A &E’s series stars Maury Chakin as the title character and Timothy Hutton (yep, Jim “Ellery Queen” Hutton’s son) as Archie Goodwin. Most of the episodes are set in the 1950s, although a few slip back to the 1940s and one is set c. 1966 or so. Chaykin and Hutton are superb in their roles. Hutton is especially fine as the sly, tough, seen-it-all Archie. Episodes are tightly constructed, challenging, and often provide an interesting take on contemporary political issues. The first ep, “The Doorbell Rang,” gives us a shrewd insight into the bullying, vicious tactics of Hoover’s boys during the Communist witch hunts, and also leaves us with a satisfying yet believable comeuppance of those stinkers’ abuse of their authority. The show has a particularly interesting use of cast, relying on a kind of repertory company of players to take on different roles across the seasons of episodes. Only Chaykin, Hutton, Bill Smitrovich (Inspector Cramer), and Colin Fox (Brenner, the Butler/Chef) play the same roles throughout the series. It must have been a treat to the “stock company” to be able to stretch their acting wings with so many different types of characters to play. I have to admit that just thinking of the show and the vast array of lovingly portrayed and described comestibles makes me hungry even now! This program is available on commercial dvd.
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