77 Sunset Strip

1958 | United States

For US television's first hour-long private eye show Efrem Zimbalist Jr. starred as private detective Stuart Bailey a former government secret agent, Roger Smith played Jeff Spencer, also a former government agent, and a nonpracticing attorney. The duo worked out of a stylish office at 77 Sunset Boulevard (colloquially known as Sunset Strip), between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road on the south side of the strip next door to Dean Martin's real-life lounge, Dino's Lodge. 

Typically, the two detectives would alternate as leads, with a Stuart Bailey case being featured one week, and a Jeff Spencer case the next -- although depending on the nature of the case, sometimes the two would team up. Developed from two television movies Anything for Money (1957), and Girl on the Run (1958), 77 Sunset Strip (created by Roy Huggins who also devised Maverick and The Rockford Files) featured a firm of Hollywood PI's run by Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist Jnr-father of Remington Steele's Stephanie) and Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith). The duo worked out of a stylish office at 77 Sunset Boulevard and each week the two detectives would alternate as leads, with a Stuart Bailey case being featured one week, and a Jeff Spencer case the next although sometimes the two would team up. 

However, both leads were overshadowed by Edd Byrnes as jive talking parking lot attendant 'Kookie', who worked at the next-door restaurant called Dino's (in reality Dean Martin's lounge, Dino's Lodge). At the height of his popularity Byrnes' fan mail reached 10,000 letters a week and programme makers Warner Bros. issued a 'Kookie Speak' glossary ('making the long green' - making money, 'piling up the Z's' - sleeping, 'dark seven' - a bad week). 

When Byrne's walked out after failing to agree a new contract he was replaced for a while by Troy Donohue, however he did return and was promoted to partner in the 77 Sunset Strip agency, although by this time - 1963, the series was nearing the end of its sell-by date. Drastic changes were made to save the ailing show with Jack (Dragnet) Webb was brought in as Executive Producer and William Conrad (later to star as Cannon) as Principal Director. For this season Zimbalist's character became a freelance investigator travelling the globe on a no-expenses-spared budget, his offices were no longer on Sunset Strip and he had a new secretary, Hannah (Joan Staley). The new format failed to revive the shows fortunes and it was axed in 1964. Efrem Zimbalist Jnr went on to star in another US hit show, The F.B.I.








Published on January 26th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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