Crime and police dramas have been popular on television for a long time. One of the longest running series was The F.B.I. This program was one of my father's favorites, and as I watched episodes with him on Sunday evenings, I also grew to like it.
The F.B.I. ran for nine seasons from 1965 to 1974. Each 60 minute episode was in color and sponsored by Ford Motor Co.
The series followed the investigations of F.B.I. Inspector Lewis Erskine, played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Erskine and his team of special agents methodically tracked down extortionists, kidnappers, counterfeiters, spies, murderers and more with professional aplomb.
Many of the stories were based upon real F.B.I files. Apparently F.B.I. director Edgar J. Hoover himself kept close watch to make sure the series always showed the F.B.I. in a professional and positive light. Indeed, there was never any question about who the good and bad guys were, and at the end of each program the F.B.I agents always triumphed in bringing the criminal or criminals to justice.
Zimbalist and his Lewis Erskine character definitely took center stage on the program, but several other actors/characters were also important. Philip Abbot as Assistant F.B.I. Director Arthur Ward was one. Stephen Brooks as Special Agent Jim Rhodes was featured the first couple of years, and then replaced by William Reynolds as Special Agent Tom Colby. From 1973 to 1974 Shelly Novack appeared as Agent Chris Daniels.
Guest stars were many during The F.B.I.'s nine year run. A few of the names included Robert Duvall, Dana Wynter, Dabney Coleman, Paul Fix The Rifleman), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton), Earl Holliman (Police Woman) and Fritz Weaver.
The series was produced by Quinn Martin and his QM Productions company, the same company responsible for such hit television series as The Fugitive, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones and Cannon.
At the end of many episodes Zimbalist would present photographs of actual most wanted criminals. In recent years this device has been repeated in one form or another by other television series most notably America's Most Wanted. However, The F.B.I. deserves credit as the originator.
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