The Zoo Gang

1974 | United Kingdom

Based on a novel by Paul Gallico and adapted by Reginald Rose, this Herbert Hirschman produced ITC series lasted only six episodes despite an all-star cast of internationally renowned actors. 

Veteran actor John Mills starred as a member of an elite wartime group who get back together to bring an escaped Nazi to justice. The gang members, each codenamed after an animal (hence their collective title) were Tommy Devon (Elephant) - played by Mills, Stephen Halliday (Fox) - Brian Keith, Lieuntenant Alec Marlowe (Tiger) - Barry Morse and Madame Manouche Roget (Leopard) played by Lilli Palmer, the widow of team member Claude Roget (Wolf), who was killed by the Gestapo. 

Each member was also an expert in a chosen skill, such as explosives, electronics and mechanics. Having succeeded in their first mission, the 'Zoo Gang' decide to stay together in order to bring justice to the Cote d'Azur and raise money from rewards to build a children's hospital dedicated to the memory of their fallen comrade. Location filming took place in the South of France with interiors shot at Pinewood Studios and the series had a distinctly glossy feel to it (it even had a theme song by Paul and Linda McCartney) and was obviously aimed at the American market (which accounts for its 50-minute format). However only six episodes were ever made which made it unlikely to be picked up for syndication in the US. 

In many ways, the series was reminiscent of an earlier ITC series, The Four Just Men, which was made between 1959 and 1960 with far greater success. A list of guest stars included Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Jacqueline Pearce, Roger Delgado and Philip Madoc. Writing credits went to Reginald Rose, William Fairchild, John Kruse, Sean Graham, Peter Yeldham and Howard Dimsdale who also wrote for US series' Cannon and The Fugitive as well as having scripted Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, whilst in the directors chair Sidney Hayers was also responsible for episodes of The Avengers, The Professionals, Arthur of The Britons, Magnum PI, TJ Hooker and Baywatch

Published on February 13th, 2019. Written by Noel Onely for Television Heaven.