Ambling though television

(Mostly about American tv shows and movies, and actors in them, rather than language. An adventure in pop culture.)

My posting “The hotel con” ended with the tv show Hotel, with Connie Sellecca as one of its three principal players. She leads us to The Greatest American Hero, whose three principal players were William Katt, Robert Culp, and Sellecca. Katt leads us to the Perry Mason series, whose two principal players were Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale. Culp leads us to I Spy, whose two principal players were Bill Cosby and Culp. And Burr takes us on to Ironside (and homosexuality in Hollywood). Other tv shows and some movies appear on this tour (which focuses on tv shows I’ve especially enjoyed), as do other reliable and interesting actors.

The Greatest American Hero. A wonderfully goofy show. From Wikipedia:

The Greatest American Hero is an American comedy-drama television series that aired for three seasons from 1981 to 1983 on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, it premiered as a two-hour pilot movie on March 18, 1981. The series features William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley (“Hanley” for the latter part of the first season), Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson [Hinkley’s girlfriend].

The series chronicles Ralph’s adventures after a group of aliens gives him a red suit that gives him superhuman abilities. Unfortunately for Ralph, who hates wearing the suit, he immediately loses its instruction booklet, and thus has to learn how to use its powers by trial and error, often with comical results.


William Katt. Above, in the costume. From Wikipedia:

William Theodore Katt (born February 16, 1951) is an American film and television actor, best known as the star of The Greatest American Hero. He first became known for playing Tommy Ross, the ill-fated prom date of Carrie White in the film version of Carrie (1976) and subsequently starred in films such as First Love (1977), Big Wednesday (1978) and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979). His mother is Barbara Hale, who played Della Street in the television series Perry Mason. Katt later played Paul Drake Jr. in the Perry Mason TV movies. His father was actor Bill Williams, who was best remembered for starring in the classic series The Adventures of Kit Carson.

Perry Mason. Katt takes us to the Perry Mason shows. From Wikipedia:

Perry Mason is an American courtroom drama originally broadcast on CBS television from September 21, 1957, to May 22, 1966. The title character, portrayed by Raymond Burr, is a fictional Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who originally appeared in detective fiction by Erle Stanley Gardner. Many episodes are based on stories written by Gardner.

Hollywood’s first weekly one-hour series filmed for television, Perry Mason was at one time the longest-running and most successful legal series on TV.

It continues in re-runs. The principal characters were Perry Mason and his legal secretary Della Street (played by Barbara Hale), in #2 below, plus private detective Paul Drake and district attorney Hamilton “Ham” Burger (not covered here).


Raymond Burr. From Wikipedia:

Raymond William Stacey Burr (May 21, 1917 – September 12, 1993) was a Canadian-American actor, primarily known for his title roles in the television dramas Perry Mason and Ironside.

(back to Burr later.)

Barbara Hale. Mother of William Katt and a remarkably sturdy actor. From Wikipedia.

Barbara Hale (born April 18, 1922) is an American actress best known for her role as legal secretary Della Street on more than 250 episodes of the long-running Perry Mason television series and later reprising the role in 30 made-for-TV movies.

Robert Culp. Remaining from The Greatest American Hero (#1). From Wikipedia:

Robert Martin Culp (August 16, 1930 – March 24, 2010) was an American actor, screenwriter, voice actor and director, widely known for his work in television. Culp earned an international reputation for his role as Kelly Robinson on I Spy (1965–1968), the espionage series in which he and co-star Bill Cosby played a pair of secret agents. Prior to that, he starred in the CBS/Four Star western series, Trackdown as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman from 1957-1959.

The 1980s brought him back to television. He starred as FBI Agent Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero and also had a recurring role as Warren Whelan on Everybody Loves Raymond.

I Spy. From Wikipedia:

I Spy is an American television secret-agent adventure series. It ran for three seasons on NBC from 1965 to 1968 and teamed Robert Culp as international tennis player Kelly Robinson with Bill Cosby as his trainer, Alexander Scott. The characters’ travels as ostensible “tennis bums”, Robinson playing talented tennis as an amateur with the wealthy in return for food and lodging, and Scott tagging along, provided a cover story concealing their roles as top agents for the Pentagon. Their real work usually kept them busy chasing villains, spies and beautiful women.


Bill Cosby. From Wikipedia:

William Henry “Bill” Cosby Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and activist. Cosby’s start in stand-up began at the hungry i in San Francisco which was followed by landing a starring role in the 1960s show I Spy. During its first two seasons, he was a regular on the children’s television series The Electric Company. Cosby is known for creating the cartoon comedy series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in an urban area. Cosby has also been a film actor.

Beginning in the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in a sitcom, The Cosby Show; the show aired from 1984 to 1992 and was rated as the number one show in America for five years, 1984 through 1989. The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family.

Ironside. Back to Raymond Burr, now in Ironside. From Wikipedia:

Ironside is a Universal television series that ran on NBC from September 14, 1967, to January 16, 1975. The show starred Raymond Burr as a paraplegic Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside.

The show revolved around former San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside (Raymond Burr), a veteran of more than 20 years of police service who was forced to retire from the department after a sniper’s bullet paralyzed him from the waist down, causing him to use a wheelchair.

… Supporting characters on Ironside included Det. Sgt. Edward “Ed” Brown (Don Galloway), and a young socialite-turned-plainclothes officer, Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson). (Eve’s clothes were far from plain as she often changed stylish outfits from scene to scene.) In addition there was delinquent-turned-bodyguard/assistant Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell), who also opted to become a police officer, and subsequently graduated from law school


Raymond Burr (continued). From his Wikipedia page:

In the mid-1950s, Burr met Robert Benevides (born February 9, 1930, in Visalia, California), a young actor and Korean War veteran, on the set of Perry Mason. According to Benevides, they became a couple around 1960. Benevides gave up acting in 1963 and later became a production consultant for 21 of the Perry Mason TV movies. Together they owned and operated an orchid business and then a vineyard, in the Dry Creek Valley. They were partners until Burr’s death in 1993. Burr left Benevides his entire estate, including “all my jewelry, clothing, books, works of art,…and other items of a personal nature.” [For the sake of his career, Burr’s homosexuality was concealed by various devices, though apparently it was an open secret in Hollywood.]

Burr, Barbara Hale (back again), and Benevides:


One Response to “Ambling though television”

  1. Jim Says:

    More source material:

    The vineyard and orchids are still there in Dry Creek.

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