Murder" is powerful columnist Max Winslow, who's certain that Barbara's hippie boyfriend Philip Henderson is her killer. Not only does he vilify Henderson in his column, he uses his high-profile connections to put pressure on Untermeyer, who in turn orders Dan to arrest Henderson, even though Dan doubts he's the killer.
- Short-Runner: One season with 26 episodes.
- Suspect Existence Failure: Boxer Tiger Johnson is the prime suspect in the drugging death of his rival in "The Meal Ticket", but when the cops arrive to arrest him, they find him shot to death.