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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mannix: The Second Season
Mannix: The Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // January 6, 2009
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted January 26, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
If the DVD release of the first season of Mannix, which I reviewed for DVDTalk last year, was of interest to fans for never having been included in any syndication packages (due to its slightly different setting and format from the bulk of the show), this new second season DVD set of Mannix will probably be of just as much, if not more, interest to longtime fans for the very reason that it begins the seven year stretch of Mannix that most remember, especially if they caught the show only in reruns. This is the beginning of the "classic" Mannix, with Joe (Mike Connors) now working for himself, rather than huge conglomerate Intertect, the computer-driven agency that housed Mannix in Season One. Most importantly, this second year saw the introduction of the incredibly lovely and spunky Gail Fisher as Peggy, Joe's devoted, if occasionally exasperated, secretary.



While the fish out of water gags that were a staple of Mannix's first season have been necessarily jettisoned, it ultimately makes the show sleeker and more satisfying. Joe Mannix is a character who's not one to tow the corporate line, and getting him out of Intertect for the bulk of the series was a wise decision. The character is now free to roam the backlot of Desilu in search of various adventures, mixed with a surprising amount of some nice location footage (there's virtually no episode in this second season that doesn't feature some location shots). The change in venue, so to speak, from Intertect is handled in passing, but isn't dwelled upon. Mannix himself mentions the firm in the premiere episode, and Peggy actually goes there for a brief scene to utilize their computer in a later one. But that's mostly it--Mannix is on his own now, and the show is more muscular as a result. (It is passingly interesting to note that the title card that caps each episode of Mannix still features a computer).



Mannix always featured a sterling production crew, with top flight writers (John Meredyth Lucas, Don Mankiewicz), directors (Don Taylor, John Llewellyn Moxey and series executive producer Barry Crane), and especially composers (theme writer Lalo Schifrin, Richard Hazard and never credited Wild, Wild West theme composer Richard Markowitz), who gave the show its distinctive jazz underscore, one of the most consistently appealing factors in Mannix's multi-year success.



Mannix also exploited the "twist," or at least the "things are not exactly as they seem" technique, with many episodes featuring some surprising nooks and crannies along the way. Thus the premiere episode starts with a man making a ransom call from a public phone booth (remember those?), with a woman watching him from outside. The first twist is that she's deaf (played by National Theater of the Deaf actress Audree Norton) and is so able to lip read the crook's ransom demands. But even the kidnapping itself turns out to not be exactly what it appears in the opening scenes.



In another, perhaps slightly less successful, use of this technique, a racecar driver evidently perishes when he fails to make an S-curve (footage from this episode is part of the famous Mannix opening credits sequence). While any good armchair detective is probably going to guess one of the twists right off the bat (you know something's fishy when the driver disappears behind a hedge for a minute or so before the crash), there are a number of other neat little unexpected turns in the story, highlighted by great guest work by the gorgeous Jill Ireland as the driver's widow and especially Ward Cleaver himself, Hugh Beaumont, as a sort of mysterious Man in Black federal agent, late 1960s style.



But the lasting impact of Mannix rests solidly on the superb work of Mike Connors as our titular hero and especially the incredibly lovely Gail Fisher as Peggy. Fisher was one of the first African American women to land a major role (albeit supporting) on a recurring basis in American series television, and she certainly brought incredible craft, poise and beauty to the role. (As someone who was there watching avidly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I can personally attest to the fact that Fisher, along with Diahann Carroll in Julia and especially Denise Nicholas in Room 222 proved, for this young boy at least, there was no racial barrier for schoolboy crushes). While this first season for Peggy shows the character still being developed (she actually calls Joe "Mr. Mannix" in one of the earliest episodes, something that's quickly dropped, thankfully), there's nonetheless an instant and easy rapport between Peggy and her boss, and it's something that would anchor the series for the remainder of its long run. Peggy is nobody's fool, a widowed single mother who obviously has had to rely on her own grit and determination to get ahead in life, and her self-reliance typically gets Joe out of at least one jam per episode. It doesn't hurt that her deceased husband was a policeman, meaning she knows the ins and outs of procedural work, and has the contacts to facilitate Mannix's investigations.



Season Two of Mannix does of course have its share of great guest star turns, including Barbara Rush as the tipsy widow of an oil magnate whom she mistakenly believes she has murdered (I had to wonder why in this episode all the bad guys spoke with southern drawls despite the show taking place in California), and, in another episode, Fritz Weaver as a prominent doctor whose son is kidnapped by a man who appears to be Weaver's double. You'll also get a plethora of great little turns by regular television commodities like John Colicos (who also appeared in the first season), Cloris Leachman, Larry Linville, Frank Campanella (brother to first season regular Joe), Anthony Zerbe, and Robert Reed, who starts his run as semi-regular police Lt. Adam Tobias.



Mannix remains one of the best of the hard-fisted, take no prisoners private investigator shows of this era, mostly due to the charm and low key performances of its co-stars, Connors and Fisher. If ultimately there's nothing too remarkable about any given episode, the show still delivers in its "little" moments--Mannix repeatedly burning his toast, or Peggy scolding her son Toby in many phone conversations. It brings a nice ring of authenticity to a show that always delivered on its action-mystery premise, but never forgot to include the human element. And all to some of the "swinginest" music ever written for a television series. What more could you ask for?









The DVD


Video:
Mannix's second season looks surprisingly sharp for the most part in its original broadcast 4:3 full frame ratio. Color is especially strong this season, with excellent saturation and contrast. There is occasional damage here and there throughout most of the episodes, with some minor scratching and other abrasions, typically in location shots. Some episodes also feature stock footage which is readily apparent in the superior resolution of the DVD. All in all, though, this 25 episode set spread over six discs looks superb for its age.




Sound:
The DD mono soundtrack is similarly excellent, with no anomalies or noticable hiss or dropouts. This DVD bears the standard disclaimer about "music may have been changed," but I have to say I noticed nothing in the second season that seemed out of place. A lot of the underscores are based on the Mannix theme itself, and those all seem intact. Perhaps some source music was changed along the line, but I certainly noticed nothing like that. For instance, in one episode there's a blaring radio that's playing something obviously modeled on then-popular Tijuana Brass music. And yet it seemed to my ears to be obviously late 60s in origin, it had no synths or other telltale signs of modernity. There are no subtitles available.





Extras:
Sadly, this second season offers none. The first season DVD had some nice retrospective interviews and commentaries. It would have been nice to have had a featurette on Fisher, who passed away in 2000.




Final Thoughts:
Mannix remains one of the all time greats in the long history of television private eyes. Connors and Fisher make one of the most appealing star duos in television history, and the mysteries are usually compelling, with at least one great action sequence per episode (yes, Mannix does get shot in the arm and, yes, he does get knocked unconscious--repeatedly). Highly recommended.


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"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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