Warner Archive recently releasing a six-disc DVD set of the 1971-72 seventh season of the hit anthology true-crime series "The F.B.I." leaves only two seasons of this program unreleased. The pattern of releases indicates that the eighth and ninth season will hit actual and virtual store shelves by the end of 2014.
Readers who are unfamiliar with this terrific series that features Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as textbook intrepid FBI agent Inspector Lewis Erskine interacting with awesomely cast current, faded, and upcoming stars as perpetrators, victims, and plain ole innocents in stories based on actual F.B.I. cases are asked to please refer to the Unreal TV review of the fifth season review of this series. This posting also discusses the greatness of the library of great Quinn Martin productions from the '60s and '70s to which "The F.B.I." belongs.
Folks who are interested in the thoughts of Unreal TV regarding the sixth season of "The FBI" are welcome to click this link. Folks who want these thoughts regarding the eighth season must use their time machine to travel forward a few months.
The seventh season continues the tradition of excellence that the prior seasons established. One observation based on watching 9 of the 25 episodes, including a special two parter titled "The Mastermind," is that an unusually high percentage of these episodes involve a crime with a personal element.
The season premiere, which has the typically dramatic title "Death on Sunday," has a professional football player targeted by a blackmailer who is seeking revenge for an incident that occurred several years before.
The second episode, titled "Recurring Nightmare," has a late-teens girl abducted for the purpose of forcing her to lead the former partner-in-crime of her father to the loot that said parent hid years ago. Much of the drama relates to the girl having blocked the earlier traumatic injury from her memory.
"The Deadly Species" from much later in the season is a wonderful especially pulp fiction/film noir episode about a woman who commits a series of robberies with the aid of her himbo du jour for the purpose of funding her search for her ex-husband and son. Said quest involves hiring a stereotypical down-on-his-luck private investigator. Negotiations with said gumshoe regarding a daily fee and reimbursement for expenses are particularly amusing.
"Species" additionally well illustrates the use of guest stars in "The F.B.I." and other Quinn Martin productions. James Hampton, whose popularity is quickly fading by the early '70s, of the '60s sitcom "F Troop" plays one of the male molls. Future Beiber-like pop sensation Leif Garrett plays the son of the woman.
The episode titled "The Corrupter" has future "Corvette Summer" star Mark Hamill playing a young guy in an informal gang formed by a slightly older ringleader.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, provides a decent sense of the series and includes scenes with Hamill's character; if filmed later in Hamill's career, this scene would have clearly show that despite any pleas from that "guy" that Luke be a Jedi tonight that Luke may have been a Jedi before but was not a Jedi once more. (Thank you "The Simpsons.")
The episode titled "Dark Journey" is one of the more memorable of the seventh season. This unusually light and mildly campy outing has character actor Claude Aikens playing a traveling conman who teams up with his daughter, played by future "Bionic Woman" Lindsay Wagner, to bilk folks in schemes that involve Aikens' character presenting himself as actual but reclusive individuals.
The cheesy elements extend beyond the fairly standard cons to Aikens' character running afoul of bad guys who are tougher than him leading to his involuntary involvement in a robbery. Having said thugs hold Wagner's character hostage is icing on the cake.
Supporting actors in this one include Vic Tayback in his pre "Alice" days and William Schallert, who plays father figures in the '60s sitcoms "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and "The Patty Duke Show."
The season finale "Escape to Nowhere" somewhat follows the "personal" theme of the season in having a not-so-bright crime boss with a strong motive for not wanting an escaped convict recaptured operate a not-so-covert search for that man that parallels the pursuit of Erskine and his team. An inevitable colliding of worlds makes for good drama and ends the season on a high note.
The final outcomes regarding these true-crime stories are that Erskine always gets his man (or woman) and that the evil that lurks in the heart of man (and woman) provides plenty of material to keep "The F.B.I." fresh well beyond its nine-year run.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The F.B.I." is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.