Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Thin Man TV series

The boxed set of the "Thin Man" films contains an episode of the late '50s TV version with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk playing Nick and Nora Charles. Based on that and the clips available on YouTube, here's some thoughts.


Too short: If we learned anything from Jessica Fletcher, it's that you need an hour to make a proper whodunnit. Columbo only had one suspect and his show was two hours! This show would have a half dozen suspects all crammed into 30 minutes. Let's get to know these people.

Phyllis Kirk: She wasn't playing Myrna Loy, she was playing Lucy Ricardo, and it sucked. In the book and films Nora didn't know about detective work, but no way was she stupid. She knew her way around men, the city and its bars. She was fascinated by Nick's past life as a detective and always wanted to know more. The TV show portrayed her as a half-wit accidentally handcuffing herself, or getting entangled in police tape, always reliant on Nick to bail her out. Dreadful!

Greenwich Village: Why in the world would this rich couple live in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village? Their home base was San Francisco, among high society. This is what made the contrast with Nick's rough-and-tumble past so enjoyable.


Peter Lawford as Nick. He didn't take the subtle comic approach of William Powell, but he made up for it with cool. There's a scene in the episode in the box set where he's interviewing a suspect and half way through the interview he takes out, and lights up a cigarette. You could tell this wasn't in the script, Peter Lawford just needed a cigarette at that moment.

With Lawford's super cool and good looks, an hour length, a San Francisco setting, and a better Nora (Julie Newmar springs to mind), instead of being a forgotten footnote to Thin Man lore, this could have been a series that ran in  reruns well into the 60s and 70s.

An update:

The antenna station GetTV has been showing all of the episodes of this show lately, and having seen several more episodes, I can't say my review of the one episode was wrong in anyway. I still stand by my critique.

The only change I would make is: I was too easy on Phyllis Kirk. She's terrible, and every episode made me hate her more. The actress has passed away now, so I can safely say: She was scary looking! And she applied her lipstick with a paint roller. And she had no charm. It's so hard for me to believe they couldn't find an attractive 25 year old on the Broadway stage who could act. Phyllis Kirk was the best they could do? Crazy.

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