Frank Cannon (William Conrad) is an ex-L.A.P.D. detective lieutenant who was a little too independent to get any further in his job -- so he resigned, to become a private investigator. A big man with expensive tastes, especially where cars and culinary pleasures are concerned, he also has the talent to justify high fees for his wealthiest clients, which, in turn, allow him to work gratis for those less-well-off who need his help. In the series' first season, we're introduced to Cannon and his gruff yet sensitive nature -- he's as tough as they come, and tougher than most of the hoods, grifters, and other wrongdoers he comes up against, but he's got a soft spot for people in need, and he doesn't mind making his best two-fisted efforts, backed up by his 250+ pound weight, on their behalf. From his high-rise luxury apartment/office (which includes a built-in shooting range), he travels the world, taking cases that the police on at least four continents either can't or won't touch. But there's more to Frank Cannon than a bold belief that he can make a difference -- he is a bull of a man (a lot of his girth is muscle), but Cannon is also stealth, and proves an expert at parry as well as thrust; in the pilot episode, to check out the local law in a case where the law's behavior is suspect, he deliberately gets a speeding ticket, from a cop who solicits a bribe, and also reveals a little too much knowledge of the "hot" spots in the town he's checking out.
The first season saw a few small bugs in the series, as some scripts depicted Cannon making the kind of errors of strategy and proceedure that audiences of a subsequent generation wouldn't tolerate. But in the main, Cannon was successfully carried by Conrad's personality and acting, and Frank Cannon's idiosyncratic persona, which may have owed a bit to a Dashiell Hammett-created radio character called The Fat Man. Originating on radio in 1946, The Fat Man was Brad Runyon, the portly hero played by mustachioed actor J. Scott Smart -- and, a lot like Cannon, he had a gruff, defiant take-charge personality, with a preference for gourmet cooking when he wasn't working on cases. (Oddly enough, during part of the period when Smart was playing Brad Runyon on the radio, Cannon star William Conrad was busy on radio portraying a different kind of lawman, as Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke).
The first season's cases involved Cannon in crimes ranging from hijacking and kidnapping to robbery-homicide. Cannon went on the air amid an era of growing concern about television violence, but the series had more than its quota of the latter -- the pilot opens with two killings in the first four minutes, and the second episode, "The Salinas Jackpot", involves a triple-murder incidental to a robbery; there was also at least one uncannily forward-looking episode ("The Nowhere Man") involving domestic terrorism and nerve gas. The pilot was loaded up with enough guest-stars for a first-rate disaster movie, including Vera Miles, Keenan Wynn, Lynda Day George, Murray Hamilton, Barry Sullivan, J. D. Cannon, and Earl Holliman; the guest stars on the regular series were spread a little thinner, but included Tom Skerritt, Kim Hunter, Martin Sheen, Bradford Dillman, and Fritz Weaver. The various directors who worked on that season included such notables as Lewis Allen (The Uninvited, Sudenly), Richard Donner, and former blacklistee Charles S. Dubin. And the first season also introduced John Parker's title-theme, a brass-dominated romp that made especially effective use of the tuba at strategic moments.
Cast & Crew