Great Episodes #51: Honey West, “An Eerie, Airy Thing” (April 8, 1966)

May 4, 2011

When I launched the Classic TV History website three years and change ago, one of the exclusive pieces that debuted there was my personal, subjective, opinonated list of the one hundred greatest American television episodes of all time.  Immodestly, I thought the article included some pretty good short-form writing, and it certainly inspired some lively discussion in the comments here.

But there was one problem: I only wrote about fifty television episodes.  The idea was that this would be a list to grow on, one to which I would add over my, and the website’s, lifetime.  I explained that in the introduction but I guess it didn’t register, or else people really want the whole hundred when they’re promised a hundred of something, because occasionally I still get e-mails asking, “Where’s the rest?”  (Or, “Hey dumbass, your list only has fifty shows on it.”)  In truth, I had another ten or so episodes that I had planned to add to that page at some point, but I never got around to it.  For the rest, readers would to have to wait until I got around to seeing, well, every television show ever made.  Not that I have a life or anything, but that’s still going to take awhile.

Then it hit me that the solution to this problem was the solution to more or less everything these days: blogify it.  So from now on, as I discover new episodes that belong in the canon, I’ll write about them here first, and eventually archive them on the 100 Episodes page.  Without further ado, number fifty-one in a series.

 

Gordon Forbes steps out onto a window ledge and threatens suicide unless his wife is brought to him.  Only one problem: when private eye Honey West goes to pick her up, she finds that Mrs. Forbes has been shot dead.  This episode represents a wistful choice, because Honey West is one of those “classic” television shows that was never very good.  Most of the scripts were written by journeymen, and the stories and characters are cartoonish and silly.  The producer, Aaron Spelling, liked to leer at the ladies when the gaze, and the violence, was directed against them; see Burke’s Law (from which Honey West was a spin-off) and Charlie’s Angels.  But when he was handed a female protagonist, Spelling turned prude and made the show a live-action cartoon that would have fit in just fine on Saturday morning.  Only in the series’ pilot, written by Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levinson and directed by Walter Grauman, do we get a glimpse of Honey as she was meant to be: dangerous, sexy, chic.  Link and Levinson returned twice – fittingly, for the final episode – and arguably topped themselves with their final script, despite the punctuation error in the title.  The dialogue in “Eerie, Airy” is sophisticated, the pace fast, the stakes life-or-death, and the twist ending devilishly clever.  If U.N.C.L.E. fans pine for an alternate history where Batman kept the camp to itself, then I’ll take a Honey West led by L & L.

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7 Responses to “Great Episodes #51: Honey West, “An Eerie, Airy Thing” (April 8, 1966)”

  1. MDH Says:

    Yeah, what a wasted opportunity HONEY WEST was. I picked up the series DVD a few years back, made it about two-thirds of the way through, and gave up (I think it was the robot episode that did me in).

    I may have liked it more than you, though: I get a kick out of John Ericson, especially in the episodes where it’s plain that Sam the lunkhead and Honey are serial sack-mates, and I can never get enough of watching Anne Francis; there’s an edge to her beauty that captivates me still. When all else fails (or a robot turns up), I divert myself by seeing how close Bruce the ocelot comes to actually mauling one of the actors — the little fucker seems barely trained.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Ericson’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I probably shouldn’t say that, since he’s still around and would make an interesting interview, but there you go.

    Bruce reminds me of another problem with the show — the obvious use of male stunt doubles for Anne Francis.

  3. Joseph Harder Says:

    I sincereloy hope at least one episode of Slattery’s People makes it to your top ine hundred list.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Joseph, I sincerely hope I can get my hands on more than the 2 or 3 episodes of SLATTERY’S PEOPLE that are around out there within my lifetime!

      • Dr.Joseph Harder Says:

        I have shown two episodes to my state and local government class…I wish CBS would wake up and release the rest on DVD.
        Back in 1965, a grad student at The Unviversity of North Carolinanamed Susan Keith-Lucas wrote a masters thesis on the show

  4. Neville Ross Says:

    Joseph, you’re not going to get Slattery’s People on DVD, and (tragically), that’s that. I would love to see more of it myself, but because of the way TV syndication’s set up, that is impossible. Also, CBS Video and Paramount don’t seem interested in putting this on DVD because it’s quite obscure.

    Is there any way that you can have these episodes transferred to a video format and then place them on YouTube or Bit Torrent?


  5. I missed your post . I will do so. Sadly, I only have two episodes. The fate Of Slattery’s People has convinced me that there is indeed no justice in this world.


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