A weekly whodunit so lighthearted it nearly floated away.
Gene Barry as Amos Burke on Burke's Law (ABC, 1963-1966). Photo courtesy ABC.
Ed here: Back in my college days I couldn't wait to watch this series. It was my favorite low-comedy show and something of a commentary on the pop culture of the time. This article is now available on the great Mystery Scene website. Michael Mallory:
In today’s TV world a crime show about a millionaire playboy LAPD homicide detective who shuttles around town in a chauffered Rolls-Royce, all the while dribbling out pithy bon mots, would be hooted off the airwaves. But more than 40 years ago there wasBurke’s Law, a weekly whodunit so lighthearted it nearly floated away. Whimsical as it was, though, Burke’s Law set many of the conventions for mystery series that would follow.
Premiering on ABC in September 1963,Burke’s Law was the first notable success for super-producer Aaron Spelling. More importantly, it pioneered the concept of the special-guest-star mystery show, in which a roster of A (and sometimes B) list celebrities would pop up in cameos, usually as suspects. Later series including Columbo, Ellery Queen, and Murder, She Wrote would all gain traction through this technique, as would the subsequent Spelling hits The Love Boat andFantasy Island.
The Burke of Burke’s Law was Captain Amos Burke, played by Gene Barry, an actor often described as television’s Cary Grant. Barry had filled out his Grant application a few years earlier with the Western series Bat Masterson, but it was his debonair, witty performance as Amos Burke that really cemented his image. There was more of Hugh Hefner than Joe Friday in this L.A. copper, as announced by the breathy female voice that purred, “It’s Burke’s Lawwww,” at the top of each show. The Law of Burke’s Law was the steady string of pertinent aphorisms Burke would toss off extemporaneously as the rules under which he operated.
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