For those "Mannix" fans already out there, all you need to know about the season 6 release is that the audio, video, menus and packaging are all consistent with the previous releases -- all high quality. Keep on enjoying the ride.
For those who are un-initiated to "Mannix," remember it only from its first run, or were exposed to it only in butchered re-runs, here is a brief overview.
"Mannix" is one of a class of shows produced by Desulu in the late 60's -- in fact, it was the last show produced by that studio. Its closest peers are "Star Trek" and "Mission Impossible," the latter of which had the same executive producer. As a result, you actually see many of the same actors, settings and props in all three shows -- and in the closing credits, some of the same names. But, while "Star Trek" and "Mission Impossible" went on to spawn movies and re-makes, "Mannix" stands on its original episodes.
This makes perfect sense to "Mannix" fans, because the show was not a formula show. It is not easy, and perhaps not possible, to distill what Mannix was about to a few lines, and so bring in a bunch of different actors to re-do some concept. "Mannix" was a character study. It evolved more than it was designed.
"Mannix" has been described as a PI show, formed out of the desire to bring back something of the film noir era, actually inspired in part by the movie "Harper" which starred Paul Newman. As a result, it has often been cited as the first of a long line of cop shows in the same genre, and especially PI shows like "The Rockford Files," "Harry O," and "Magnum PI." But, "Mannix" fans know that the show was so much more than that.
The two dominant descriptions of the show reveal both why it was unique as well as why people wrongly assume it is something other than what it really is all about. First, the show was once labeled the most violent on TV -- and, incredibly, you still see that label appear, all these years later. Second, descriptions "Mannix" often include how many times Joe Mannix was knocked unconscious, shot, beaten up, drugged or in a fistfight -- the numbers are impressive. This makes the show appear less cultured, less intellectual than its descendants -- and nothing could be further from the truth.
The same themes that appear over and over again in "Mannix" -- the abuses to Joe Mannix' body, the cars over the cliff, the number of times Peggy (Joe's secretary, played by the wonderful Gail Fisher) is kidnapped, the number of times Joe's Korean War buddies go nuts and try to kill him, the number of times Joe is all alone and up against it in a small town, the number of times Joe goes up against the police, or does a case for free (often for a kid), are all there in the service of framing, in deeply symbolic ways, what the show was about -- the qualities of its main character. And, in that respect, "Mannix" would still be "Mannix" even if Joe wasn't a PI. "Mannix" was about a singular hero type, portrayed brilliantly by Mike Connors, nothing else -- and nothing less.
And this is also why the show was never re-made. "Mannix" started out as one thing -- a concept show where Joe Mannix works for Intertect during its first year, but evolved year after year, as the writers, producers, and especially Mike Connors developed the character. For example, during the second year, Joe starts off looking like a more or less typical PI, at least at the beginning. But, by the time the second year ends it became something more as Joe becomes more of a spiritual presence in episodes like "A Pittance of Faith" and "Death in a Minor Key." Then, the character evolves again as we get to see Joe's inner demons in season 3 ("The Sound of Darkness") and by the time we get to season 4 we see a dark side ("A Ticket to the Eclipse"). By the time we get to season 5, Joe is well established in his own, private practice with a singular reputation you, the fan, also get to enjoy -- and so we see him becoming something more of a target, culminating in the classic, "Death is the Fifth Gear."
Through all of the first five seasons the common thread was that there was a lot of action -- and Joe took a lot of physical abuse. But, by the time season 6 comes around, in 1972, there was pushback from both Congress and the networks on "violence," which was incredibly mild by today's standards, and, as a result "Mannix" has its season with the least action.
As a result, the sheer brilliance of this show -- in terms of what it really was about, as well as its execution, provided by both the people behind it and the way Mike Connors owns this character -- is that despite the series being forced to go completely away from its roots in pretty much every way, the limitations actually result in one of the best seasons of "Mannix." Now, I didn't always know that when I watched the season first run! But, that was because I was only 11 years old then -- and I missed the action.
Now, as an adult, I can see how they managed to convey the essential qualities of Joe Mannix -- and the result is some of the best episodes, and what's more, some of the best scenes of the entire series, right here in season 6. Because, as those who know and love "Mannix" also know, because this is a character study, first and foremost, you watch to see how Joe responds to situations, moment by moment. The result is movie-quality scenes with fine-grained, detailed acting you can watch over and over again -- thanks to these high quality DVDs.
Some examples are the scene in Joe office when Peggy comes in for the day in "The Open Web," the closing scene of "The Inside Man," the carnival scene in "The Upside Down Penny," the prison scenes in "Lost Sunday," the scene with Art in Joe's office in "Light and Shadow," the scene in "Out of the Night" (in which Peggy goes undercover as a prostitute) in which Joe take physical punishment in front of Peggy, the scene with Art in Joe's office in "The Faces of Murder," the scenes with Adam Tobias (Robert Reed) in "The Danford File" -- and pretty much any scene from "A Puzzle for One" and "A Matter of Principle" which are two of the best overall episodes of the entire series. And, as "Mannix" fans know, these scenes you looked for every week are set up by not only the rest of the episode, but also with the context that comes from a strong relationship you have with the characters. "Mannix" never underestimated the intelligence of its viewing audience.
But, if your primary relationship with the show is via syndication in the U.S., you did not see this.
The first "Mannix" fans have been able to really have this great show back, since its original airing, is with the release of these DVDs. Two of the signatures of the show meant that it would not survive the cutting of syndication intact. First, it was very tightly edited to begin with, done in order to facilitate pace. Thus, further cutting was not really possible. Second, the character qualities were often expertly done in sometimes very small scenes and reaction shots -- things loyal viewers looked for every week, but which were the first to be removed by editors cutting the show to allow for more commercial time.
And that's too bad. Because "Mannix" is a show that is so good that it can actually make you better. That is what great myths, expertly done, can do.
While I'm so glad to have it back now, we should have had it back sooner.
If you break it all down, really tear it all apart and analyze it (see the recent posts on the "Mannix is Coming!" thread on the Home Theatre Forum for more of this), Joe Mannix is a singular hero-type, consistent with the best of Joesph Campbell's heroes. He isn't larger than life, but isn't small enough to leave you with only pure entertainment value either -- he leaves you wanting to be better. How many characters really leave you feeling that being tougher, more independent, and more willing to sacrifice and possibly get hurt in the process of doing the right thing is, well.. appealing?
That is a really tough thing to pull off -- but, "Mannix" does this and, when you connect, you get it, deep down. It makes you better.
I've watched a lot of TV over the years -- and never found another show in the same class as "Mannix." It was one of the few shows done with movie-quality production and acting, translated to the pace and weekly grind of TV. And, I never expected this, before re-discovering the show with the release of the season 4 DVDs last year -- I simply did not expect the show to even hold up well, let alone contain, in a single appealing package, some of the best themes psychology, philosophy and religion have to offer.
Thanks to CBS/Paramount for, finally, having the first six seasons of "Mannix" back, out of the vaults. Here's hoping for the timely release of seasons 7 and 8 -- of which all but eight episodes of season 7 have not been seen in the US since they were originally aired.
Season 7 brings the action back -- and takes the character of Joe Mannix to yet another level.
I never expected anything less from "Mannix" -- and it never failed to deliver.
All these years later, it is delivering for me again -- as any great myth can, and should.