HONEY WEST (Part Deux)

In yesterday’s post about the forgotten but groundbreaking female detective show ‘Honey West’ I posited that perhaps the reason for the shows short one-season run was that audiences weren’t yet comfortable with a powerful female in a leading role doing work that typically is the province of men. Then I watched the above episode, titled ‘The Swinging Mrs. Jones’, and rethought things. The reason it was cancelled was that it wasn’t very good. And given all that the show would seem to have going for it, I’m sorry to say so. Don’t let me dissuade you from watching though. There are many rewards to be gained by giving it twenty-five minutes of your time. It’s just that one of them won’t be watching a very well done television program from the past. The plotting is pointlessly contorted and the dialogue B minus at best. I do give it points for having cast Ray Danton in the guest lead (‘George Raft Story’, ‘Legs Diamond’ etc.) and I give it an A double plus in Alcohol—everyone appears to drink at all times of the day and heavily. So what are the issues plaguing the show? From the beginning Honey appears to be virtually helpless and incompetent; when making a money drop–she’s pretending to be a woman who’s being blackmailed–she hands over fifty thousand real dollars. Forget that actually giving the guy the real amount of money is a sign of rank amateurism. The real problem is that her backup guy Sam (played by John Erricson) is nearby but not on the scene when she gets felled by an unseen thug. Where he is at this crucial moment in their professional life can only be supposed–perhaps he’s in the car fiddling with the radio? Or maybe he’s fumbling with the cellophane on a troublesome unopened pack of cigarettes. Once he shows up it’s too late. Honey has been conked on the head and their assignment has been a total bust. Then the undercover duo casually tell the woman who was being blackmailed that the thugs got away and they took her fifty grand, with zero promise of getting it back. Jesus!. Somehow the whole thing moves to a groovy desert resort and there we get into a series of silly plot complications that degenerate into a few gimmikcky items–a remote mic hookup in Honey’s compact, tear gas that seems to shoot out of her underwear etc. The whole thing comes to a merciful end in a brief twenty-four minutes. But as I said, there are pleasures to be had. The score by Joseph Mullendore is slick and swinging and the cast and black and white photography take you to the very center of early-to-mid 60s Hollywood television making. The aura of the show is a pleasure. The actors–particularly Francis–are simply miscast and not given much to do. Which I guess is like saying the food is lousy and the portions are so small…

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