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Series / Mannix

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Mannix with Lew Wickersham...
...and with Peggy Fair.

Mannix is an American Detective Drama television series starring Mike Connors as Private Detective Joe Mannix. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link (also known for Columbo and Murder, She Wrote) and developed by Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible, which through Diagnosis: Murder shares a universe with Mannix), it was the last show produced by Desilu Studios (which also originated Mission: Impossible) before its acquisition by Paramount. It ran from 1967 to 1975.The showrunners Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts would later create a popular detective show of their own.

During the first season of the series, Mannix works for a large Los Angeles detective agency called INTERTECT that utilizes state-of-the-art (for its time) computer equipment to solve crimes. As opposed to the other employees who must wear dark suits and sit in rows of desks with only one piece of paper allowed to be on their desks at one time, Mannix belongs to the classic American detective archetype; thus he usually ignores the computers' solutions, disobeys his boss's orders, and sets out to do things his own way, all the while outsmarting and mocking his superior, Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella).

To improve the ratings of the show, Desilu head Lucille Ball made some changes, making the show similar to other private-eye shows. Ball thought the computers were too high-tech and beyond the comprehension of the average viewer of the time and had them removed.

From the second season on, Mannix works on his own with the assistance of his loyal secretary Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher one of the first African American actresses to have a regular series role), a police officer's widow. He also receives help from the Los Angeles police department, the two most prominent officers being Lieutenant Art Malcolm (Ward Wood) and Lieutenant Adam Tobias (Robert Reed). Other police contacts are Lieutenant George Kramer (Larry Linville), who had been the partner of Peggy's late husband, and Lieutenant Dan Ives (Jack Ging). In the second season, he also employs the services of a competitive private investigator, Albie Loos (Joe Mantell), as a sort of investigative gofer.

The series concluded after 8 seasons on an episode that did not give closure to the show. However, two decades later, Mannix would reappear in a Crossover with Diagnosis: Murder to solve the loose ends of "Little Girl Lost" in the episode "Hard-Boiled Murder", where Mannix finally makes good on his promise to Tina Reynolds to solve her father's murder despite growing older and developing an arterial blockage. This served as the backdoor finale to the adventures of Mannix and left him on a high note as he continued to pursue his detective work with a renewed sense of health and a healthy infusion of new casework to go home to. It also reveals Dr. Mark Sloan is the one responsible for treating Mannix's many injuries on the job all along, who must operate on Joe to save his life.

This series contains examples of:

  • Amnesia Episode: "What Happened To Sunday?" has Mannix having amnesia. Given his notorious propensity for sustaining head injuries, it's surprising it takes until season 4 for this trope to turn up.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Holiday House" stands in for "Holiday Inn" in "Intent to Kill".
  • Circus Episode: "Once Upon a Saturday", where Mannix is hired to investigate bizarre accidents plaguing a traveling circus.
  • Cool Car: Mannix drove a 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado convertible that was modified by famous car customizer George Barris. The Toronado was popular enough that it got its own model kit. And once per season, Mannix would wind up driving a new vehicle, and Peggy had her own fair share of fancy rides.
  • Day in the Limelight: "The World Between" is a Peggy-centric episode.
  • Drugs Are Bad: In "Warning: Live Blueberries", there's a Timothy Leary Expy, Prof. Wilson (Phil Leeds), who runs a meditation center where people "turn on". The blonde chick of the week is shown pleading with a friend to return with her to "the center of the earth" to experience "the taste of blue and the colors of twelve." (Yes, that's Buffalo Springfield [including Neil Young and Stephen Stills] playing in the nightclub scene.)
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: It was routine for a car to explode into flame after it drove off a cliff... even before impact, while still in mid-air. Someone apparently liked this so much that an example showed up in the Title Sequence so we could see it every week! (It's about 6 seconds in.)
  • Faked Kidnapping: The plot of the very first episode, "The Name Is Mannix." It goes even further; not only is the kidnapped girl in on it to extort money from her hoodlum father, her mother is too.
  • Framed Face Opening: Mannix appears in the opening in a square rectangle surrounded by smaller rectangles and squares representing computer punch card patterns.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: The last televised adventure of Mannix takes place about twenty years later as a special guest crossover with Diagnosis: Murder.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Mannix was pretty old-school hardboiled for a late-'60s/early-'70s TV detective.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: A jazzy, up-tempo number composed by Lalo Schifrin of Mission: Impossible fame.
  • Latex Perfection: In "Edge of the Knife," a boy gets into a car with his father, only for it to turn out to be a man wearing a latex mask. When Mannix finds the guy who made the mask, he's played by one actor, then pulls his face off to reveal another actor.
  • Mushroom Samba: In "Death Is the Fifth Gear," Mannix is driving in a race when he starts to hallucinate and wrecks the car. He comes to in the hospital, and spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out what's going on while battling paranoia and continuing hallucinations.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Karen Steele's Australian accent in "Harlequin's Gold" is atrocious (not that the other Aussie accents on display are much better.)note  British actress Kate Woodville's Amertican accent wavers distractingly in "What Happened To Sunday".
  • One-Word Title: The series itself (also a Protagonist Title), and eight of its episodes ("Huntdown", "Deadfall", "Sunburst", "Overkill", "Catspaw", "Lifeline", "Scapegoat", "Hardball").
  • Protagonist Title: The series takes its name from the name of its protagonist, Joe Mannix.
  • Retool: In the first season (1967-68), the title character worked for a detective agency called INTERTECT that utilized state-of-the-art (for its time) computer equipment to solve crimes. However, Mannix generally disregarded the computers and the agency's rules to solve crimes his own way. Lucille Ball (Mannix was the last show produced by Desilu Studios) decided that the computers were over most viewers' heads and asked to have them worked out of the show. This turned Mannix into a more conventional detective series. The font used in the credits were based on IBM's corporate font of the time. That font and the theme music were about the only things that transitioned over into the new version of the series. This is best shown in the title cards; in season one, the Mannix title card is literally a computer card. From season two and beyond (1968-75), with the better known title card with the shifting letters.
  • Returning War Vet: Part of Mannix's Backstory is that he was a POW during The Korean War. One of his police contacts, Lt. Malcolm, served with him in the same Army unit.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: Common enough on the series that whenever it occurs in one of the films shown in Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of the bots will yell "Mannix!"
  • Temporary Blindness: In "The Sound of Darkness" Mannix is hired by a man who was shot at, but not harmed, by a hired killer. While shadowing his client into a derelict building, Mannix is shot at by the hitman, and the bullet grazes Mannix' temple, causing a bout of psychosomatic blindness. Mannix then has to learn how to survive in the world of blindness to prepare himself for the hitman's return to finish the job of silencing him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mannix does indeed punch out a woman in "Skid Marks on a Dry Run."