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HARRY O: SEASON 1
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Harry Orwell is a decidedly different detective. And Harry O is decidedly different TV show. Forced off the force thanks to a bullet lodged near his spine, former police detective Harry Orwell gets by on his disability pension and the occasional private detecting gig ("100 bucks a day. Plus expenses"). No flashy car for the downtrodden Harry - he's as apt to get around town on bus as he is on foot. But he's as savvy as he is sophisticated, and though he might have to avoid the slugfests, he can crack any case. Even if it sometimes breaks his heart. Harry O features an actor at the top of his game, playing a character complex enough to contain his talents. This Six-Disc, 22-Episode Collection features the entire first season, co-starring Henry Darrow and Anthony Zerbe. Special guests include Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans, Martin Sheen, and Cab Calloway. Special Bonus: Contains the Original Pilot - Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On
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The character of Harry Orwell was sort of a low-key and grouchy one for Janssen, definitely not your average tv detective. (Janssen does a noirish voice-over at the beginning and the end of each episode.) He was a former cop for the San Diego Police Department, shot in the back on the job and receiving disability from the department. He works as a private detective on the side to supplement his income. He lives on a drydocked boat on the beach that he is always fixing.(Sort of like Gibbs and his boat in the early seasons of NCIS.) His departmental buddy is Lt. Manny Quinlan played by Henry Darrow. Harry doesn't drive around in a flashy car like Rockford or Joe Mannix, he takes the bus. Halfway through season one, Harry relocates to Los Angeles where he has to deal with a somewhat less-friendly cop, Lt. K.T. Trench well-played by Anthony Zerbe. (Zerbe won a best-supporting actor Emmy for this series.) (Manny Quinlan is later murdered in the excellent episode "Elegy for a Cop," leaving Harry out for revenge to capture his killer.) When he moves to LA, Harry trades in his bus pass for a beat-up sports car that is in the shop most of the time.
The first season of Harry O was successful and the series was renewed for a second season. (I've always preferred season two.) By the end of season two, Harry O was winning its timeslot in the Nielsen ratings when it was mysteriously and shockingly cancelled by ABC. There has never been an adequate explanation for this. (I read an interview with Zerbe years ago that said that the cancellation was the result of a new regime taking over ABC and wiping the slate clean of series they were less than enamored of.) The series was replaced with a crime drama starring Robert Stack that was quickly axed after one season. It has always irked me that Harry O was consistently beating its competition on CBS, the mediocre detective series Barnaby Jones starring Buddy Ebsen. Yet Barnaby Jones lasted years more and Harry O was gone after two. Harry O premiered one day before the other great detective series of the 1970s, The Rockford Files. Rockford Files was truly a great series and lasted seven years on NBC. Yet I've always preferred Harry O.
If you want to see the man I consider to be TV's greatest actor,David Janssen, you can pick up the four years of The Fugitive or the first season of Harry O. I sincerely hope that Season One of this great series sells successfully, so that Warner Bros. can then release Season Two. If whatever reason you have never made the acquaintance of Harry Orwell, then you should check this set out and see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
Fast-forward 10 years to 1973, though, when Janssen returned to network television as crusty private detective Harry Orwell in the short-lived series "Harry O." That one DID make a strong impression on me, and I've been anxiously awaiting its arrival on DVD for--well, for about as long as DVDs have been around. At last my waiting is over. Warner Brothers finally released the first season in a six-DVD set that includes all 22 episodes plus the original pilot, all in color. Hopefully the second and final season will follow soon. All six DVDs come in a case no thicker than the type that normally contains just one DVD--it's very efficient packaging.
If you grew up at a certain time and had any interest in quality television shows, you're probably already familiar with "Harry O," and buying this set will be a no-brainer. If you've never heard of it but are a David Janssen fan, you should treat yourself to this series. He brings a maturity and world-weariness to the role of Harry Orwell that were missing from his portrayal of Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive." Orwell seems to be a character specifically designed for Janssen to play, and the actor's performances in the show are superb--as are those of the supporting cast, especially Anthony Zerbe, and guest stars including Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans, Martin Sheen and Cab Calloway.
Here's the place where I'd normally gripe about the fact that this DVD set is: a) burned-to-order on disks of questionable longevity, and b) quite expensive considering the utter lack of extras. But I guess I'm slowly accepting the reality that high-priced, made-to-order DVDs are better than none at all. And this set IS marginally cheaper than "The Fugitive" and "The FBI," in which each season was split into two DVD sets, each about the same price as the entire first season of "Harry O."
The data side of Disk 6 in my set came with a very deep, inch-long radial scratch. None of the DVDs were loose inside the case when the order arrived, so the damage didn't occur during shipment. I watched that disk immediately, just in case I might have to return it, but it worked fine. So now I've started back at the beginning, watching each and every episode of this superb series that demonstrates just how good television drama could be 40 years ago.