A while ago I reviewed the 1972 made-for-TV movie Probe, and while I enjoyed the
show, it didn't blow me away. The viewing public must have enjoyed it
at the time, because the concept was picked up for a series which
started airing the following fall. The name was changed from Probe to Search (the former name was taken
by a show on PBS) and extra secret agents, called "Probes," were added
into the mix. Surprisingly the show works much better than the pilot,
with a slightly faster pace and a wider cast of characters it turns
into a pretty decent spy-thriller and well worth watching.
The series made a few changes from the pilot, but the bones were still
the same. World Securities Corporation is a high-tech international
retrieval agency. If something or someone is lost or stolen, WSC will
retrieve it for you, for a price. They are very, very good at what they
do because of some high tech gadgets that they've invented. Each of
their field agents, called "Probes" comes equipped with a 'scanner,' a
device the size of a stack of three quarters that is a miniature movie
camera/microphone and can read a person's medical data (heartbeat,
blood pressure, amount of adrenaline in their system etc.) and
wirelessly send the info back to Probe HQ, as well as an implant behind
his ear so that he can hear his boss and a signal button implanted in a
tooth so that he can send simple messaged back to HQ non-verbally. The
scanner is magnetic and can be mounted on a ring or in the center of a
medallion that all Probes wear.
Probe Control looks like a smaller version of NASA's Command Control.
There are rows of computers and desks with multiple displays where
technicians monitor an agent's every move. At the helm is V.C. R.
Cameron (Burgess Meredith), a by-the-book leader who tells the Probes
what to do every step of the way... though they often do not listen to
There are many Probes employed by WSC, but there are three that the
series focuses on (only one appears in each episode): Hugh Lockwood
(Hugh O'Brian) designated as Probe One, a quick-thinking and
resourceful agent, Nick Bianco (Tony Franciosa) also known as Omega
Probe, an ex-cop who was drummed out of the force on trumped up charges
created by a mob boss, he's tough and would rather swing his fists than
talk his way out of a problem, and C.R. Grover, who is a smooth
operator who is willing to take risks and go with his hunches. (He's
called "Backup Probe" in his first appearance but he gets promoted to a
full-time agent at the end of that mission.) The three have different
personalities but they all excel in getting out of trouble just as fast
as they get into it.
Each week WSC gets a new assignment and an agent is sent on a dangerous
or difficult task. The cases vary quite a bit: One episode involves
smuggling a defecting scientist, and his ground-breaking research, to
the west, another show has a Probe trying to determine if a reclusive
billionaire who lives in Las Vegas (a thinly veiled reference to Howard
Hughes) is actually still alive, and another assignment is to break up
a European counterfeiting ring that's producing hundred dollar bills
that are so realistic even the US mint can't spot them. These
assignments are often set in exotic locations around the world and seem
to be pretty different at first glance but each installment has similar
trappings: The cases are never as simple as they appear at the
beginning, there's always a gorgeous woman involved, the techs at Probe
Control get the agent out of a sticky situation (often by translating a
foreign language for him or pulling up some obscure fact so his cover
won't be blown) and each episode ends with V. C. R. Cameron yelling to
the Probe that his is *NOT* to take the babe of the episode off to some
exotic retreat like he has promised! An order that is always ignored,
While the show has a lot of trappings of other spy series, the thing
that makes this one stand out is the cast of rotating stars. They were
able to snag a group of experienced and talented TV pros for the main
leads, and while their acting style is firmly rooted in the 70's, they
make the show fun and exciting. Burgess Meredith overacts (but not as
much as when he was a semi-regular on the Batman TV show) and I'm sure
that's what the director and producers wanted. (For the longest time I
just thought he wasn't capable of anything else... just a hack actor. I
still remember the way my jaw hit the floor when I saw him give a
strong and heartfelt performance in Rocky
and realized that he really could act.)
The show is a bit dated today, but that's not too surprising. Google
Glass does about 80% of what a Probe's futuristic gear did back then
and it's hard to be awed by someone who has the equivalent of a cell
phone connected to someone with access to Wikipedia. Added to that is
the fact that the writing is a bit old-fashioned. They were always
having either the Probe of Cameron spell out what was going on for the
audience. "Probe Control! Get a scan of the license plate of that car!"
an agent would yell after nearly being run over. Back then it seemed
natural... today you wonder why his has to tell them something so basic.
well versed in gun safety.
None of the episodes are really bad, and some of them are quite
entertaining. Operation Iceman has
Tony Bianco and a team of other Probes (!) tracking down a hit-man who
has never been seen... and he may be a member of Tony's team. There
were some fun twists and turns, and while I wasn't surprised by any of
them, they did make the episode quite enjoyable. Another fun show
involved Lockwood tracking down a stolen moon rock... it was the size of
a fist and made of solid diamond. To make matters worse it was stolen
by a man who was going to give it to a Middle Eastern terrorist group.
At one point the crook boards a commercial flight for the Far East and
Grover is half an hour behind him. When he discovers that there aren't
any more flights that day he rents a 747, fully equipped with
stewardesses and a jazz band for he, and his traveling companion's
dancing pleasure. Yeah, it requires that viewers suspend their
disbelief, but if you can do that you'll have a good time.
The entire 23-episode series arrives on six pressed (for the first
printing at least) DVDs housed in a single-width case.
The original mono soundtrack is fine. Background noise isn't a problem
and the voices stand out well. It's nothing to write home about, but it
sounds good for a nearly 40 year old film.
The full frame image is good. The colors are fairly sharp and bright
and the level of detail is very good. Digital compression artifacts
aren't a problem.
Search is a very fun, if a
bit dated, spy/action show with a SF twist. Even though the SF elements
are pretty much everyday technology now, it's still fun seeing the way
they were employed 40 years ago. Fans of 70's TV and espionage
thrillers should make a point of picking this up. A strong Recommendation.