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Series / Peter Gunn

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A Private Eye TV show created by Blake Edwards that ran from 1958–61, updating the Hardboiled Detective ideals of the 1930s with 1950s notions of jazz cool. It featured the crime-solving skills of the title character (Craig Stevens), who got equal portions of help and hindrance from Lieutenant Jacoby. He hung out in a nightclub where his girlfriend was the singer; the owner often provided tips and clues to the crime.

Well executed, but mostly forgotten... except for the fact that Henry Mancini's theme music is legendary, and still popular today. Edwards went on to direct the 1967 feature film Gunn, with Stevens returning to the role and Mancini back to do the music. Intended as the first film of a Peter Gunn film franchise, it did hardly any business at the box office and the character was retired.

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Tropes:

  • Action Prologue: The episode's crime to be solved would take place before the opening credits.
  • Always Murder: Episodes usually start with someone being killed, which Peter Gunn will be hired to investigate.
  • Chiaroscuro: Unsurprisingly, as it was shot in black and white and rather Noir in style.
  • Clear My Name: As with a lot of detective dramas, Gunn is hired a lot to clear someone's name. In the case of the episode "Sentenced", he has to clear his own name after being framed for bank robbery and murder. Naturally, he breaks police custody to do so, forcing Jacoby to put out an APB.
  • Clear Their Name: In the episode, "Death Is a Sore Loser", Pete has to clear another cop friend of his, Sgt. Davis, of a murder charge.
  • City with No Name: It's never stated what city the series is set in, only that it has a waterfront.
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  • Creator Cameo: The only credited guest stars in the final episode, "Murder On the Line", are Gordon Oliver and Robert Gist, the series' Executive Producer and the episode's director, respectively. Byron Kane, the Associate Producer, also appears, but is not credited.
  • Good-Guy Bar: Nightclub, really, but same difference: Our main protagonist and hero hung out in a nightclub where his girlfriend was the singer, from which he operated.
  • I Have Your Wife: In several instances, Edie is kidnapped by someone who has it in for Gunn. In both "The Price Is Murder" and "Bullet In Escrow", the kidnapper's intention is to lure Pete into a trap, while in "Hot Money", it's done to ensure that Gunn will find the money that belongs to the crooks and return it to them.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The Theme Tune featured no lyrics. Though it did feature piano by John Williams.
  • Knowledge Broker: A constant of the series, as Pete's go-to move at the beginning of a case is to consult a person from his bottomless roster of old friends (if he doesn't first meet with Jacoby and inform him of what he's doing that week). Many are affable eccentrics, many others are "reformed" or harmless ne'er-do-wells working shady but beneath-notice angles, but all of them have just enough information for him to know where to start looking.
  • Leitmotif: The Instrumental Theme Tune becomes this for Bally's Spy Hunter video game.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Zig-zagged with Babby. While the show treats the concept of a pool hustler with dwarfism (who's smaller than his cue and has to drag around a suitcase to use as a step stool) as something of a sight gag, and gives him a discordant, mischievous flute-and-guitar riff, the character himself is a reliable informant and a nice, normal guy, even helping Peter out in a fight in "The Ugly Frame".
  • The Movie: Gunn (1967). There was also a made-for-TV movie made in 1989 as a pilot for a prospective revival series that didn't get picked up.
  • Music of Note:
    • The series was notable for its music. (Unusually for the time, every episode had original music written for it.)
    • Reaches the point of Awesome Music for the title theme, which has become one of the iconic themes of all time, up there with Mancini's other famous work The Pink Panther.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Exaggerated; the city appears to be entirely bisected by water (characters frequently mentioning "this side" or "the other side of the river"), so the waterfront itself is huge.
  • Private Detective: The titular Peter Gunn works as a private detective.
  • Starving Artist: In "Let's Kill Timothy," Peter visits Vladmir to ask some questions. Vladmir is an artist who is behind on his rent and recently embraced the medium of "sound paintings," decidedly non-musical recordings that Peter Gunn does not understand (Vladmir accuses Peter of "listening" when he ought to be "see, with your ears"). He humors Vladmir for a little while before cutting to the chase.
  • Vigilante Execution: The episode "Slight Touch of Homicide" features a quiet, mentally disturbed little man named Barnaby who was called to serve on a grand jury, was very eager to see justice served... and watched the Brannack mob get off scot-free without even a trial. He subsequently begins "doing a service to the community", one bomb at a time, to the point that Brannack tried to recruit Peter to bring the unknown assassin to justice.

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