Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Coronet Blue

Following up on Bob Randisi's suggestion from last week, today I want to look back at a summer replacement series that surprised everybody and still has a cult following, CORONET BLUE.
Some of you probably remember summer replacement series, which were exactly what they sounded like, new programming that took the place of reruns during the summer. Bear in mind that back in those days, most TV series produced between 30 and 40 episodes per year, not the 22 that's considered a full season now. Even so, all the networks would have a handful of summer replacement shows.

When CORONET BLUE made its debut in the summer of 1967, it's likely no one expected much out of it. It had been produced a year or two earlier and had been sitting on the shelf. The premise seems to have been inspired somewhat by ROUTE 66, THE FUGITIVE, and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE: a semi-anthology series with one or two continuing characters. The twist here was that Michael Alden, the protagonist of CORONET BLUE (played by Frank Converse) didn't know who he really was. He didn't know if that was really his name. All he knew was that he had climbed out of the East River in New York, the mysterious phrase "Coronet Blue" had some meaning to him . . . and people were trying to kill him.

That's a classic thriller set-up, and CORONET BLUE made the most of it as Michael Alden spent the summer trying to discover his true identity and find out why those mysterious enemies wanted him dead. The series caught on and became extremely popular, with the ratings rising each week. The on-going mystery had something to do with that, and so, I think, did the great theme song and opening credit sequence. That song has been stuck in my head for more than 40 years now.

Then suddenly it was over, with no resolution at all. Rumors abounded that there was a mysterious final episode and CBS, for some reason, decided not to show it. That seems not to have been the case. After all, when the episodes were produced in the first place the hope was that the series would be successful and would continue. Some executive decided that wasn't going to happen, and everyone involved moved on to other project while the episodes sat gathering dust until CBS trotted them out as a summer replacement series. Even after they saw its popularity, there was nothing they could do about it. Frank Converse was already working on another series, the short-lived cop show NYPD.

The rumors about the intending ending of CORONET BLUE persisted, and eventually creator Larry Cohen revealed in an interview what his plans had been. You can find the information easily enough on-line if you really want to know. But I'll say here and now that I don't buy it, not for a second. I hate to second-guess the guy who came up with the whole series, but I would have been severely disappointed if I had seen that ending. Maybe this is one of those rare cases where something was better because the outcome was left up to the imagination of the viewer.


Rick said...

I remember that show. My fiancee, at the time, and I were caught up in that series. When the last episode ended without revealing the secret we vowed never to let anoher TV show capture us like that. We also vowed to marry and live happily ever after. Disappointments abound. Notwithstanding,that show was a keeper. Too bad the folks involved didn't realize it. Thanks for the memory.

Bill Crider said...

I remember this one, too. Judy and I watched it every week. Too bad about the non-ending, but at least we weren't disappointed in some final episode that didn't tie things up satisfactorily.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We adored that show. And now I will never read about the so-called planned ending. "No ending" can be quite enough.

Todd Mason said...

I dunno, James...I kind of like the notion of the planned ending...but, then, I've only seen one episode of the series.

It is very Larry Cohen-esque.

Todd Mason said...

Pity they didn't try to reassemble after the cancellation of the (also impressive) NYPD.

Cap'n Bob said...

I remember the title and I know I watched it occasionally, but that's about it.

Paul D Brazill said...

I loved it a kid and the first band I formed was called Coronet Blue, though we were more forgettable than anything else.

RJR said...

Thanks, James. Favorite of mine.


RJR said...

Two of my favorite shows of all time come from this time period. They lasted 6 months each. The Darren McGavin P.I. series THE OUTSIDER, and the Richard Bradford British P.I. show, MAN IN A SUITCASE.