“The mission of the FBI is to protect the innocent and to identify the enemies of the government of the United States.”
In 1965 ABC would launch the long-running series based on the cases of the FBI. The series starred Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Chief Inspector Lewis Erskine. He was a seasoned veteran with a keen instinct for tracking down some of the nation’s most elusive criminals. He received his instructions and cases from Arthur Ward, played by Philip Abbott. Ward answered directly to the director himself. He usually gave Erskine a free hand, but was responsible for getting results from his best investigator. Erskine’s partner was Special Agent Jim Rhodes, in the first few seasons played by Stephen Brooks. In these early episodes, the family life of Erskine was also part of the story. He had a daughter played by Lynn Loring, and she was in love with his partner. His wife had been killed by a bullet that was meant for him. After a couple of years the family stories disappeared completely, and the show remained focused on the cases.
The FBI cooperated with the show, and it had the personal approval of J. Edgar Hoover himself. The claim was that the episodes were based on real cases, but that appeared to be a rather thin link, indeed. Produced by Quinn Martin, the show had many of his trademark touches. The episodes were broken up into four acts and an epilog. Many of the same guest stars from various Quinn Martin Productions would also show up on this show. The series was one of Quinn Martin’s longest running. The series ended in 1974 after nine years on the air.
Now Warner has released the first half of the first season through their Warner Archive Collection. This collection offers the first 16 episodes on 4 discs. Guest stars include: Leslie Nielsen, Bruce Dern, Ted Knight, Beau Bridges, Burt Reynolds, Susan Oliver, James Gregory, Dabney Coleman, Jack Klugman, and Robert Blake. The criminals that Erskine chases include bank robbers, murderers, kidnappers, sabotage, treason, extortion and theft. Erskine travels all over the country to track his quarry. The episodes concentrate on the FBI methods that they used and the personalities of the criminals themselves. Erskine even feels sorry for a few of them, but that’s not going to stop him from getting his man.
With the vintage DVD market drying up a bit, this is a good chance for Warner to release the show for the fans who really want it. It’s a bit dated, but the show was a milestone of sorts and set the stage for various other government agency shows down the line. Hopefully, Warner is “determined to see this thing through”.
Check out the Warner Archive for yourself by banging it Here