Burke's Law: A Mystery Comedy Combo

by Guy Belleranti

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Beginning in September of 1963, Burke's Law was one of the campiest mystery programsto ever grace television.

Gene Barry starred as Los Angeles chief of detectives Amos Burke. A dashing and debonair millionaire, Burke lived in a mansion and was chauffeured from crime scene to crime scene and suspect to suspect in his Rolls-Royce. He romanced the ladies, questioned the suspects and always figured out "who done it".

Burke was assisted by Detective Tim Tilson (played by Gary Conway), Detective Les Hart (played by Regis Toomey) and Sergeant Gloria Ames (played by Eileen O'Neill). Burke's chauffeur, Henry, was played by Leon Lontoc. The program was 60 minutes long and filmed in black and white.

Barry's performance as Burke was perfect, as were the performances of many of the actors and actresses who played the bizarre and eccentric suspects. Among these guest stars were such names as Gena Rowlands, Betty Hutton, Don Rickles, Agnes Moorehead, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paul Lynde, Dick Clark, John Cassavetes, Basil Rathbone, Chill Wills and Gloria Swanson.

All episodes in the first two seasons began with the title "Who Killed. . .". It was fun to try to figure out who did it while watching this quirky, tongue-in-cheek program. Just how tongue-in-cheek was it? Well consider the following episode titles and you'll get an idea: "Who Killed Mr. Colby in Ladies Lingerie?", "Who Killed Nobody Somehow?", and Who Killed Rosie Sunset?".

Indeed, it's too bad the producers changed the show's format in the third and final season. But change it they did. Amos Burke became a secret agent, and his supporting players were dropped from the cast. The program's title was even changed to Amos Burke, Secret Agent. I guess the reason for the change was to jump on the popularity bandwagon of spy shows like The Man from Uncle, but it spelled the doom of this program. Each of the first two seasons had consisted of 32 episodes; the third season was cut short after only 17.

A couple interesting side-notes about Burke's Law:

- The character Amos Burke was first seen two years earlier in a 1961 episode of The Dick Powell Show. Powell himself played Burke. When it was decided to continue the character in a series, Gene Barry became Burke because Powell had recently passed away.

- In 1994 (almost 30 years later) the show was brought back to television. Gene Barry was again Amos Burke millionaire policeman with a Roll-Royce. This time Burke was assisted by his son. Unfortunately, the program didn't attract a large enough audience and was cancelled after two half seasons of 27 total episodes.

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