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 his advice.
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, naturally.
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.
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.